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Pop Culture

Woman breaks down the 'psychology tricks' Trader Joes uses to create its loyal following

Even the subtlest perks are all by design.

trader joes, psychololgy
@urbannic/TikTok

Trader Joe's customers love the stores iconic items and laid-back vibes.

Few grocery stores have achieved a full blown culture quite like the retail fan-favorite Trader Joe’s, where folks can always count on an adventure filled with cookie butter, cheap wine and conversations with an Hawaiin shirt-clad employee.

And while there are some perhaps obvious reasons behind TJ’s loyal following—the eclectic seasonal food items, the relaxing atmosphere—one woman is taking an in-depth look at some of the lesser known “psychological tricks” that keep shoppers coming back time and time again.


Research enthusiast Nicole Urban, whose entire TikTok is dedicated to analytical deep dives on a variety of topics, recently went viral for explaining Trader Joe’s unending appeal.

“Trader Joe’s rejects a lot of the core business practices of average grocery stores,” Urban noted, saying that instead of focusing on a huge variety of items and offering coupons like most grocery stores do, TJ’s is all about offering a one-of-a-kind “customer experience.”

That includes charismatic, gregarious employees more than willing to strike up a friendly conversation, artistic, hand drawn price tags that mimic a local market, reliable prices, and of course, those oh-so-tempting limited edition seasonal and experimental items that make shopping “feel like a treasure hunt,” says Urban.

@urbannic Replying to @eleni ♬ original sound - nicole urban

Urban then listed two unique characteristics that even the most regular Trader Joe’s customer might have never noticed were drawing them in—the TJ’s parking lot and frozen food aisle.

Unlike most grocery store chains, Trader Joe's keeps its frozen aisle “fun and accessible” by doing an open freezer bin layout, getting rid of annoying freezer doors that block folks from casually scoping out new items.

And while the freezers inside are wide open, the ever congested TJ’s parking lot is quite the opposite. As Urban explained, Trader Joes are often placed in high traffic arrears with smaller parking lots that consequently always appear full..making it appear competitive to get into. That’s right, getting the primo parking spot after ten minutes of circling is all part of the experience.

According to Urban, it’s all these subtle factors that contribute to trader Joe’s huge success. And judging by the thousands of comments that followed her viral video, it seems she was right on the money.

People particularly began gushing about their own wholesome interactions with trader Joe’s cashiers. One shared "My cashier made me cry because she said I looked like I needed flowers and then called me a good mom after giving me a free bouquet."

Another added, “One time I was at Trader Joes and applying to adopt a dog. The cashier asked to see the dog and encouraged us to adopt him. 3.5 years later and we still show her pictures of him when we shop there. She only knows us as Winston’s parents.”

Others agreed that the limited selection was a main reason they returned, since it made shopping much less stressful.

“I love that they don’t have a billion choices, as an anxious person…I’ve been shopping there since 2015!” one person exclaimed.

Some even listed things they loved about that story that didn’t get covered by Urban, such as its flower selection and use of natural lighting.

Even people who didn’t live in the U.S. wrote that they regarded Trader Joes as some sort of “mystical place” they longed to visit one day.

This is such an illuminating example of humanity’s shared, deep felt need for novelty. It can transform even the most mundane of tasks, like grocery shopping, into the highlight of someone’s day. In our increasingly more automated, tech-driven world, the demand for fun in-person experiences will only go up. And hopefully that means more stores opting for the Trader Joe’s approach…only with better parking lots.

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