When I last spoke to Mike Hallatt in 2016, the owner of Pirate Joe’s – an unauthorized Vancouver shop that brings Trader Joe’s products across the border and resells them in Canada where the specialty grocer doesn’t operate – had pretty much accepted his fate: He was gearing up for a court battle against the retailer that he loves so much he felt compelled to spread its gospel in Canada, even against the company’s own wishes. Now, D-day is almost upon him: A trial date is set for this November, and Hallatt has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for his cause.
Earlier this week, Hallatt took to CrowdJustice, a crowdfunding platform built specifically for legal cases, asking donors to “Help Pirate Joe's fight Trader Joe's.” “Trader Joe’s has been suing us off and on for five years,” Hallatt says in a video promoting the campaign, “and it’s unbelievable to me and everyone else around here why Trader Joe’s hasn’t opened in Canada or left me alone.” That, in a nutshell, is Pirate Joe’s argument: The shop buys all of their products at full price in the US, declares them at the border, and then resells them in a country where the chain doesn’t operate, meaning Pirate Joe’s isn’t competing against Trader Joe’s on its own turf. In theory, everything Hallatt does is legal.
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