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relates to Trader Joe’s Employees Say Virus Response Was Haphazard and Chaotic
Illustration: Dan Woodger for Bloomberg Businessweek

Trader Joe’s Employees Say Virus Response Was Haphazard and Chaotic

Interviews with dozens of crew members paint a picture of a tumultuous two weeks as the company’s policies rapidly changed.

On a recent Saturday morning in downtown Brooklyn, well before the Trader Joe’s at City Point was to open its doors at 9 a.m., a line already snaked several blocks away from the entrance. Onlookers took photos and posted them on social media. The doors were flanked by security guards and Trader Joe’s employees in Hawaiian print shirts, limiting the number of shoppers who could enter. Hundreds of customers stood six feet apart from each other, brandishing tote bags and coffee cups. One woman was reading a Tolstoy novel.

The scene is similar from Brooklyn to Bend, Ore., as Trader Joe’s faces a surge in demand brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. Customers are clamoring for the offbeat, friendly uncle of the grocery world. But behind the smiles is a different reality for many Trader Joe’s crew members. The very things that make the company different—small spaces, free samples, no self-checkout or online delivery—are also making it difficult to navigate working there in the coronavirus era. In interviews with dozens of crew members in the last two weeks, a picture emerges of an inconsistent effort to protect workers, even as stores reportedly log record-setting revenues.