April 12 2010

The Trader Joe Divers

So the other night I was out with Roscoe and we walked past the local Trader Joe’s around 10-ish. Right around closing time. We hooked around the corner and walked smack into a decent crowd of people hanging around by the back bay of Trader Joes. Where the deliveries come in and the trash goes out or whatever. 15-20 people. My first thought was the store was closing and the employees were all leaving at the same time.

But then it seemed like something else was going on. Nobody was leaving or talking to each other. They were just sort of milling about. Seemingly anxious or something. There was a buzz in the air like something was about to happen. Like a protest or something. I couldn’t figure out what was going on so Roscoe and I pulled over to watch for whatever was coming next…

A minute or two later, a dumpster was carted out of Trader Joes. Then another. Then another. And they were parked along side the building. The people waiting around immediately started digging in the dumpsters. Not like a frenzy but definitely rushed. They were pulling out big plastic bags and ripping them open. Inside were fruits and vegetables. Much of it was shrinkwrapped. Like straight off the shelves. I couldn’t see what else was in there.

I was sort of stunned. These people were dumpster diving at my local Trader Joe’s. They knew when the trash was coming out and were waiting for it. It wasn’t the idea of people getting food that way that surprised me. And I was glad the food wasn’t going to waste. Nor am I snobbish about street stuff. (Hey, I got a few pieces of furniture in my place brought in from the curb…) it just was the clientele was surprising. Because this wasn’t like a homeless situation at all. Some of the divers looked like straight out hipsters or parents.

Then I wondered if maybe they were all doing it for some sort of charity? Like maybe they were gathering the food to donate somewhere else? Or something? But it wasn’t that vibe. It was too rushed. Too excited. Plus, if they were a charity organization I’m sure they could work out something better with Trader Joe than having them huck it all in a dumpster and carting it outside “for charity”.

I gotta admit it freaked me out a little. Sign of the economy stuff or whatever? These ‘regular’ people were grabbing up the goodies from the trash. But then again, most of the stuff was shrinkwrapped or in plastic bags– and the food was probably entering their very first day of expiration. It was far from “gross”.

So when I saw some dude walking away with a full plastic bag of perfectly decent groceries and throwing it in the back of his car– I kinda shrugged and was like, ‘Whatever. Pride or less pride or whatever— that dude just got a free bag of groceries! Good for him!’

But still… I did feel weird taking out my camera. So I didn’t.

ok bye!

PS. Here’s pics I took a while ago when Trader Joes first opened…

UPDATE: Apparently I’m a bit of an ignoramusus about what was going on here. (most likely freegans and anti-waste people. not like hard-times people necessarily). And didn’t mean to seem jerky or judgmental at all. In fact, to mention pride was wrong. Now that I’m clear on it– this apparently doesn’t have to do with pride– seems more like it has to do with attitude. Just hadn’t seen it before and that was what’s happening.


JV says:

Wow. That’s different…I think I would’ve had that same ambiguous feeling. I just did and wasn’t even there.

the REAL weeze says:


Jessica says:

I thought they were called freegans or something. The food that they get is what companies cant legally sell and must be thrown out. And yes, its not homeless ppl who do this, its usually 20somethings who dislike waste.

Is cool you got to see it firsthand!

oddtodd7 says:

Thanks for the info.. Googled up freegans.


Seems coolio…

Katherine says:

My folks live in Boston; they get lots of groceries this way from their neighborhood Trader Joe’s. Their local store has a weekend afternoon designated dumpster time. (My parents can afford food. They make a decent living, but both grew up poor and hate to see waste.) A few church kitchens in their area also get supplies this way. The employees at this particular Trader Joe’s deserve kudos for supplying so much food to neighbors, soup kitchens, city block parties, school lunches, etc.

Duncan says:

Is this the Trader Joe’s on Boylston? That’s close to my house I might have to go check it out šŸ™‚

MsM says:

Around here, some of the stores are nice enough to deliver some of the food right to the Salvation Army (They sometimes have skids of bread products from local bread chains to give away, including Thomas English muffins, Sara Lee bagels and pizza crusts) or in smaller quantities to some of the church groups so people don’t have to dumpster dive. Thank you Panera Bread and IGA. Shame on Casey’s General Store which has a policy of making sure leftover food goes in the dumpster and then has bleach poured on it!

the REAL weeze says:

first! šŸ™‚

Goats says:

A lot of me feels this is both wrong and pathetic. First, I am sure TJ knows that these people are going to scavenge like rats, so why don’t they do the decent thing and not put the stuff in dumpsters–just leave it in bags out front and let people take it. Second, these scavengers do NOT have pride. Real American pride means you work hard and pay for what you get–not slither around like a snake looking for leftovers from store. Freegans—also known as freeloading chumps who are too cheap to buy their own food and support our economy. “Don’t like waste” my ass. Make that, “would rather spend their money on weed” LOL. If I knew people like this, I would huck pennies at them just to film them scavenging! Freeloading is wrong!

Anonymous says:

I am a somewhat freegan. I work a 9 to 6, and make over 50K a year. I do not smoke weed. Freeganism is not “slithering” for leftovers. Its using items that should be used instead of being needlessly discarded. I support the economy in many other ways… I shop for my clothes, I order pizza’s from the Italian place on the corner, I pay my electric bill. Why should something be thrown out that is perfectly useful? Maybe in a sense it’s freeloading, but taking something that is otherwise unwanted and considered trash never hurt anyone.

t$ says:

Didn’t think you came off judgemental at all! I’ve heard of the Freegans before – but never seen them in public. It would be weird and crazy and kind of inspiring I think to see them scavenging for food that would otherwise go to waste. Neat! Wish you had gotten a video or something!

clomid mg says:

Very interesting and amusing subject. I read with great pleasure.

r n says:

Interesting read Todd. Although I’ve never had the experience you had, my second bike was picked off the curb from my father years ago. Good condition too.

Goats says:

holy hypocrites batman! I just checked out the “freegan” site—these people object to the corporate sources of the food–yet they are more than willing to take it, use it, eat it if it’s free–so as not to produce waste…Please! That is totally hypocritical and amounts to total bs in my book. If they were truly “fregan,” they’d go the self sustaining communal living route. Farming for their own food and not scavenging off of “evil society’s” leftovers.

WTF?!?!?!? says:

You can justify anything if you have a bitchin’ website.

FIRST says:


frank rizzo says:

I got some great hamburger and escolar there.

Also if you to a hospital you can do the same, my grandmother gets her heart medicine that way.

LAST says:


the REAL last says:

LAST! for snizzle!

cb1 says:

@Goats: I think that the freegan point of view is that what you call “real american pride” (ie capitalism) is what is both pathetic and wrong. what’s wrong with people eating what would otherwise end up in a landfill?

Goats says:

@ cb1–I have no problem with dumpster diving. I have a problem with freegans dumpster diving. If you are poor and cannot afford food, yes, by all means, scavenge away in the dumpsters. However, the freegan point of view–at least from my understanding of their website– is hypocritical, in that they don’t want to support these “evil capitalist companies” yet have no problem using their products if it’s free. That is like a vegan saying, I don’t pay for meat, but I will eat it if it’s free…

I’ve known about this guy for a while—


At first, I was disgusted, but at least he does it right some of the time….

cb1 says:

@goats – i think your point would be valid if we were talking about a product that wasn’t necessary for human survival. someone who is an hardcore animal rights activist would be a hypocrite if they wore fur just cause it was free. everyone needs food. it doesn’t matter how much you oppose the food manufacturing industry, you still need to eat. the only option for someone not willing to buy food would be growing your own food which is not feasible for everyone, or dumpster diving.

i also think the dumpster diving is somewhat of a statement against the waste that is produced by the industry.

Mr Bill says:

Interesting. The local stores around me seem content to sell stuff that is already into the decomp stages, at full price!

Preacher says:

Good stewardship! This is something we should all practice in some form. I love Jesus.

spacetrucker says:

So, if it’s going to be thrown away and wind up in a landfill, and it is in perfectly good and or edible shape and you take it, you are a freeloader……that sucks.
If it could be used or consumed and you watch it go the way of the compost, you are an honest and angelic person.
Oh, Effff dat!
EVERYONE is at some point and to a point, a freeloading gimmie monger. I mean everyone.
If it is in good shape and edible and would otherwise wind up wasted……..TAKE IT, ENJOY IT. WTF?
If it isn’t sewage or something’s/someone’s regurgitated effluent, have it, use it, whatever.

There’s something WRONG with that?

Guest says:

I agree with Goat.

If you hate to see waste, then scavenge for food and go the extra mile: take it to the people who can’t afford it.

This way it is not wasted and you are not betraying yourself by consuming the products from “evil capitalist companies”.

If you can afford your food, then BUY IT. Well, if you want to keep your pride, that is…

Pharmacy technician jobs in California says:

Wow this is a great resource.. Iā€™m enjoying it.. good article

Anonymous says:

For those of you who think it is disgraceful and and freeloading to take stuff, you are missing the fact that it’s actually better for the world, creating less waste.

So, it’s actually morally superior than buying stuff and perpetuating the false notion that it is somehow our obligation to keep big companies in business.

These same companies don’t do anything for us, why should we work several days a week just to support them?

Anonymous dad says:

Yes: freeload to take stuff, and then take it to those who can’t afford it.

Don’t want to work several days a week just to support companies?

Then grow your own food, build your own goods.

I’m sorry, your arguments are just ridiculous. As someone already said: you can afford your food, then BUY IT and keep your pride.

To the last Anonymous says:

No, sorry, you got it all wrong.

Moral: Purchase your own stuff.
Morally Superior: Take stuff to the people who can’t afford it. Purchased or scavenged.
Morally degrading: Scavenging for items that YOU can afford.

Your twisted logic might work for you (trying to appear superior while taking stuff from the garbage, seriously?) but you’re not fooling anyone else,

autoversicherung says:

I am doing research for my university thesis, thanks for your brilliant points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

– Kris

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