Each chime means something different!
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Trader Joe's storefront
Credit: Allrecipes

It's safe to say that Trader Joe's isn't like other grocery stores. In fact, even Trader Joe's knows it's not like other grocery stores — and that's actually the point. It is their mission to make grocery shopping fun, and you'll see that everywhere in the store.

Every Trader Joe's is filled with bright, eye-popping colors — from the handwritten price stickers down to the employees' Hawaiian shirts. Even the products are different from the typical things you'd find at other big box stores because Trader Joe's rarely sells name-brand products. So when you're walking down the aisle at Trader Joe's and hear a bell ring, you probably don't think much of it because shopping at TJ's isn't your normal shopping experience anyway.

But if you hear it ring again, and then again, you might be wondering what is up with all the clanging? The truth is, those bells serve a really important purpose and the number of times they ring is even more important.

What Does the Bell Signify at Trader Joe's?

First and foremost, if you're wondering what bells? We're talking about the golden bells that are stationed at every cashier's counter. Sometimes during your TJ's visit, you'll hear the bells ringing — either once, twice, or three times. 

The bells act as a "Trader Joe's Morse code," according to the store. There isn't a PA system in place, so the bell is the way the team members communicate with one another across the large space. 

Did It Ring Once, Twice, or Three Times?

One ring lets the team know to open another register, two rings mean there are questions that need to be answered in the checkout line, and three rings signify a manager-type person is needed at the register, according to Trader Joe's FAQs page. They go on to add: "And Three short bells–two long bells–three short bells… now we're just playing."

You may hear the bell ring four times, but Trader Joe's doesn't mention what that means on its site. However, a former employee claims online that four bells mean "all hands on deck" and is used during peak busy hours. 

Why Bells?

The idea comes from maritime traders who used bells to communicate with one another, which makes sense considering that Trader Joe's is nautically themed and refers to crew members as "traders on the culinary seas." Plus, the bells are a little more fun than a traditional PA system, especially since some affable TJ's employees like to make the most of it and yell out amusing phrases when they ring their bells.

The bells are just another unique quirk that make Trader Joe's a top place to shop for pantry staples for easy dinners or frozen favorites to stock up on.