Trader Joe’s Files Lawsuit Against Pirate Joe’s in Kitsilano

IMG_20121201_104617Pirate Joe’s (2348 West 4th) is sailing into dangerous waters. The Kitsilano depot where shoppers delight in finding their favourite Trader Joe’s products has just been sued by the American grocery chain. Trader Joe’s filed suit in Seattle on May 1.

Pirate Joe’s responded by taking the “P” down from their sign. You may have noticed that Pirate Joe’s became Irate Joe’s this week. It made me chuckle. I don’t know about you…

Owner Mike Hallatt told the Province that he will fight the lawsuit saying: “Everyone gets what we’re doing. We’re earnestly supplying a good product at fair prices. Pirate Joe’s, as cheeky as it is, isn’t misrepresenting Trader Joe’s. Their name is right on the product. My right to resell their product is stronger than their right to protect their brand.” Read more about how Hallatt imports goods here.

Trader Joe’s lawyer claims that Hallatt’s resale at “significantly higher prices” creates a risk that customers will believe Trader Joe’s charges higher prices.

The action sues for “deceptive” use of its trademarks and seeks a “permanent court injunction” against Hallatt, damages and an accounting of his profits.

Photo: Mike Hallatt and Barry Hogan.
Photo credit: T. Jerven

Have you shopped at Pirate Joe’s? What’s your ideal outcome?

11 Responses to “Trader Joe’s Files Lawsuit Against Pirate Joe’s in Kitsilano”

  1. kitsshopper says:

    Pirate Joe’s is a rip off.

  2. kitsshopper says:

    Also, Every business in Canada is a rip off too. That’s why so many cross border to shop.

  3. N says:

    Pirate Joe’s does not reflect the awesomeness of the real Trader Joe’s. I’ve gone in once and will never go back!

  4. Mike says:

    He started out with really low prices but slowly raised them as he determined what other stores were charging for similar organic products, etc. Can you blame him for wanting his business to profit? Maybe because he is a face, not a faceless company? Whole Foods across the street is guilty of the same marking up of low cost items. Personally I don’t shop there because he lost his temper at one of his employees right in front of me. Not very classy.

  5. Carrie says:

    I agree, the prices for most products are more than 50% higher than in the US.

  6. Joe S. Pirate says:

    A proud employee at Pirate Joe’s here. I think it’s completely unreasonable to compare our store with Whole Foods in terms of markup in the same breath. We buy our product at full retail at Trader Joe’s, transport it, then pay duty and tax at the border. Our markup accounts for all of this. Our goal is to provide a source of clean, non GMO products at as reasonable a price as we can, given our costs and prevailing market prices. We are also providing a service to those individuals who don’t have the means but more importantly, the time to cross the border to get their favourite snack. Granted, the fact that Bellingham is relatively close and there is full transparency regarding the cost price of our products it makes it a little more difficult to part with those few extra bucks psychologically. I posit that if there existed perfect knowledge of Whole Foods or Safeway’s costs your vitriol would not be directed at us. In relation to my boss “losing his temper”, it was more than likely directed at me and most certainly exaggerated for a laugh. Perhaps we need to put a sign up letting customers know that it helps to have a sense of humour when coming into the shop. It’s worth mentioning that we don’t do any of our shopping in Bellingham. Long story short, if you’re quibbling over our prices, you’ve missed the point entirely. We’re the good guys.

  7. Fab says:

    …some of us understand the intent of what Pirate Joe as a business. All they are guilty of is simply bringing Tr@@er Joe products to us. We all have choices as consumers and our choices (for now) is to either buy the TJ products you love at a markup that makes their business viable, or shut up and drive to Bellingham yourself.

    With this ridiculous lawsuit by TJ, I will have to think twice about whether I ever shop there again when in the US.

    So Thanks ‘Irate Joe’ for providing your service….I actually think I need to come by and grab some more of the mini-chocolate chip cookies….SO GOOD!

  8. Vangrl says:

    I get what they are doing, and I appreciate being able to walk down the street and buying some Trader Joe staples rather than the hassle and time it takes to drive over the border. Worth the mark-up in my opinion

  9. Van D says:

    I agree that Irate Joe’s is a good thing and the lawsuit is ridiculous. What say does TJ’s have in controlling what anyone does with their products once they are sold? The idea that a corporation can now control how its products are used should be frightening for the future of society!

    It’s simple – if you don’t agree with Irate Joe’s then don’t shop there. If you find it convenient and affordable, regardless of the transparent and expected markup, then continue to shop there. If the business is successful, then good for the owner(s). It is so incredibly difficult to start a successful business here in Canada, it’s nice to see that someone finally got creative.

    Love the Mixed Nuts, Lentil Crunchy Curls, Smashing S’mores, Organic Ketchup and so much more. Thanks Irate Joe, and good luck with the suit.

  10. Bill Barilko says:

    Trader Joe’s is just protecting themselves in case they decide to expand into Canada one day-and Yes resale of trademarked goods can be controlled-as any experienced retail insider knows.

  11. tj (not *that* one) says:

    I don’t think they have anything to be irate about. They’re profiting off of a brand with built-in PR/marketing. They are essentially importers. And importers do not by-and-large use the name of the brand(s) they’re importing, never mind a cheeky allusion to the brand.

    What this hopefully will mean is TJ’s will one day open a store here.

    I won’t shop ‘irate Joe’s b/c why bother, when I can go to the real thing and support a good product and brand, instead of freeloaders.