Trader Joe's is fond of pirates -- just not ones who resell the grocery store chain's products at a profit.
A Vancouver man named Michael Hallatt -- who picked up a Trader Joe's habit while working for a tech company in Emeryville -- has spent $350,000 at various Trader Joe locations in the Northwest over the past two years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
He drives to the United States, where he fills a panel van with chocolates, olive oil, dryer sheets and more, and then returns to Canada where he resells the items at his store, Pirate Joe's, in the popular Kitsilano neighborhood, the newspaper reported. There are no Trader Joe's locations in Canada, so he has the market to himself.
The practice of going south of the border to buy items common in that part of Canada -- where in one American border town, 40 percent of credit card transactions are made by Canadians -- has got Hallatt banned from numerous Trader Joe's locations, forcing him to drive to Oregon or even California to fetch his products. And now the company is taking legal action to permanently put Pirate Joe's out of business, the newspaper reported.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington state, the company lodged a multi-prong complaint against its ersatz "competitor:" trademark infringement, unfair competition and more.
Legal experts aren't sure how good a shot Trader Joe's has of shutting down the foreign enterprise, which Hallatt says is not renumerative. They also point out that the popular store is earning Trader Joe's money -- so for now, the bizarre arrangement of a business loathed by its supplier will continue.