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Trader Joe’s mini tote bags listed for up to $1,000 on eBay. What’s the hype about?

Story at a glance

  • In February, Trader Joe’s launched a limited-edition mini tote bag for $2.99 in-store.

  • The bags have proven wildly popular and are being listed for prices as high as $999.99 for a four-pack on eBay.

  • Trader Joe’s doesn’t condone the reselling and says more bags are coming to stores by late summer.

(NEXSTAR) – A mini canvas tote bag from Trader Joe’s will cost you $2.99 in-store, but on eBay, some resellers have priced the wildly popular item at a level comparable to designer handbags.

The grocery store chain launched the limited-edition mini tote – available in red, yellow, blue, and green – in February, and chaos quickly ensued.

(Credit: TikTok user @eeniilooraac, Caroline Hernandez via Storyful)

A TikTok video viewed more than 4.5 million times since March 3 shows a group of people surrounding a Trader Joe’s employee as he rolls in a display of the bags. Within seconds, the shoppers begin reaching over each other to grab one, or several, for themselves.

“I hate consumerism. As if this mini tote bag is life-changing,” one person wrote, to which another user replied, “I carry my Stanley cup around in it.”

Stanley, a reusable water bottle manufacturer, had a similar viral moment when the company released a limited-edition, stainless-steel tumbler late last year that sent shoppers rushing to their nearest Target stores.

As for the Trader Joe’s mini tote bag craze, resellers are trying to cash in with exorbitant prices. The most expensive listing on eBay for a pack of four bags is $999.99. A cheaper set for $74.95 has been purchased more than 115 times. Another reseller listed a single bag for $500, but it’s unclear if anyone has paid that much.

Trader Joe’s certainly disapproves. The company said in a statement that it neither “condones nor supports the reselling of our products” and will do “all we can to stop the practice.”

While the bags aren’t flashy, they’ve become somewhat of a status symbol. Josh Clarkson, a marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati, told the Washington Post that the “social signaling” associated with these bags is usually reserved for luxury goods. He noted that consumers are now “taking everyday, relatively accessible items and creating status for them.”

This file image shows a Trader Joe’s store in North Brunswick Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Another possible explanation for the hype: fear of missing out. One shopper, named Elinor Kim, told the New York Times she purchased seven bags. “I wasn’t really sure what I was going to use it for,” Kim said, “but I felt like with everyone grabbing, it made me want to get it, too.”

In Chino Hills, California, not even the inclement weather could stop shoppers from going to their local Trader Joe’s to buy a bag last week, according to TikTok user Caroline Hernandez.

“It did not matter if it rained or shined, we got our tote bags,” she wrote in the caption of a video she posted, which showed several people clamoring over the totes on March 6.

The bags’ popularity even surprised Trader Joe’s. Nakia Rohde, the company’s public relations manager, told Nexstar the totes “certainly sold more quickly than we anticipated.”

“Before we had the opportunity to promote them in any way, customers across the country found them at their neighborhood Trader Joe’s,” Rohde said.

Even though a product description on the company’s website said the bags are only available for a limited time, Rohde said more bags are on the way.

“We do have more Trader Joe’s Mini Canvas Tote Bags coming,” she said. “Customers can expect to see them in our stores in late summer.”

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