The legal battle over Pirate Joe’s – a shop in Vancouver that buys Trader Joe’s products in the US and then resells them at higher prices to eager customers in Canada where Trader Joe’s doesn’t operate any stores – is back on. And owner Mike Hallatt is ready, practically even enthusiastic, for the fight.
Since opening Pirate Joe’s back in 2012, Hallatt has bought over a million dollars’ worth of Trader Joe’s products to be sold in Canada. (He says he’s even saved the receipts.) He has operated in a space economists refer to as a grey market—legally selling (or in this case reselling) items through channels not intended by manufacturers. TJ’s has not taken kindly to Hallatt’s plans and repeatedly faced off against the former San Franciscan who fell in love with Trader Joe’s while living in the Bay Area.
First, Trader Joe’s sent Hallatt a simple cease and desist letter, saying the company doesn’t want him reselling its products and asking him to shut down his store. Trusting in the legality of his business model based on the opinion of multiple lawyers, Hallatt tried reaching out to the retailer and was met with, as he described it, “radio silence.” In 2013, Hallatt was hit with an actual lawsuit, which was dismissed by a district court the same year, with the judge essentially ruling that the whole thing was a Canadian issue that didn’t affect Trader Joe’s business in the US, thus putting it out of the court’s jurisdiction.