Food Informants: A Week In The Life Of A Trader Joe's Employee

A Week In The Life Of A Trader Joe's Employee

Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.

"Jane," 24, has been working for Trader Joe's since 2007, though in 2009 she left for over a year to go work for Whole Foods. She did not like it there and returned to TJ's. At Trader Joe's, every employee does a range of tasks, but Jane's speciality is dairy. Below is her explanation of the pros and cons of the job:

I like working for Trader Joe's because they pay me well and offer great benefits. They also respect me as an employee and make me feel like I'm useful and needed and not just another part-time employee that can be replaced (which has been the case at other retail jobs I've had). Trader Joe's is really good at hiring great people and I'm lucky to have so many wonderful co-workers. I don't like working at Trader Joe's because the work can be strenuous on my back and wrists. Being on a register for several hours at a time is tiring and somewhat soul crushing due to ignorant people who feel the need to be condescending to me because I work at a grocery store. I also feel that the company is becoming more and more corporate as it grows and it is beginning to have an impact on the enjoyability of being a part-time "crew member." I also work in a very busy store which causes the managers to stress out a lot and I don't enjoy being surrounded by it.

Read on to learn about Jane's week (she doesn't work Tues/Wed/Thurs) and all the tasks she does at Trader Joe's.

Monday, July 25
9:00am: Hop on my bike and ride 7 minutes down the road to the Trader Joe's.
9:30am: Clock in and look at the daily log to see what I'm doing all day. The log lists everything you're doing for the day by the hour and is written by the manager the night before. The managers will have you work in the departments that you prefer working in, occasionally they ask you work in the department that needs the most help at the time but otherwise they let you choose.
9:30am-10:00am: First half hour I get to work pet food. Already some product staged there, just need to put it on the shelf.
10:00am-12:00pm: Register #3 for 2 hours. Everyone is usually only on register for 2 hours at a time since it is very tiring.
12:00pm-1:00pm: I take my 10 minutes paid break and then I have 50 minutes on the floor to work product. I usually always work in the "box" which is what we call the dairy section. I work in a very busy Trader Joe's so the backstock fridge is always packed with product, making it very difficult at times to take out products that we need. I can barely move in there, I manage to take out a few cases of yogurt and eggs.
1:00pm-2:00pm: I take my half hour break and eat some lunch. Next half hour I'm on cart run duty. I say hi to the parking lot attendant and proceed to collect carts that people leave behind.
2:00pm-4:00pm: Register #13 for 2 hours. A lot more people now, I ring up people non-stop for these two hours. We are told to perform great customer service which includes having small talk with the customers. I always ask the customer how their day is going and we usually end up talking about food or the weather.
4:00pm-5:00pm: Another hour in the box. Now I can actually pull-out product to work. I have to try to fill the shelves that have gotten pretty empty in the last few hours.
5:00pm-6:00pm: Everyday we set up a "satellite demo" which is where we just set up a table anywhere in the store and hand out free samples. I'm serving veggie flaxseed chips with some hummus. Everyone loves it but I run out of hummus after half an hour. We didn't order enough of it. I close down the demo half an hour early and tear it down, put it away and wash all the dishes.
6:00pm: I punch out and get to go home! lucky for me by bike ride home is all down hill.

Friday, July 29
9:30am: Clock in and look at the log. Odd day today, I'm on demo (the station where we serve samples all day everyday) for a few hours. In the morning we always serve a breakfast sample and at noon we switch over to anything that is..... not breakfast.
9:30am-11:30am: Serving chunky apple sauce. Kinda boring, store is really slow. Everyone is at work at this time... not grocery shopping.
11:30am-12:30pm: I get relieved from demo and get to go work in the box for an hour. I take my 10 minute break and then head over to see what we need. Milk is getting pretty empty so I decide to work that. The milk is worked from the back so I go to the front and pull it all forward, what we call "facing." We pull the products on the shelf forward so that the shelf looks full. We have sliding doors behind the shelves that the milk is stored on and we put the milk up from behind those doors. It's the way to make sure that the milk is always rotated so that the older dates are in the front and the later ones in the back. When I get into the back room and look in the fridge i see that it's pretty packed as usual. I have to climb over a few things to get to the milk which is all the way in the back. I backload the milk and then bring all the empty milk crates outside so that they're not in the way.
12:30pm-2:00pm: Register time. Still not too busy but it's picking up a bit. I ring up some people and I'm thankful that I'm only on register for an hour and a half instead of two. Nobody really likes working register that much (except for a select few) because it is tiring and repetitive. Where I'm from, the customers tend to be rude. Not everyone of course but the one customer who looks down on you for working at a grocery store can sometimes ruin your day. I'm a very positive person though and there are plenty of other customers who are great to talk to and never rude.
2:00pm-4:00pm: I take my half hour break and eat some much-needed lunch. I wish break was longer than a half an hour but there is nothing I can do about that. I clock back in and am scheduled to work in the box until 4:00. My favorite thing to do in the store is work in the box. I make some pulls, work some milk and answer some questions about yogurt until my time is up. When you go work in a section the first thing you want to do is see what products are needed. You make a list of everything you need and then you go into the back and find the cases of the needed items. We put all the cases on a table that can be wheeled back out to the front to be worked. This is called a "pull" because you are pulling out the items that you need.
4:00pm-6:00pm: Last two hours of my day on register. Getting pretty busy now, people are getting out of work and shopping for the weekend. I ring non-stop until I get relieved and get to go home!

Saturday, July 30
10:30am-12:00pm: I'm on register but since it's slow and I'm not on a primary register, I don't have to stay on it. I get to leave and work in the box. The primary registers are the ones located closest to the exit, those are always the busiest registers. There are 8 registers so the 3 closest to the door are considered primary which means that you can't leave those registers if it is slow. If you're on one of the registers further back and it's slow and there are no customers in your line, we are free to leave that register to go do something else. Ever wonder what those bells are for? Well if someone rings one bell it means that we need more cashiers, two bells means we need help of any kind (price check, carry out), three bells means we need a manager. So I go work in the box and just have to keep my ears open for a one bell in case I'm needed on register.
12:00pm-2:00pm: More box! I keep making pulls and try to get the shelf as full as possible before it gets very busy.
2:00pm-3:00pm: Just one hour of demo, not too bad. Serving some tabouli on crackers. Pretty good demo, everyone loves it.
3:00pm-7:00pm: I take my lunch break and then the rest of my day is working in the box. My friends that always work the night shift all come in at 3:30pm. We work together in the box to stock the shelves, a hard job since it's so busy. One person goes and works milk and the rest of us just keep pulling product and stocking it.
7:00pm: Punch out after a long but enjoyable day.

Sunday, July 31
10:30am-11:00am: Punch in and check out the log. My day isn't as good as yesterday but that's just the way it works. First half hour I'm in wine. The wine section doesn't open up until noon so we stock the shelves as much as possible until then.
11:00am-1:00pm: On register but this time I'm on an express register, 12 items or fewer. It's nice working on these because you don't have to worry about someone coming up with a cart overflowing and the customer NOT bagging their own groceries.
1:00pm-3:00pm: Box time. Weekend days are busy all day so I have a lot of work to do. I pull out as much as I can and continuously stock the shelf.
3:00pm-4:00pm: I take my half our break, punch back in and then it's off to the outside for a cart run. I'm happy to be outside since it's so nice out. I collect the carts and empty the outside trash.
4:00pm-5:00pm: I'm on what we call helmsing. I have to put on a Hawaiian lei and walk around the store asking customers if they need help finding anything.
5:00pm-7:00pm: Last two hours in the box. My friends from the night shift are there working so I join them in the pulls that they've already made.
7:00pm: I punch out and I'm happy I've survived another weekend at this busy Trader Joe's!!

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