No, Trader Joe's Employees Are Not Paid To Flirt With You

"Did you find everything you were looking for?" At any other grocery store, this simple yes or no question is usually the extent of the interaction customers have with cashiers. At Trader Joe's, however, you can expect a full-blown conversation about your weekend plans and the incredible taste you have in food products. No matter who you are or what Trader Joe's store you shop at, the cashiers will always take an interest in you and the products you picked out. The friendly, chatty demeanor of its workers is such an integral part of the Trader Joe's experience that some have wondered if the chain trains its employees to flirt with customers.

However, according to Trader Joe's CEO Bryan Palbaum, the rumor is completely false. What people perceive as flirting is simply genuine niceness. "I think we just have such a unique environment in our stores that to go into a Trader Joe's store and feel that everyone is genuinely interested in whether or not you are having a good day, compared to maybe perhaps other retailers, I could see how that might be misinterpreted," Palbaum explained in Episode 65 of the Trader Joe's podcast.

Trader Joe's does hire its cashiers strategically

So maybe Trader Joe's isn't making their employees flirt with their customers, but they must be forcing them to smile like weird, grocery-selling Stepford Wives, right? Wrong again. Trader Joe's doesn't train its employees to be nice, because they don't really have to; the people they hire are naturally like that already. 

Trader Joe's prides itself in being a friendly neighborhood store, so it simply hires people who can uphold that reputation. Though some people assume that you have to be extroverted in order to be a Trader Joe's cashier, that's not the case. Introverts get hired at Trader Joe's too. In order to determine if they'd make a good cashier, Trader Joe's evaluates both the retail skills and people skills of its applicants. "You don't have to be the most outgoing person, but able to give that personable, insightful customer service," one Trader Joe's employee told Cheapism. "If you prove to them in the interview process you have that type of energy, you're pretty much set." Flirting abilities have nothing to do with it.

Trader Joe's employees aren't required to converse with customers every time

Trader Joe's employees are trained to use the register and stock shelves, but as far as customer reactions are concerned, Trader Joe's President of Stores Jon Basalone shared in Episode 15 of the Trader Joe's podcast that there are only three requirements employees are told to follow: be yourself, be genuine, and be nice. Basalone explained that interactions aren't scripted; in fact, the store doesn't even require cashiers to ask the standard, "Did you find everything you were looking for?" greeting common at many retailers. What's more important, Basalone said, is for the cashiers to be able to judge whether a customer is in the mood to chat, could use a compliment, or has too many things on their mind to engage in small talk.

Conversations tend to flow more naturally not only because employees aren't forced to ask certain questions, but also because of the setup of the register, says former Trader Joe's employee and TikToker Brian Roque, who used to work at a Trader Joe's. Because Trader Joe's employees scan the items directly from your cart instead of you loading them onto a conveyor belt, the conversations are less distracted. If you perceive this interaction as flirting, well perhaps it's because you actually had the chance to make eye contact with the cashier.