The Real Reason Trader Joe’s Doesn’t Allow Online Orders

Johnny Louis/Getty Images

The popularity of Trader Joe’s has grown beyond cult status. Shopping for your favorite products there on a busy weekend can feel like a high-stakes treasure hunt. While some customers may prefer to buy their frozen butter chicken and kale pesto from the comfort of their couch, the chain doesn’t plan to make online ordering widely available anytime soon. As Food & Wine reports, the in-person shopping experience is baked into the brand. 

On a recent episode of the official “Inside Trader Joe’s” podcast, hosts Tara Miller and Matt Sloan shared why the company doesn’t offer pickup and delivery options nationwide. Trader Joe’s is known for its ever-changing inventory of seasonal and limited-edition products. Shoppers may arrive with a set grocery list, but the store is designed for them to leave with extra items they discovered spontaneously. 

As Miller explained, the Trader Joe’s experience is about “walking through the store and meeting up with a crew member who talks to you about a product that just arrived this week in the store. You might not know about that product when you are shopping virtually as opposed to in a physical space, you tend to have blinders on and you see the products you are already looking for.”

In addition to making new products easier to find, forcing people to shop in person also keeps expenses low for the grocery chain. E-commerce services, warehouses, trucks, and delivery workers cost additional money that Trader Joe’s would have to pass on to the customer. The brand is beloved for its relatively low prices, and one way it stays affordable is by simplifying its services. 

If customers prefer to do their grocery shopping online, there’s a wealth of options. Services like  Instacart and FreshDirect have been delivering food to people’s doorsteps for years, and since the COVID-19 pandemic they’ve exploded in popularity. But if you’re craving something exclusive to Trader Joe’s, you’ll have to make a trip to the brick-and-mortar store.