April Fools' Day hits retail


No, Trader Joe’s is not closing, and GrubHub is not launching a new ride share service called “Gruber.”

These are just two of the many fake news announcements circulating this April 1, a day traditionally dedicated to pranks and jokes. The retail-related April Fools hoax that by far has gotten the most attention, a false report that organic grocer Trader Joe’s would shutter all stores and discontinue all branded products by 2017, was actually released March 31.

The fake story, which was picked up and run by some major news organizations, did not even originate from Trader Joe’s. It was an item posted in the style section of the Yahoo news site, and Trader Joe’s clarified that it had no involvement in the prank.

“Although we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we don’t want anyone to mislead our customers,” a Trader Joe’s spokesperson told a Des Moines, Iowa TV station. “Trader Joe’s is open for business and has no plans to close. We had no involvement whatsoever in the April Fool’s hoax article.”

A large response of tweets from concerned and devastated Trader Joe’s customers demonstrates that the retailer has plenty of public support to keep it in business.

Online food delivery provider Grubhub joined the fun with an April 1 press release introducing a new rideshare service called “Gruber.” The wording of the announcement suggests Grubhub may be having a little fun with Uber’s attempts to combine food delivery with its primary rideshare offering.

“The new offering marks a new era in ride-sharing, olfactory delight, efficiency and transportation magic,” said Grubhub. “It will allow people who love both the smell of food and new cars, and the delight of a car showing up the moment they need transportation, to hitch a ride with Grubhub's restaurant delivery drivers.”

Retail research and advisory firm IHL Group even got in on the fun with an April Fools report that Facebook had bought PayPal for $15.3 billion, with the intention of expanding its ability to provide peer-to-peer and mobile payments worldwide. IHL admitted the prank within the news release, and used it as a teachable moment.

“The sad part about this is it is only an April Fools joke,” said IHL. “What makes a good joke though is something believable that should happen but hasn't happened yet. This is something Facebook could do actually with or without PayPal. But must be faster, and must be cheaper ... do that, and it won't be a joke, they will take over the world and they will make a Gazillion $ off our idea.”

Whether they incite consumer panic, poke fun at rivals or illustrate current industry trends, retail April Fools pranks will surely happen every year. Some are funny, some are ludicrous, some are a bit puzzling, but all reflect something about the retail industry landscape.