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Jan 1, 2011 09:44 PM

Eat samples.. buy nothing.. is that bad/rude/stealing?


Sometimes, I go to Whole Foods thinking I want a particular product and then I don't end up buying it (it's out OR more often: I realize that it is going to cost $5 for a box of cereal...) but in the process of roaming the store, I try their samples.

This kind of happens every couple of times I go there... so maybe once a week I end up making purchases, but once a week, I leave without buying what I was looking for (and driving to a more affordable location).

What do you think--especially if I do frequent there (weekly, if not bi-weekly)--is it rude to sample without making a purchase?

(I will say it is really helpful to sample because it is so expensive, so I can decide if it is worth the $7.99 for a loaf of cinnamon bread)

  1. Not at all GraceW. I think of the samples as the marketers planting seeds. I guess I have gardening on my mind on this cold soggy January night. Costco has the right idea. They are generous with their samples and very often I end up buying what I sampled another time. And/or recommending the item to a friend.
    I think the problem with Whole Paycheck and some other supermarkets I go to once in awhile is all the employees standing around staring at you as you take a sample. In my experiences the gazes of these bored employees are not friendly. There was a small but upscale market I used to go to, (they since went belly up), where I used to shop almost daily for their wonderful dinner specials early in the evening. One night a week I would stop there shortly before they closed after a looong commute to see if they had any leftover specials. On the nights they didn't i would take a sample from the bakery, use the bathroom and leave. Shortly before they went out of business I realized the bakery workers were whispering and giving me the stink eye. I happened to be in the store one morning only an hour after they had told their employees they were going out of business. The owner was expressing his regrets to a customer and glared at me as I walked by. They never realized how much I spent there on other trips and begrudged me a small square of coffee cake I guess.
    My local TJ's does a nice job of watching the samples without making people feel they shouldn't take one. But I really can't seem to leave TJ's without buying something. Or many things.

    1. depends on the store. you can see it in the workers' eyes. the tired desperation.

      I've taken all the samples i could eat, after walking through busted glass to get to a Whole foods. Then again, I was making less than minimum wage... "servin' my country" eh?

      Costco--you've already paid for the samples.

      Whole Foods--they're rich.

      small timers are a different story -- only sample if you have 50/50 of buying or more.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chowrin

        How do you know if you want to buy the food being sampled without sampling it? So often I've sampled food at stores and found it completely not to my liking. I wouldn't have know that without trying it first. Other times I discover that I really do like what they're sampling and I happily buy it. That's the point of sampling.

        When I worked in that business, my mantra was just let me get a sample into your hands. The food will speak for itself. If you like it, I just created a new customer. If you don't like it, well no harm done. I felt it was a relatively cheap form of marketing.

        Now I will admit, I no longer take cooked food samples at TJ's. I've never yet had one I've liked so I assume I'm wasting time and food but taking the sample.

        1. re: rockycat

          You know the samples that you'll never buy: the vitamin water (people pay money for what?)

          You know the samples that you're on the edge about: "real" diet coke (not new coke)

          Often enough, I'm poor enough that even something I like, may take me years to buy it. Which isn't good for the small-time operator....

      2. Timely topic for me. This past week I found myself in a shopping plaza that is no longer geographically convenient to me and walked into a Whole Foods that I used to frequent regularly. I wasn't intending to buy anything, but I had a few samples of cheese and crackers and decided it would be poor form to just walk out, so I bought some bananas, which we did need (just not at their prices).

        As for Costco, they have great samples, but I could never see going into my Costco without intending to buy anything so it's never an issue for me there. I'm sure there are people who go in there at noon just for samples, since you could certainly make a meal out of them (which I have done, but only in the course of my regular $100+ weekly shopping).

        At Trader Joe's, other than the free coffee samples, the only other samples I usually get are labor intensive, served by a TJ employee who cooks, apportions ,and plates them, and also tells you about them in a generally helpful and friendly manner. I think I would take huge stones to just walk out after eating that.

        1. Samples are part of doing business and are factored into the cost/price ratio of any established store. I shop at Whole Foods and TJ's and look forward to tasting something new when I go. If it's something I like or need, then I'll probably buy it, if it's a good price. If the store offers something free, they have already written it off as an expenditure and will make it up somewhere. Small mom and pop stores are different. But you shop there for different reasons too.

          1. I think its fine as long as you are not "piggy" about grabbing samples-as I sometimes see at Stew Leonards.