Money bags: would you pay $1,200 for one of Trader Joe’s $2.99 totes?

Name: Trader Joe’s tote bags.

Age: So, Trader Joe’s has been … well, trading, since 1967; these totes – and the rush on them – are new.

Whoa! Hold it there. First of all, Trader Joe’s? It’s an American supermarket chain named after its founder, Joe Coulombe, with 568 stores across the US. It is not to be confused with Trader Jon’s, which was a bar in Florida.

Fascinating (if you’re into American retail and hospitality history). And totes – I thought that meant “totally”? In Britain, maybe, about 10 years ago. Here, we’re talking tote bags. You know – cloth, a couple of looped handles, reusable, so much better than plastic bags, obviously. The word “tote” is an American English word of uncertain origin, meaning to carry or transport.

Here we go, etymology now – can we just skip to the newsy bit of this please? Are tote bags available at Trader Joe’s? Well, here’s the thing: yes and no.

Ooh, you big tease. Come on! They’ve got a mini tote bag out, available in four colours: blue, red, green, and yellow.

Sounds cute. That’s what people are saying.

How much? $2.99

Not bad. I’ll take one in each colour, please. Sure. That’ll be $500.

What! Maths – sorry, math – isn’t really my thing but that doesn’t sound right? They’ve gone viral – 11m views on TikTok.

And you can’t get one for love nor money? Well, money helps. Some stores are reportedly limiting customers to five bags, and lines (that’s queues to you) are forming. A Trader Joe’s employee in Iowa told CNN that the bags sold out in a week.

And they’re getting resold online, right? Right. On e-commerce platforms, such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace.

Go on, how much? CNN found a set of four for $499.99.

No way! We found one on eBay for $1,199.99.

WHAT!? No one would seriously spend approximately £937.02 on four little cloth bags, would they? Almost certainly not. Those are asking prices – you can make a lower offer. We also found a set for $59.99.

Still, that’s a lot more than the original price of $11.96. It’s a 401.6% mark-up. That’s what happens when things with a limited run go viral. See also December’s stampede for Stanley cups at Target stores, also documented on TikTok.

Why are Americans so weird? It’s not just Americans. Remember Kevin?

No. Who’s Kevin? The carrot.

Yes! Aldi! Massive pre-Christmas queues. Fights even. Interestingly, Trader Joe’s and Aldi do have a connected retail family heritage, involving two squabbling German brothers and their subsequent ventures. Maybe that’s one for next time.

Do say: “You know what, I’ll just upcycle this old sack and make my own tote bag.”

Don’t say: “Add to basket.”


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