I was a Trader Joe’s employee – ‘polite’ things you do in store that employees can’t stand, why we hate you 'helping' | The Sun

WHEN you shop at Trader Joe's, it makes sense that you'd want to match the employees' ultra-polite and friendly energy.

But some of the things shoppers do to be helpful backfire in a big way, one former employee revealed.

According to Mackenzie Filson, who recounted her time at Trader Joe's for EatingWell, shoppers often misdirect their energy into "helping" store associates when it does more harm than good.

In the checkout, for instance, customers have a habit of handing items directly to the employee checking them out, which slows down a process built for efficiency.

"One or two items makes sense, but no more than that," Filson said. If you have purchases that need to be bagged separately, or a cold drink you're going to enjoy in the car, you can separate it out and hand it to your cashier.

Otherwise, leave things up to the professionals. "Next time you want to be helpful in line, set your items on the conveyer for the cashier to scan as they're able," she advised.


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Filson also said that reusable bags are a point of contention for many Trader Joe's employees, especially when customers bring dozens of bags for a regular weekly shopping trip.

"My co-workers and I often shuddered at a cart overflowing with reusable bags," she said. Don't stuff your bags into one another, making it hard to access what you really need and creating unnecessary clutter in the checkout lanes.

"Consider bringing only the amount of bags you need and keeping them easy to access under the cart," she recommended, adding that you should keep any insulated bags somewhere easy to access.

Don't "help" by instructing your cashier on how to bag, either. Most cashiers will keep cold items together, put eggs on top, and leave your bags at a weight that's comfortable to carry.

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"If reusable bags have earned their own chapter in my manual of grocery shopper complaints, then shopping carts deserve one, too," Filson continued.

If you're headed to return your cart and see an employee in the parking lot who is pushing carts back to the store, don't automatically assume they can take yours, too.

"If they have three, four, six carts in their charge, opt to bring it to the nearest cart corral instead," Filson said.

She explained why this common misstep isn't as helpful as it seems: "The TJ's shopping carts are next-to-impossible to turn on a dime, so expecting an employee to pivot for your cart could be a pretty rude ask."

She recommends doing all you can to shorten interruptions to an employee's workflow. When you're at Trader Joe's and an employee is in front of an item you need, don't try to just sneak past.

"Often customers opt to reach above our heads, by our faces and even under our legs to grab a last-minute item so as not to distract us, but we'd much rather have you announce yourself," Filson explained.

Say "excuse me" to grab their attention, then grab your item and get out of the way.

Remember, Trader Joe's employees are working to put stock on shelves and get things in order. That means they're opening boxes, climbing ladders, and possibly using tools that could represent a risk for you or them.

"It's for everyone's safety as well as their comfort that you say excuse me," Filson explained.

Finally, to make your local Trader Joe's staff really happy, avoid a minor habit that's a major pet peeve.

Don't ask an employee "do you work here?" especially if they're wearing the Trader Joe's nametag, t-shirt, and/or sweatshirt that are required for all employees.

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It's annoying, it wastes time, and it's a query you can typically resolve yourself with just a few seconds of attention, Filson said.

"Instead, feel free to say a quick hello, and then jump in to asking the question(s) you have," Filson suggested. "Most TJ's employees prefer that much more."

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