Should Pirate Joe’s Walk the Plank?
With no Trader Joe’s in Canada, a store has opened in Vancouver selling inventory bought at retail prices at Trader Joe’s locations in the state of Washington. Trader Joe’s has sued.
Originally opened up about a year and a half ago under the name, "Pirate Joe’s," the name changed earlier this year to "_irate Joe’s" after Trader Joe’s filed its lawsuit claiming trademark infringement and unfair business practices.
The motto of the store: "Better than nothing" A sign on the sidewalk proclaims: "Unauthorized. Unaffiliated. Unafraid."
"I bought the stuff at full retail. I own it," owner Michael Hallatt told NPR. "I get to do with it whatever I want to, including reselling it to Canadians. My right to do this is unassailable."
He adds, "There is no confusion in the marketplace. Pirate Joe’s, now _irate Joe’s, is blatant and unambiguous."
Some products are marked up more than double U.S. retail prices but are still often half the prices of similar items in local markets in Vancouver. An active resale market on Amazon and eBay promotes Trader Joe’s products, often at exorbitant markups, he claimed.
While the lawsuit continues, Mr. Hallatt told NPR he has long tried to get Trader Joe’s to offer some "guidance on how they would like me to operate."
In stocking up, Mr. Hallatt told the Los Angeles Times that he’s careful to take only a few of the desired items at each store to not disrupt inventory flow. Having been asked not to shop several locations, he’s hired others to pick up merchandise. But legally, the former Bay Area resident strongly feels he has the right to resell what he’s bought.
"The only way this is going to end is if Trader Joe’s opens in Vancouver," Mr. Hallatt told the Los Angeles Times. "I would love that. They would put me out of business, but I’d love that. I love their stuff."
Trader Joe’s, with a policy against commenting on pending litigation, hasn’t spoken publicly about the case. With no e-commerce, a resale market appears the only way for customers to acquire Trader Joe’s merchandise without visiting an actual store.
- Bag It, Trader Joe’s Tells ‘Pirate’ Grocer In Canada – NPR
- Pirate Joe’s: Vancouver business sued for reselling Trader Joe’s faves – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub.)
- Trader Joe’s drags a pirate to court – San Francisco Chronicle
What do you think of Trader Joe’s response to its products being resold in Canada, where it doesn’t have a retail presence? What should stores and brands in general do about resale activity, whether offline or online?