A Possible Brand Strategy Behind Trader Joe's Ripping Paper Bags

Screen shot via Bargainbabe.com

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So I must be insane for going to Trader Joe's, bagging my items in a single brown paper bag, and being surprised when the bag immediately rips and everything falls out of it.

No I am not buying the reusable bags because I end up leaving them at home. And I need them for trash.

Over time I have learned how to double bag at Trader Joe's. It's an art form you need to know because the store folks will automatically single-bag and stuff tons of items in each one. Causing the break.

The way you double-bag is to open up a single bag, put a closed bag inside, and THEN open the second bag up carefully. Voila - double bag. 

But even that doesn't hold about a third of the time.

I've decided that I really like Trader Joe's as my go-to store and the ripping paper bags don't daunt me. In fact I think they are part of the brand strategy. Here's why:

Trader Joe's is about delivering great food, at a reasonable price, in a manner that does not harm the planet. 

This is my interpretation of their brand promise, based on the way they describe the products they sell - e.g. "tasty," "no GMO" and price them. 

So when those paper bags - bags labeled with the words "reusable and recyclable" start ripping, what it says to me is:

Trader Joe's cares about the planet more than money. 

Meaning, even though it's more convenient to use plastic, the company is committed to something higher than just making a buck.

So when I participate in the world of Trader Joe's by using a recyclable but ripping plastic bag, I am inconveniencing myself for the sake of a higher value. 

That may explain why I keep going back to the experience of the ripping bag, when there are other ways to transport the purchases.

Don't know if that's their plan, but on a certain level it works for me.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.