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Sampling Promotional Products at Costco (or other Establishments) Instead of Dining Out

I know some people who go to Costco during lunch time so they can sample all the free promotional food; that way, they get a "free meal" of sorts. Just curious: How many of you engage in this practice?

In another thread, someone suggested to another poster to go to Costco's during the weekends. Incidently, Costco seems to have a lot of free samples during the lunch hour and especially on weekends, when it is most crowded. In my opinion, the endless crowds, crying children, general chaos and noise, and ramming of the oversized Costco grocery carts are all disincentives for me to visit Costco on weekends, even if they have free food.

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  1. It's a good way to sample some of their stuff before investing in it. I also like to nibble at Trader Joe's. They have coffee samples and samples of their food, too. Yesterday, I was at a local grocery store and bought a rather pricey container of hummus with some sort of hot stuff on the top because they had a sample there. It was really good, something I'd never have known without trying it. Our brand new Kroger has so much stuff to sample on Saturdays, that you could easily make an entire meal out of what they offer. Last Saturday, they had quarters of ham or turkey sandwiches, pizza, cookies, 3 kinds of mexican dips, small bites of pumpkin pie, several cheeses. I don't like shopping on Saturdays, as a rule, so I don't generally get there.

    1. I'd never go to Costco on a Saturday. Tuesdays are the least crowded day. I go at 11 when they open and still find plenty of samples. What I like about Costco is that the employees generally seem happy. Last time I was there, though, one of them told me that she'd gained a ton of weight since she started. So I guess they eat the samples too!

      1. I'll sample something if it looks particulary good but it cetainly isn't a meal for me. That said, Costco had to start carding all people entering their store (making sure they were members) because people kept coming in for lunch for those great hot dogs, etc.

        1. I wish they would offer samples in every dept. I don't believe the majority of people go to Costco for a "free lunch" but if I'm going to buy a large qty of something for my family or for a party I'd like to be sure it's tasty.

          The Costco Cafe is another situation altogether. The prices are way below typical lunch expenses and it doesn't surprise me in the least that non-members have tried to save $$ on their weekday lunch budget.

          I'd love to see Costco offer a level membership for people who only need to shop there occasionally or for lunch! Membership is up to 55.00 in my area and I absolutely get value from my card but who would go there for a few items a year?

          1. There was an article in a paper about someone going all weekend without ever paying for food, from hitting happy hours to spending an afternoon at Costco. I rarely go shopping on weekends because of the crowds. I'm the one who suggested going to Costco on weekends for the samples--I did go once and was surprised that every time I turned a corner, there was more free food. Generally, I only sample certain things. The last time I was there (a weekday), there might have been a dozen samples and I only tried one. I don't want food I don't want, even if it's free. But, the benefit of the samples is that you don't get stuck with a huge quantity of something you hate which is why it might be worthwhile to go on a weekend if you're new. Honestly, most parties I go to these days, potlucks, etc. are Costco catered (unofficially) if you want to sample Costco food. Few people cook anymore.

            As Costco employees go, they pay well, have great benefits and employee turnover is low. Supposedly, it's really hard to get a job there and it looks like the employees realize the deal they have. Good business model.

            1. If there was a costco by my work I'd do it. Not a fan of crowds but let's face it costco can be a lot of fun. Sounds like a great way to spend time away from the office at lunch time that doesn't cost money.

              1. Holy &*%*, if there were a Costco in Colombia, I would go for the free lunch--especially hotdogs! I would also go with the thought of enjoying the clashing carts, crying kids, crowds, noise, chaos. Otherwise, what is the point? I would take it as a great street food opportunity.

                1. When in Tokyo, the best lunches are wandering around the Mitsukoshi basement and sampling some truly high end stuff.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Scrapironchef

                    so true. All the depachikas I tried were great.

                  2. Free samples are an interesting lunch choice. I DO know several people who 'dine' at Costco on the $1.50 hot or Polish dog + drink for $1.50. Best deal around, especially if you ask for the sauerkraut too. Mot just starving students, either.

                    1. I prefer to think of the samples as hors d'oeuvres, then the $1.50 hot dog as the main lunch. Add a churro or ice cream for dessert and you're still under three bucks for three courses. Not a bad deal at all.

                      1. Not quite the same thing, but our local chain of Ace stores makes their own from-scratch popcorn all weekend. Peanut oil and really good corn. Tasty snack that'll keep me going when I'm out running errands at lunchtime.''

                        I find most of the prepard/frozen food at Costco and Trader Joe's not worth the calories to sample. Whole foods like chicken or shrimp, well, that's another matter.

                        1. I have to mention that recently at my local Costco, I have sampled Brillat-Savarin cheese with truffles, pasta with truffle oil, marcona almonds...I have purchased a number of foodie items there that I was genuinely shocked to find...these cheeses they are getting aren't just Kirkland brand- they are just big hunks of the real, imported stuff. Anyone else notice this trend? Any opinions?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: uninvitedsaint

                            They've had a super-aged Gouda recently that's amazing.

                          2. If I get to taste it, there's a good chance I'd buy it... especially at Trader Joe's. I'm reluctant to purchase something on appearance alone. But I would never go to a place to feed off samples as a meal, that would be embarrassing and just seems wrong. It's called "sample" for a reason IMHO... but to each his own.

                            1. Heck, "Grazing" is one of my favourite parts of my trip to Costco. It's not enough for a meal. At least not for me. But if I'm at work and need to go there, I'll make sure it's sometime when they have the best stuff out. Makes a nice snack.

                              Is there a Costco where the line up for the pizza samples isn't the biggest??


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Davwud

                                Yes. The costco where they sample out various dessert pastries. That was the biggest throng I've seen.

                              2. Our Costcos have a way to get in for lunch w/o being a member. You have access to the food counter w/o having to check in. If we're hungry b/f we shop, we grab a Vienna hot dog and drink, and when we're done, we go check in and shop.

                                1. never done this, pretty tacky in my opionion.

                                  1. At the Costcos in San Diego County, the food court is outside. They don't ask for Membership info, although we are. On hot summer days when I don't feel like cooking, that's where we go.

                                    I had a friend whose Ex would pick up the kids for the weekend and take them to Costco as their 'lunch' that day. *Really* tacky.....

                                    The high end cheeses are maybe only for the holidays, but I hope not.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Cathy

                                      the original poster asked about making a meal out of free samples, not going to the food court. Making a meal out of free samples is sad, and tacky. Going to a food court is normal.

                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                        No, no no...the Ex took them for samples as their lunch, not the food court....so as not to have to pay for anything...therefore tacky.

                                        Sorry to not be clear. I knew what I meant.

                                    2. I enjoy the free samples but I could never make a meal out of it as even six or seven samples would go no where near filling me. But if I were a light eater and that filled me up then I'd have no problem with making that a free lunch. I don't see what's tacky about trying the FREE SAMPLES! Asking for five free samples of the same thing could be a bit tacky, but trying the free samples and calling it a light lunch seems perfectly fine to me.

                                      1. Last time I was in CostCo my sister and I obsessively tried ALL of the samples that were on offer. I felt decidedly sick after and realized between the fat, HFCS and sodium I had just consumed I was going to start looking like a CostCo veteran if I didn't get out of there soon.
                                        Seriously people, most of the prepared food there is not good for you.
                                        Paper products, socks and toothpaste. Period.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rabaja

                                          If you're careful, you can find decent products. Organic Muir Glen tomatoes, for example. Cheese, fish etc. With the frozen food you need to read labels very carefully. I once grabbed some chicken without realizing that it was a precooked chicken-like product. Horrible.

                                        2. Sampling is fun and good.

                                          But to make a meal out of it? No can do. The sample sizes are much too small (for me anyway).

                                          I end up taking one sample, and then have to wait 10 minutes for the sample lady to prepare, cut up and dish up those bite-size pieces again in those silly paper cups. Much too long a wait.

                                          Call me a spendthrift, but I'd rather just splurge and spend a couple of George Washington's for a Costco dog.