The Trader Joe Method

February 25, 2018


I love shopping at Trader Joe, not just because of their unique food items, but because it's always a chance to observe how well the cashiers initiate conversation. They are well-known for staffing their stores with people who thrive at small talk. Chitchat is encouraged. Every time I check out, someone inevitably starts a casual conversation with me.. "Check out" an example:


Trader Joe: Hi, how’s your Tuesday going?


Me: Good, how are you?


Trader Joe: It’s going well, thanks. I see you’re buying X, have you tried it with some Y? They make a great combination, especially if you like Z.


Me: No, I haven’t…but maybe I’ll try that next time.


Trader Joe: I don’t buy it a lot, but the last time I bought it for my girlfriend and she loved it…I probably should buy again soon, her birthday’s coming up and I wasn’t sure what to do.


Me: I’m not a great cook so we always go out for my wife’s birthday.


The conversation was flowing. Let’s break down the previous interaction into digestible pieces:


1.       Ask how they’re doing.

2.       Make an observation that introduces an interesting nugget. The interesting nugget opens up more options for conversation.

3.       Share some light self-disclosure and the other person may share as well.

4.       Ask a question about what they disclosed, or disclose something related.


The aforementioned interaction follows a structure common to almost all initial small talk interactions. Don't over-complicate it. 


Stay social, my friends. 


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Gregory Peart, M.Ed.

social scientist / author / father / gamer