9 Trader Joe’s Problems No One Ever Talks About

Discover the hidden frustrations behind Trader Joe’s charming facade.
Updated June 6, 2024
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While Trader Joe's is known for helping customers save money shopping, it isn’t possible to achieve pure perfection 100% of the time.

From crowded parking lots to favorites you can’t find in stock, Trader Joe’s has issues that can make even the most loyal shopper secretly scream. 

Even though there aren’t many, here are some of the top Trader Joe’s problems no one is talking about.

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The parking lot

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz trader joes store location

Whether you need to walk through the open area or you’re trying to park your car, the combination of small lots and high customer volume often equals complete chaos.

One-day-only bargains don’t account for the lengthy lines of cars waiting for the precious few spaces to open, near-constant honking, and vehicular obstacle course that many shoppers encounter. The parking lot problem is just an everyday issue.

At least with that many cars trying to park in the store’s lot to shop, you know Trader Joe’s is doing something right.

Trending foods aren’t always available

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz empty shelf

Limited production and high demand sometimes leave the most popular Trader Joe’s picks unavailable. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to waste time, energy, or gas money visiting the store multiple times a week.

The retailer's employees are happy to field calls from customers looking for these often out-of-stock products. So before you make the trip to TJ’s, call ahead and ask if they have your new favorite food. If not, they might be able to tell you when it is coming in.

Favorites leave because vendors discontinue the products

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz macarons and mallows

You have a favorite frozen food that you pick up weekly. Then, suddenly, it disappears. What happened?

A vendor the retailer uses for production may stop making the item or be unable to obtain the ingredients. When this happens, store management can either scramble to find a replacement or wait until the company finds a new manufacturer. 

Either way, you won’t find your go-to favorite.

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Seasonal picks aren’t available year-round

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz lemon flower cookies

Strawberry frozen waffles in the summertime, pumpkin spice everything in the fall, and iced gingerbread squares in the winter are seasonal favorites that true Trader Joe’s fans could feast on year-round. Sadly, these sought-after items are only available for a limited time.

Given the short shelf time of the store’s seasonal selections, it's best not to get too attached. While you might find them back in stores next year, you can’t guarantee you’ll see these popular picks again. 

So go ahead and stock your pantry or fill your freezer while you still can!

No self-checkouts

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz no self-check out

The rise of self-checkout was a prime pandemic-era shopping feature. Today, most grocery retailers still offer this convenient, contactless option.

Whether you’re a fan of a speedy store exit or just prefer to keep your distance from other people, you won’t find a self-checkout at Trader Joe’s. That said, the overwhelming charm of the retailer’s cashiers and moments of pleasant conversation make up for this issue.

No bulk buys

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz ube mochi pancake and waffle

Warehouse clubs and big box stores have made bulk buys the norm. Double, triple, and quadruple packs, super-sized containers, and boxes you can barely fit inside your pantry offer value and time savings.

Unlike Costco or Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s does not offer these types of bulk buy offers. If you’re shopping for a family feast, you may have to purchase several individual packs or boxes of the same item.

No sales

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz large seedless watermelon

Not only is Trader Joe’s one of the few affordable retailers that doesn’t offer bulk buys, but it also doesn’t typically have sales. 

While the brand’s Fearless Flyer newsletter does announce new and returning seasonal product picks, you won’t find a weekly circular with special offers, percentages off, or BOGOs.

Even though Trader Joe’s doesn't have in-store sales, the already-low prices, high quality, and variety of product options make up for the lack of revolving deals.

Changing store arrangement

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz changing store arrangement

The triple-layer hummus is at the back of the store next to the cheese and refrigerated, ready-made pizza dough—at least it was last month. Now, you find yourself rushing around the store just to find everything on your typical shopping list—and wasting valuable time.

If you enjoy the same routine, the ever-changing Trader Joe’s store arrangement might be a potential pitfall. And just when you reorient yourself to the store, the setup may change yet again.

The paper bags break easily

Courtesy of FinanceBuzz reusable paper bag

We all know that reusable bags are better for the environment than disposable paper bags. Maybe that’s why Trader Joe’s sells such adorable and affordable totes.

Shoppers who need the store’s paper bags should know how to handle their packed groceries correctly. The bags do have handles, but that doesn’t mean you should use them. Failure to carry the bags from the bottom could cause a heavy load to break the paper.

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Bottom line

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe trader joes at tower shops

Every store has issues. Trader Joe’s is no exception to this rule. Whether the parking lot is your worst traffic nightmare or you’re sad to see seasonal selections leave so soon, you aren’t alone in realizing the problems shoppers may face here.

No one is perfect. And you can’t expect complete perfection from a store. But if you’re looking for budget-friendly creative cuisine to help you cut grocery costs, Trader Joe’s quality trumps these problems.

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Author Details

Erica Loop With more than a decade of experience writing about everything from e-commerce to pets and parenting, Erica Loop has written for sites such as BuzzFeed, Brit+Co, Tinybeans, Family Education, and Care.com. Erica has a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and an MS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.