Trader Joe's has been hiding stuffed animals in store aisles for years — here's why

Beyond the produce section, hidden somewhere in the aisles in most every Trader Joe's, is something special for kids.
Monkeys and lobsters and food, oh my!
Monkeys and lobsters and food, oh my! @khoaphan/Twitter

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/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

Next time you're on a mission to Trader Joe's with the kids, take a minute to help your little one find something special hidden in the aisles.

Through the years, rumors of cuddly crew members perched behind bread or swinging from some signage have swirled among fans of the grocery store. But people may not know that this secret stuffed animal is real, and it's actually worth a prize for the children who find it.

On Reddit, there are numerous threads for employees to share dirty little secrets about their places of work. Some content is funny and some is surprising — like the viral video about how Panera makes its mac and cheese.

But some secrets, like those divulged by the cheery, Hawaiian shirt-wearing staffers at Trader Joe's, are just downright cute.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

In a comment from four years ago, one person who claimed to be a Trader Joe's mate (the company's name for manager) confirmed his employer's big secret to a fellow Reddit user who was curious about a stuffed lobster rumored to inhabit his local store.

"Each store has a stuffed animal of some sort hiding somewhere. It's really just for kids to run around and find the missing animal, and they get a treat," the Reddit poster wrote. "Kids seem to LOVE it and parents go along with it too. So, I'm guessing the store your (sic) referring to has a lobster as their animal."

Other stuffed animals shoppers have allegedly sighted and then posted on social media include whales, lobsters, monkeys, donkeys and even ring-tailed lemurs.

According to Trader Joe's, the legend is 100% true!

On Wednesday, Kenya Friend-Daniel, a company spokesperson, told TODAY Food that this grocery store game of hide-and-seek has been going on for years as a way to "engage" young shoppers. Friend-Daniel would not verify whether every location participates, but she said that many stores throughout the country have a special stuffed toy hidden in their aisles.

Once a little patron finds the toy (which varies from store to store), they can just let a crew member know to receive a treat (which also varies from store to store).

People have been buzzing about this adorable adventure for at least a decade on Twitter.

Some parents seek out the toy every week with their kids.

While other adults look for it themselves ... just for fun.

Whatever the reason, it's certainly a sweet tradition. Here's hoping that the prize is a bag of the chain's delicious Mandarin Orange Chicken!