We are big fans of Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning, but even we did not realize there was a full-time salary to be made from reselling those little jars online. For Juston and Kristen Herbert, a married couple with kids living in Arizona, reselling Trader Joe’s products online has become a source of legitimate income—to the tune of about $30,000 last year.
The family has a YouTube channel and website called Flipping Profits, in which they explain how they make money via retail arbitrage and offer consulting and coaching service to teach others how to do the same. Here’s the gist of how their version of retail arbitrage works: The Herberts hit up a local Trader Joe’s, buy a few cases of Everything But The Bagel seasoning, then list it on Amazon for a mark-up (presumably to desperate people like me who don’t live near a Trader Joe’s). In a since-deleted YouTube video, the Herberts say they don’t buy up the entire stock in a single store to avoid being “obnoxious.”
Wait, how is this legal? According to The Kitchn, who spoke to the Herberts’ media relations contact, what they’re doing is perfectly within their rights under the “first sale doctrine copyright law,” which allows anyone to buy up to 700 units of a retail product and sell it online. For its part, Trader Joe’s tells The Kitchn that, obviously, it would prefer people buy its products in-store and that TJ’s “does not authorize the reselling of our products and cannot stand behind the quality, safety or value of any Trader Joe’s product sold outside of our store.” Why Everything But The Bagel seasoning? The Herberts tell Cooking Light it’s the perfect resale item: “The seasoning is always available there, the demand is always high and the seasoning always costs $1.99.”
This tactic reminds us of Pirate Joe’s, a grocery store that did exactly what its name implied: sold unauthorized Trader Joe’s products across the border in Canada. The store operated for five years based on a rather simple business model: Its owner drove to Seattle where he bought TJ’s products in bulk (sometimes while wearing a disguise), then resold them for a higher price at his store. Eventually, Trader Joe’s caught on, filed a lawsuit, and settled with the Pirate Joe’s owner who agreed to shutter the store. All this goes to show that Trader Joe’s has such a cult following, there’s a living to be made just by reselling their stuff. If only we’d thought of these schemes first.