The Underground Trader Joe’s Economy on Amazon & eBay

Posted in business, Domestic US, On the Ground

Trader Joe’s is amazing. If you haven’t been, they inhabit the space between Whole Foods and your local supermarket and offer high quality items at a really affordable price. If you live near one, you quickly join the Cult of Trader Joe’s and can’t fathom buying packaged trail mix or pasta anywhere else. If you don’t live near one, you have to resort to other means. Until this morning, I had no idea that those other means involved a robust gray market of TJ’s goods on Amazon and eBay.

I was searching for a Mother’s Day gift and searched for toffee since my mom is pretty fond of the stuff. One of the results caught my eye: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee. What was a Trader Joe’s product doing on Amazon? I clicked on it and then again on the “By Trader Joe’s” link and, like the door to Narnia, a whole new world opened up. A massive selection of Trader Joe’s packaged goods was available. My mind was spinning. Did Amazon partner with TJoe’s? Was the rest of the country with no access to Trader Joe’s about to have their worlds rocked?

Nope.

The Trader Joe’s selection on Amazon (as well as eBay) comes entirely through resellers. These are people who buy the products from Trader Joe’s itself then turn around and sell it online for a major mark-up.

TraderJoesEbay

See those prices? They’re really hefty. $16 for a jar of coconut oil is a LOT of money, even though shipping is technically free. At the store, each 16oz. jar is only $6. Is it really worth an extra $10 to someone to get that jar shipped to you? Maybe.

People LOVE Trader Joe’s and go to extremes to get their hands on those cheap but delicious goods. When I was down in Hawaii, the topic of Trader Joe’s came up with someone and I was surprised to find out that she actually has her daughter buy and send her TJ’s products since she can’t get them in Hawaii. In California, they’re everywhere and I’m lucky enough to live in walking distance of one, which means I’m there A LOT. It’s just one of those things — like CrossFit and kale — that people get really invested in. If you like Trader Joe’s, you REALLY like Trader Joe’s and you tend to talk about it a lot. If you don’t have access to it, I guess it’s worth it to some people to pay a severe premium to get those goods you just can’t get on your own.

Would you ever buy Trader Joe’s products from Amazon or eBay? Let me hear about it in the comments.

Comments

  1. If you are in interested in the retail arbitrage of Trader Joe’s products, you might enjoy reading about Pirate Joe’s — a reseller in Vancouver, BC that has a storefront stocked only with items from TJ’s stores in Washington: http://www.piratejoes.ca

  2. I love TJ and cannot live without one. It is not only an amazing place for shopping fresh and high quality stuff but the people that work there are amazing and their customer service should serve as a proxy for all American companies that forgot what customer service used to be in this country. I wouldn’t probably buy their oroducts online at a huge mark up but maybe would try to lobby for them to open a store near where I live. BTW, I had a friend that got some job offers and had to relocate. When looking at the options he had there were two “non negotiable” factors in his decision process: the new location had to have a Costco and a Trader Joes. LOL!!!!

  3. Shopped at TJ when I was temporarily working in CA a couple of years ago. Way overpriced, though admittedly almost everything was good quality. Haven’t missed it a bit since returning to Idaho.

    • Interesting. I find their packaged goods to be really well-priced and some of their meats, too. Ribeye for $6/pound? That’s almost unheard of unless there’s a 4th of July sale or something. That said, I’m sure the prices in Idaho are lower across the board since the cost of living there is much less than CA.

  4. Never found TJ to be cheap.Fairly priced, yes. Have several nearby and go in occasionally for their selection of frozen meals. But wouldn’t miss them if they disappeared as their selection is limited and eclectic.

    • I’m curious about where you live, Paul. When I lived in Chicago, the stores were much smaller and definitely limited. In California, though, the stores are much bigger with a wider selection. In terms of pricing, I find it cheaper for a lot of items, specifically the ones that are organic, natural, etc. Even the chocolate-covered cherries that I love so much (from Dilletante) are half as much as you can get them elsewhere.

    • From time to time, I write stories that are just about food. If you’re not interested, please feel free to just not read the story. Simple enough, right?

      • Fantastic response. Got a good chuckle out of it. I hadn’t even realized it was a travel related site. I just happened to google “resale Trader Joe’s” to see if EBay resale is a viable option for me. I LOVE their products and am beyond impressed with both prices, quality and customer service. I think I’ll have to favorite this site as I love your style! Keep up the excellent work!

    • Spending and making a small profit. I’m always looking for items to sell on ebay I can break even or turn a profit on.

  5. you can write whatever you prefer. i really don’t have any problem with that but it was posted in boarding area and readers expect it to be related to airlines or credit cards. it is just not relevant and hope you can at least understand the importance of relevance in blog world.

    • I can see your “point” , but envy that you have enough time on your hands to make an issue of it. A bit silly.

  6. I live in Hawaii..but moved to Washington state for a year..could not handle it way too cold and dark..but boy do I miss Trader Joe’s. Whenever we ask the company about why they don’t come to Hawaii..they always say because they couldn’t keep their good prices. But we know no for a fact in talking to many employees at the Trader Joes we went to in WA that they charge more depending on where the store is..costs of shipping determine that. We were told the store there on the olympic penninsula had prices higher than California. So I still think they are really loosing out by not coming to Hawaii..Hawaii people are big shoppers and we are used to paying higher prices for everything.

    That being said…I just checked out Amazon and was appauled at how high people were hiking up the prices. But people must buy it..so I’m sure Trader Joes’ would have no problem opening stores in Hawaii and selling items at higher prices then what they are used to..I’m sure they would still try to keep their prices competitive like they do everywhere else.

    • I sell on the side for EBay and have found people are very willing to pay more if they truly want the , product. I had a lady say I was “ripping people off” for hiking prices for specific items. It’s just supply and demand. An item is worth whatever someone is willing to pay. It is a crazy market though.

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