Illustration for article titled There’s a reason Trader Joe’s won’t let you order groceries for pickup or delivery
Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld (Getty Images)

As both a crowd control measure and a safety precaution for essential employees, many grocery stores have begun offering grocery pickup and/or delivery during nationwide stay-at-home orders. Online ordering forms make it simple to select your items and choose a pickup window, and while you might not get everything you ordered, it beats wandering narrow, crowded aisles and handing your card off to someone who’s had to interact with too many people today already. But Trader Joe’s, beacon of delicious frozen foods and comforting snacks, won’t budge. It continues to operate sans pickup or delivery, and now the grocery chain has explained why.

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Business Insider notes that on a recent episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast—a podcast that has existed since 2018, with episodes like “We’re Nuts About Wine and Cheese” and “Why Is Everyone So Nice?”—the company provided an update on how the chain is handling operations in the midst of COVID-19. When it comes to curbside pickup or delivery, Trader Joe’s marketing director Tara Miller notes, “We understand the impulse, and we know that some other retailers are offering these services. We also know those offerings don’t always translate into positive results.”

Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing at Trader Joe’s, also chimed in, explaining that for a grocery chain with 505 locations and counting, it would be a “massive undertaking” to implement an effective online ordering and delivery system. “At Trader Joe’s, the reality is that over the last couple of decades we’ve invested those resources in our people rather than build an infrastructure that eliminates the need for people,” said Sloan.

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This might also be Trader Joe’s protecting its own relevance in a post-COVID-19 world. The current restrictions will be lifted at some point in the (hopefully near) future, and when they are, the grocery chain known for its friendly service, free samples, and fun environment doesn’t want to be left saddled with the conundrum of how to take all those defining features of the Trader Joe’s experience and move them online. Instead, it wants to play to its strengths—or, as Sloan puts it, “We know that this period of distancing will end and when it does, our crew will be in our stores to help you find your next favorite product, just as they’ve always been.”

The podcast then moved on to its topic du jour, coffee, and in an iconically Trader Joe’s move, the episode featured a game show called Get Buzzed.

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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