A Trader Joe's Crew Member Reveals What It Means When They Ring the Bell|Recipes Spots

A Trader Joe's Crew Member Reveals What It Means When They Ring the Bell

Trader Joe's bell at check out counter
Simply Recipes / Myo Quinn

The first time I heard a Trader Joe’s bell ring, I was standing in the checkout line with my infant son who was napping in a stroller. It dinged twice and from afar someone yelled, “Two bells!” The baby woke up startled and started wailing, but the story ends well: I was then led to the front of the line and someone handed me a bouquet of sunflowers on my way out. Now every time I hear the bell ring at Trader Joe’s, I’m reminded of the kindness I received that day. My son is now 10 and we are still TJ’s fans.

The classic brass bell from that fateful day can be found at every TJ’s checkout counter and by the crew’s station. The bell is rung one, two, or three times to ask for help and draw the attention of the captain and crew that are spread out across the store. (TJ’s employees are called crew and managers are called captains. Both the names and the bells are a nod to the store’s nautical theme.)

Trader Joe's storefront with bell
Simply Recipes / Photo Illustrations by Sarah Crowder

Though I (or my son) am no longer startled by the bells, after many years of hearing them, I finally asked about the meaning behind them. On one of my almost-daily trips to Trader Joe’s, I interviewed a crew member and this is what he shared with me:

One Ding!

“One bell means that we need more cashiers to open registers because the checkout lines are starting to get long.”

Two Dings!

“Two bells mean I have a question or I need assistance with a product. Like if I checked your egg carton and noticed a cracked egg, instead of me running over to get a new one or asking you to go, I can ring the bell twice and someone from the crew can grab one for us. I would say of all the bell ringing, I hear two bells the most often.”

Three Dings!

“If I have a funky situation, I’ll ring the bell three times to call the captain over to my register. The customer right before you had a credit card that wouldn’t scan. We tried so many times, but it just wouldn’t work. I called the captain over with three bells. Of course the moment she got here the card worked.”

Four Dings!

Four rings mean “all hands on deck” and it’s used for the busiest times. “I’ve never had to ring the bell four times, but I last heard it about two weeks ago. It was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and parents were also in town for (college) graduation weekend. The store was so crowded, we needed everyone on the floor to come to the registers to help the checkout line move faster.”

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