Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pirate Joe, Gray Marketeer


This weekend's Wall Street Journal has a front-page story about a gray market matter: Pirate Joe's, an unabashedly unauthorized grocery retailer that buys legitimate Trader Joe's merchandise in California and sells the products in Vancouver.

What makes Pirate Joe unique is that it pays Trader Joe's retail prices and brings the merchandise to Canada where it sells products at a markup to local buyers. Pirate Joe tells customers up front that it's not affiliated with Trader Joe, and not authorized as a reseller.

Gray market retailers usually obtain products illegally but here, Pirate Joe sends "secret shoppers" to Trader Joe to scoop up products at regular retail prices. They drive to Canada and unload the merchandise for Pirate Joe to resell.

Trader Joe is not amused. It's sued Pirate Joe, but so far, the courts haven't stopped Pirate Joe from retailing Trader Joe products purchased legally in America.

Pirate Joe's Canadian customers sometimes grumble about the high prices but if they don't feel like driving a couple of hours across the border to a Trader Joe store, at least they can buy more conveniently in Vancouver.

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