With the holidays coming up, every trip to the grocery store is starting to feel a bit more like a competition requiring careful strategy. What's the exact window of time to shop when there will be no line and the store won't have run out of pumpkin puree? It's times like these when we need retailers to lighten the mood. And Trader Joe's is doing just that.

Trader Joe's always ups its game in November and December, offering standard and unusual harvest-celebrating foods and plenty of shortcuts for those of us who can't make everything like grandma did. But there's one thing they do to make shopping more fun that actually exists all year long. It turns out that most TJ stores hide a stuffed animal on their shelves so that kids can find them.



"It's a way to engage with kids in our store," Kendra Friend-Daniel, public relations director for Trader Joe's, told TheKitchn earlier this year. "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."

Knowing this could change everything for anyone who has to drag a child with them food shopping. Imagine if instead of whining about wanting to go home or crying that we're not buying sugary cereal, our kids were intently examining every shelf in search of a penguin?


Retailers have long known the power of gamification—using everything from rewards points to Willy Wonka-style golden tickets to entice shoppers and make them feel like they're getting more than their money's worth. But giving our kids a game to play—one that doesn't require tired parents to buy anything—is kind of next-level genius.

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