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16 Fearless-Flyer Facts About Trader Joe’s

In a supermarket industry that thrives on selling you the same brands of chips, cereal, candy and soda wherever you shop, Trader Joe’s is the wacky outlier. It’s the only place where you can buy a jar of Cookie Butter to go along with your Horseradish Chips and Uncured Bacon Ganache Chocolate Bar—where employees go by maritime titles like “mate” and “captain,” wear Hawaiian shirts and cheerfully ring bells rather than use intercoms. The grocer's quirky, foodie-pleasing ways have garnered legions of fans, even in cities that don’t have a TJ’s. But it’s worth looking past the company’s carefree attitude to see just what makes this ship float.

1. The founder envisioned a market for “overeducated, underpaid” shoppers.

Joe Raedle// Getty

No, Trader Joe is not an eccentric world traveler in a safari hat. He’s Joe Coulombe, a Stanford business school grad who made some savvy decisions back in the company’s early days. In an interview with Entrepreneur, Coulombe says he noticed a significant trend in the early ‘60s: salaries for college grads were falling. So he slashed prices on products throughout his stores, then known as Pronto Markets, and loaded up on something else his well-educated customer base could appreciate: booze. “We essentially married the health food store to the liquor store,” he said in the interview. Smart man, that Joe Coulombe.

2. Trader Joe's is now owned by a reclusive, mega-rich German family.

Coulombe renamed his stores “Trader Joe’s” in 1967, then sold the company to German billionaire Theo Albrecht in 1979. Albrecht, who died in 2010, owned (along with his brother, Karl) the discount chain Aldi, which is currently one of the fastest-growing supermarkets in the U.S. Both brothers were intensely private, which is understandable, really, considering that in 1971 Theo was kidnapped and held for ransom for 17 days (the family negotiated the release, and the kidnapper, a small-time crook, was nabbed shortly after). Trader Joe’s is currently owned by the Albrecht family trust.

3. Granola was their first store-brand product.

About 80 percent of Trader Joe’s products are its own kitschy brands, from Trader Jose salsa to Pilgrim Joe clam chowder. And it all started with granola, back in 1972.

4. National brands make their products.

It’s the secret Trader Joe’s would rather you not know: Well-known manufacturers make its products, then sell them under the company’s sub brands at a significant discount. Why? Because they want to be in Trader Joe’s, and they’re willing to play along to do so. TJ’s doesn’t publicize its vendor relationships, and manufacturers are sworn to secrecy, so enterprising food journalists have run taste tests to connect the dots. That white cheddar mac and cheese you love? It’s probably made by Annie's Homegrown.

5. They’re ruthlessly efficient.

Joe Raedle // Getty

In addition to secretly contracting brand-name suppliers, Trader Joe’s does a few other things most supermarkets don’t. They don’t accept slotting fees, which manufacturers pay retailers in return for shelf real estate (ever wonder why Pepsi and Coke have the soda aisle locked down?), and which increase prices. They also cut out distributors, often receiving products directly from suppliers. And as you’ve likely noticed if you shop there, they don’t offer coupons or special discounts. Because everything’s already dirt-cheap.

6. They really do send buyers all over the world.

The company employs a small, elite band of senior buyers to scour the globe for new products. They’re like the SEAL Team 6 of specialty grocery. As one former buyer told Fortune magazine, going to industry trade shows is “for rookies.”

7. They’re not like Whole Foods—well, mostly.

Although Trader Joe’s doesn’t position itself as a health food store, it still adheres to guidelines that include no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in any of its products, and no GMOs. Kind of like a certain higher-priced competitor, no?

8. You can try pretty much any product before you buy.

If you’re not sure about those chocolate-covered potato chips (though why wouldn’t you be?), ask a store employee for a sample. You can try pretty much anything before you buy, with the exception of foods that need to be prepared (pasta, cake mix, frozen meals), and liquor. Wine sampling, meanwhile, varies from state to state.

9. People in cities without a store absolutely PINE for one.

There aren’t many grocery stores that inspire mass campaigns to bring them to town. Residents of Memphis, Green Bay, Lancaster, Penn., and other cities have set up dedicated Facebook pages displaying their loyalty to the company and begging them to drop anchor. Commenters often recount the days, months and even years since they last stepped foot in a store.

10. They have a Canadian bootlegger.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t operate in Canada, but that doesn’t stop the good people of Vancouver from buying Trader Joe’s products. How’s that possible? A store called Pirate Joe’s, which isn’t affiliated with Trader Joe’s in any way, sells TJ’s goods that have been trucked up (read: bootlegged) from stores in Washington state. Owner Mike Hallatt, who holds the illustrious distinction of having been thrown out of multiple Trader Joe’s, employs a team of shoppers who buy products in bulk, then load them into a big white van headed north. It all sounds highly illegal, but when Trader Joe’s sued Hallatt, they lost.

11. Their New York City stores are madness, simply madness.

Michael Nagle // Getty

Go to the Union Square, Chelsea or Upper West Side locations during rush hour and you’ll likely find a line snaking through the entire store. There are sign-toting employees at the middle and end of the line, offering a semblance of order amidst the chaos. Experienced shoppers know how to save time by shopping while they’re in line, which is so New York.

12. Every store has a plastic lobster hiding in it.

Or so the company claims. See if you can find it—and try not to knock over any garlic pita chip displays in the process.

13. They’ve sold more than 800 million bottles of Two-Buck Chuck.

It’s more like Three-Buck Chuck these days, but that hasn’t slowed sales, which have gone gangbusters since Charles Shaw wine first arrived en-masse to Trader Joe’s shelves in 2002. The Bronco Wine Company, which makes the stuff and is owned by the Franzia family (sound familiar?), employs clever cost-saving measures much like Trader Joe’s. It grows grapes on inexpensive land in California’s San Joaquin Valley, ages the wine with oak chips instead of in barrels, and uses ultra-lightweight bottles and boxes for shipping. All in the name of getting Americans the cheap booze they crave.

14. They stopped selling pantyhose in 1978.

TJ’s clearly saw the writing on the wall decades ahead of time, considering sales of pantyhose have plummeted over the past 15 years. Or, as Trader Joe’s puts it: “The unencumbered freedom is glorious.”

15. Each store has its own artist.

To give its stores a neighborhood market feel, Trader Joe’s posts chalkboard signs drawn by an in-house artist (a “crew member,” officially). The results are eye-catching and often quite clever.

16. They inspired a really catchy tribute song.

Apologies in advance for getting this stuck in your head.

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8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
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[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

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20 Random Facts About Shopping
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Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.

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