Family-favorite grocery store Trader Joe’s has been keeping a secret from us for a long time. Turns out, there’s a stuffed animal hidden in most of their stores — and if kids find them, they get a prize.
The type of animal varies, from squirrels, penguins, and lobsters to monkeys and whales. They’re meant to be a fun activity to occupy kids while their parents shop for groceries.
This best-kept secret was revealed on a Reddit thread called “Ask Me Anything,” where a Trader Joe’s employee revealed that most locations do in fact have a hidden stuffed animal and a prize in store for the lucky kid who spots it.
“Each store has a stuffed animal of some sort hiding somewhere,” they wrote. “It’s really just for kids to run around and find the missing animal, and they get a treat. Kids seem to LOVE it and parents go along with it, too.” All of the animals seem to have a Trader Joe’s employee name tag, making it clear that they’re hidden on purpose.
Trader Joe’s public relations director Kendra Friend-Daniel told The Kitchn the rumors are true. “I cannot say that there is one in every single store, but in general, stores typically have one,” Friend-Daniel said. “It’s a way to engage with kids in our store. If they locate the hidden stuffed toy, they just let a Crew Member know and they’ll receive a treat. The type of stuffed toy and treat may vary store to store, but for example, in my local Trader Joe’s there’s a hidden penguin and when my daughters locate it, they receive a lollipop.”
Delish reported there have been social media posts popping up about the hidden animals as early as 2014 — and these posts can help provide some clues about where to find them. One Twitter user reported that their local TJ’s hid a stuffed whale named Willy, while another said that theirs had a squirrel which could be found in three regular hiding spots.
TJ’s regular Khoa Phan posted pictures on Twitter of a stuffed monkey named Calvin, and a lobster hidden in the potato chip aisle. While it’s likely your local store has one, it’s possible they don’t — so don’t waste hours looking. Another Twitter user complained, “Hours of my life wasted looking for the stuffed animal at Trader Joe’s.”
So maybe don’t warn your kids about it either — just know that if they do pick up a mysterious stuffed animal, it belongs to the store — and there might be someone behind the counter waiting for them to claim their prize.