How to navigate the insane long lines at Trader Joe’s in Union Square (New York)

The lines at the Trader Joe’s Union Square are unlike any other Trader Joe’s in the country. The queue for the cashier is more akin to the release of the new iPhone. Really. 

Luckily, despite the crowds, the blur of red carts and baskets,  and intimidating length of the lines, most everyone is polite and the queue moves relatively quickly.

Tips for Navigating Trader Joe’s Union Square

If you work your trip right, you can cut a 40 minute shopping excursion down by half (or less). I’ve been to this Trader Joe’s more than 30x, so here’s some tips to simplify your TJ experience (with time saved in parenthesis):

  • Take the Inner Lane (2-3 minutes): During the busier times at Trader Joe’s creates two lines, be aware of which is shorter. If both lanes are long, then if all things are equal, the inner lane is quicker because of the actual length of the line. Take that one.
  • Hit the Middle Aisles First (3-5 minutes): When the lines are long, they wrap around the outside aisles of the store. The long lines move quickly, but not too fast that you can’t browse while you’re waiting in line. Shop the center aisles first, jump in the line and shop while you wait (but don’t be a jerk and leave your basket to hold up the line).
  • Make a List (5-7 minutes): You don’t go to this location to compare prices, carefully check for trans fat, and squeeze oranges — the place is way too insane for a Sunday stroll. At TJ’s Gramercy, you get your shit and you get out of dodge. And the quickest way to get your shit and get out? Make a shopping list before you go so you don’t have to go down a jam-packed aisle more than once.
  • Avoid Busy Times (7-15 minutes): This is an easy decision, but what are the best times to avoid the TJ crowds? Generally, when the store opens at 8 AM and 30 minutes before the store closes (9:30 PM) are good opportunities to get in and get out like you’re at a suburban Trader Joe’s.

It’s so ridiculous at this specific location that BuzzFeed dedicated a listicle to understanding how to shop at Trader Joe’s Union Square/Gramercy.

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