And there (likely) never will be.
Everyone loves to save money on groceries, and one great way to do just that is to participate in the loyalty program at your supermarket of choice. Big chains like Kroger, Publix, and others typically reward frequent customers with special discounts on certain items, free delivery, and a bevy of other perks designed to incentivize shopping, but since many of these membership programs have annual fees attached, they are not always all they’re cracked up to be.
However, one popular grocery store chain that has no loyalty program, and likely never will, is Trader Joe’s. Given the brand’s popularity among shoppers looking for low prices on unique food items, as well as an array of easy-to-make frozen dishes, it’s a bit of a surprise that there’s no TJ’s loyalty program. Still, according to Trader Joe’s employees, the lack of a loyalty program is actually by design.
On the latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe's podcast, hosts Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing, and Tara Miller, marketing director at TJ’s, explained why a loyalty program just isn’t in the cards for the California-based chain. As Miller noted, the discounts shoppers often receive as part of these loyalty programs are actually paid for by the food manufacturers, not the store. Calling the practice “convoluted,” she added: “To me, it sounds like anything but something that would engender loyalty … When you shop at Trader Joe’s, you know what the prices are going to be. We don’t change our prices unless our costs change.”
The Trader Joe’s vet added: “Every customer who walks into the store has access to the same values on every product. We’re loyal to all of our customers. And in return, what we found is that our customers really appreciate the fact that they know what to expect when they come into the store. They can expect great values every day.”
As Sloan pointed out, there is a tendency for other retailers to assume that loyalty comes from the customers. At Trader Joe’s, the situation is reversed. Instead, it’s the company that is loyal to its shoppers. “Access to the prices and products inside are for everybody who comes up. You don't have to be part of a special club,” he said.
Another thing that sets Trader Joe’s apart from its competitors is that the company doesn’t collect any data on its customers or their specific spending habits. While Miller pointed out that a lack of data collection might seem “counterintuitive,” because it makes it more difficult to know what shoppers want, she noted that customers’ purchases speak for themselves. “We're not tracking individual customer purchases, but we are tracking whether or not a particular product sells well,” she shared. “That's another example of our loyalty to our customers. We are trying to make sure we are offering the most interesting, delicious, and value-focused products that we can.”
Loyalty program or not, there are plenty of ways to save money on your next trip to Trader Joe’s. For starters, always check out the Fearless Flyer. It’s also important to sample items before you buy them—a practice that’s encouraged at TJ’s—so you don’t end up with something you don’t like, and to know which items (like cheese and bananas) Trader Joe’s typically sells for less.
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