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Trader Joe’s Is Hiding Stuffed Animals From Our Kids and I’m Furious

Suddenly, the hunt is on for secret stuffed animals in Trader Joe's stores. As if parents weren't stressed enough.

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated and recategorized as an opinion piece. Not all opinions are created equal.

Just when you thought it was safe to take your child with you on a grocery store run to Trader Joe’s, it turns out the twee retail chain that sells inexpensive and organic rice is hiding stuffed animals in some kind of bizarre treasure hunt that nobody actually understands. Here’s what’s going on and why I’m afraid to take my toddler to Trader Joe’s. (I’m only partially kidding, people.)

Recently, a buried Reddit thread was uncovered by Parents.com and The Kitchn. And here’s what was uncovered: Various Trader Joe’s stores around the country intentionally hide stuffed animals in the store, and if kids find the stuffed animals, they are rewarded. But NOT with the stuffed animal they found. The stuffed animal is not the prize. This is a key detail. From the news story on the Kitchn:

“A lot of customers don’t realize it, even if they shop at Trader Joe’s regularly, but somewhere in the store, the employees have hidden a stuffed animal. Any kid who finds the stuffed animal is given a special treat, like a lollipop, as a prize.”

Okay, so the child does not get to take home the stuffed animal. They get another “special treat” which is “like a lollipop,” or presumably, some other lame bullshit. Let’s make sure we stress this detail: Apparently, if the child finds the secret stuffed animal, they do not — I repeat DO NOT — get to keep said stuffed animal. The secretly hidden Trader Joe’s stuffed animal is, instead, some kind of proxy prize, a very cool thing, that is somehow, just a gateway for a much lamer gift. This would be like having a hide-and-seek present game for a child’s birthday party, allowing them to find an amazing new bicycle and then telling them to ride that bicycle to the real prize, which, turns out to be a stale, two-day-old cookie. (Sidenote: Trader Joe’s cookie selection blows.)

The Kitchn continues:

“This is brilliant. Shopping with kids can be difficult. Kids don’t generally like going to the grocery store, and sometimes it feels like you’re always one cartoon tiger away from a public temper tantrum. But if you tell a kid about the hidden stuffed animal game, that kid is going to be ecstatic.”

False. If a child, like my wonderful and 2.5-year-old-daughter, is told to look for a hidden stuffed animal, said child is going to fucking lose their minds when they are told they cannot have that stuffed animal. Seriously, what kind of deranged bait-and-switch is this? Have those Jimmy Buffet-style shirts that Trader Joe’s employees wear sent them to a permanent mental Margaritaville?

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According to Parents.com, it gets worse, because, this is possibly not even available at every Trader Joe’s; meaning, even if you wanted to engage in this treasure hunt, there’s no uniformity to it. It’s mass hysteria!

From Parents.com:

“Now, I cannot say that there is one in every single store, but in general, stores typically have one,” Kendra Friend-Daniel told The Kitchn. “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.”

Again, here, an actual person confirms this policy. If your kid finds a cuddly friend hidden in Trader Joe’s they don’t get the friend. They get a lollipop.

Here’s a thought, Trader Joe’s? If you’re going to have a fun hide-and-seek game for kids in your store, maybe don’t make one that has a built-in-trap to get kids to have fucking meltdowns. Or, maybe this: If your hide-and-seek stuffed animal game results in a toddler having a meltdown, I get my 2.99 wine totally free, correct?

As a parent of a toddler who wants to bring home every cute animal she sees in a store, I’m pretty annoyed that I now have to live in fear of going to the only store that sells cheap salsa that doesn’t suck. Thanks, Trader Joe’s. Thanks, in advance, for nothing!

Editor’s update: A representative for Trader Joe’s has reached out to Fatherly and informed us that all employees of Trader Joe’s would do everything in their power to prevent toddler meltdowns and that their intentions with any in-store treasure hunt are good. We are not, however, altering the original article, because it, was simply, a humorous attempt to poke fun at what struck the writer as a strange and dubious Trader Joe’s policy. Still, we concede that Trader Joe’s are certainly not trying to hurt our children. It was certainly never our intent to insinuate such a thing.