HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Trying a grape... taboo?


Growing up in my family, I always saw my parents test a grape (usually one green and one red) at the grocery store before deciding if they would purchase grapes (and which color to buy)--is this taboo?

I thought everyone did this. Therefore, I always do. But I realized--and maybe it is because of where I live now?--that I do not see anyone else do this. Is this taboo, common practice, or unusual?

Thanks for your responses. Apologies, if the practice is 'offensive' to anyone--but it has always been helpful in making a selection, so I never thought much of it.

  1. I think it really depends on where you are but here in the SF Bay Area many stores encourage and allow sampling so I don't think it would be offensive to try a grape in most stores.

    1. I always sample, just ONE...want those red grapes snappy and sweet. Another thing I do which is BAD but they won't listen to me on this one...WISH they would put out loose baking potatoes that aren't the size of my foot but noooooo, those things are like the size of a football. So, I open a bag of russets and help myself to some reasonably sized ones...I only buy 2, maybe 3 at a time. Have spoken to many Publix produce managers in a very nice way about this but they continue to do this. I told them what I've been doing and they seem nonplussed by it; I imagine they empty the rest of the bag into the loose russet bin where the gi-normous potatoes are.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Val

        Everybody thinks "just one" is no big deal, but I was brought up that was stealing. One grape, one cookie, one cashew, it's still taking something that is for sale. Some places give out samples and I certainly ask for one with cheeses and some prepared foods. As to opening the bag of russets, I hope you make it obvious it's not a full one when you're done so somebody else doesn't pay for 5 lbs. of potatoes when they're only getting 4.

        1. re: escondido123

          There's a difference between opening a bag of russets to "sample" and taking one grape from a bunch to sample. The former isn't so much theft as it is vandalism maybe; the latter, like I said up above, is ok and really just the cost of doing business. Don't think markets don't price in "sampling" as part of their price (or price/lb).

          1. re: escondido123

            I'm not investing ~ 4-6 dollars on a bag of grapes without knowing what they taste like. I take 1 to sample and don't feel like it's stealing. Grapes are sold per pound in all places I've seen them for sale so no customer is paying more because a few grapes are missing from that bag.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              Don't forget to put one grape back on the shelf after you pay. :)

              1. re: scubadoo97

                "Investing" is a big word for buying a bag of grapes.

            2. re: Val

              As someone who buys 5 and 10lb bags of potatoes, I hope you will rethink your practice of taking a few out of the bags. You have no way of knowing if the store does indeed empty the remaining bag into the bin. Do they even witness you doing this?

              I would be mad to realize that I had paid for something I didn't receive just so someone else could get exactly what they want at my expense. I do know now that I will weigh the bags before I buy them.

              1. re: Val

                Goodness - have you ever thought about the fact that the person who buys the bag you've taken your potatoes from is then getting cheated? What makes you automatically think that the "produce managers" run over & dump your bag into the "loose russet bin"? No wonder our food prices are going up. ;(

                Sorry, but I really really think you need to rethink your shopping methods. Or at least ask a produce person directly before performing your potato bag biopsy.

                And as far as the grapes, it's stealing plain & simple. If you really need your grapes "snappy & sweet", then ASK someone in the produce department before doing a taste test.

                1. re: Breezychow

                  Breezy, I leave the bag very noticeably open...I don't reclose it...guess I should have said that in my original post...so anyone who picks it up will know it has been opened. There's no way I can use 5 pounds of russets...and the loose baking potatoes are freakishly huge...so I figure we all win this way. And like I said...my pleas for decent size potatoes fall on deaf ears...they insist on selling only the monstrosities.

                  1. re: Breezychow

                    Conversations that never happen...

                    Shopper: Mr. Produce Person, are these grapes snappy and sweet?
                    Produce Person: No. Do not buy our produce.

                    (edit: never mind... Looks like the advice is to ask someone before taking a grape. That is probably more costly to the store, but if it's the means to an end of a clear conscience, go for it, I guess).

                  2. re: Val

                    Really? Maybe you are taking three out of one bag and putting them into a different bag and then buying the "better five pound" bag filled with your stolen potatoes.

                    Get a knife and cut the 'football size' potatoes into serving sizes.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      I love it, yes, use a knife-share a bag with a neighbor or start a potato patch. Do you have any other markets to buy individual potatoes at the size you need? Holy mackrel opening a bag, extracting your preference and leaving it as is for the store or next customer to deal with? Amazing.

                      OTOH, if the market isn't offering samples and I can't smell the ripeness, I go elsewhere to shop. I see more and more fresh samples being offered or a cut melon open for customers to smell. It's been my experience that produce depts need/want the fresh, perishable goods to move not sit.

                      I'm willing to stop at accusations of theft, but we all know that if every customer took one (fill in the blank) it would be a substantial loss for the store and we'd all pay in the end for it.

                      How did life get so darn complicated!

                    2. re: Val

                      My local Publix seems to do the same thing; sometimes the loose potatoes aren't even edible IMO. And I cannot use 5 lbs before they go bad. Once while I was searching through the loose potatoes for decent ones, a produce person was restocking the bagged potatoes right next to me and I made an off-hand remark to her, complaining about the quality of the loose potatoes. She promptly opened up a new 5 lb bag of potatoes, allowed me to choose the ones I wanted and emptied the bag onto the loose bin.

                      So your "bad" habit is probably okay, but you might consider bringing it to the attention of the produce manager or stocker when you do.

                      1. re: Val

                        once you get your deep fryer you'll understand why the Russets are so large. They make the best shoestrings and regular French fries. So please don't talk the stores out of stocking them!!!1

                        1. re: HGrady

                          but can't they just mix up some smaller (or normal-sized) ones with the ENORMOUS ones??? That's not so much to ask!!! LOL! I'm not trying to stop people from buying Herman Munster size russets...just want some regular size ones...and believe me, I have DUG through many piles of them to no avail...ugh!

                      2. i definitely sample grapes, but i don't think that we're supposed to. i always feel guilty, but do it anyway!

                        1. There's sampling and then there's nibbling (or snacking) while you shop.

                          The former is completely OK in my book, the latter not so much.

                          Markets account for "sampling" into their final price (or price/weight).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            They call it "shrinkage", not "sampling", and it's used as be a nice word for theft. It is usually factored in at around 2% last I recall.

                            1. re: coll

                              Thank you coll! Knowing your background at markets I'm confident with your definition.

                          2. I do not sample grapes before I buy them. I also go out of my way to pick a package from the very top or back of the grape display, making sure it doesn't look like someone has taken any from the package I select.

                            1. at one store, a man was sampling the cherries and spitting the pits on the floor!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: smartie

                                I recall when fresh nuts (peanuts especially) were sold loose and people would camp out and "test taste" their freshness and leave the shells on the floor.

                              2. And I forgot all those folks that sample the salad bar. As to accounting for sampling in the price, that means those of us who don't sample are paying for those who do?

                                1. Sorry, but it IS stealing. Plain & simple. If you really must taste-test, at least have the courtesy to find a produce employee & ask first.

                                  1. I don't think my desire for really good produce takes precedence over doing the right thing. How hard is it to just ask the manager of the produce section for a sample? They are very nice about that at the Whole Foods where I shop. I've been given clementines, mandarins, Fuyu persimmons, grapes, cherries, and some kind of weird sprout whose name I can't remember all because I asked for a taste. If your market won't let you taste when you ask, then shop somewhere else.

                                    20 Replies
                                    1. re: Isolda

                                      I will sample - same applies with cashews or whatever in those bins if I buy. Why should I buy a whole 1/4lb or 1/2lb if their stale or not crisp? No, thank you.
                                      Yes, I could care less about the "eye in the sky". I don't think I am going think I am going to get arrested for using the scoop to try one or two nuts or plucking off one or two grapes. Concealing or deliberately taking whatever of value more than .25 cents worths I can see a problem with. I guess some will argue this is what makes stores raise their prices; people sampling their goods? w/e.

                                      I am not hunting down a manager or making a special trip to the "Customer Service Desk" then wasting my waiting in line there and waiting around there.

                                      1. re: JamesPapa

                                        I've never had to go to the customer service wasteland or hunt down a manager to try a grape. I just ask the person restocking the lettuce or whatever to try something, and he or she will either say "Sure, go ahead," or "no speak English," and then a manager or someone in authority comes over and says, "sure, go ahead." And I've wasted no time because I've been putting my shallots or whatever in a bag and into my cart.

                                        Really, not stealing is not hard.

                                        1. re: Isolda

                                          If you are ever escorted to the security area instead of customer service over a "sample" trust me, you'll feel foolish and very different about your consumer rights.

                                      2. re: Isolda

                                        I have asked the produce manager about sampling grapes. He said open a bag and try one. Again they are sold by weight.

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          I'm in agreement here. Not only does my tiny, understocked, overpriced mountain "grocery" store often ( and I mean OFTEN) sell old, stinky, moldy, soft, damaged produce at top dollar they also sell sour grapes. No, really, taste one and you'll see that you would only end up putting the whole bag in the trash when you got home if you were to have bought them without sampling. I don't like fruit that tastes fermented or just plain disgusting. I have permission to sample and I will never, ever see it as stealing. I can't afford grapes that go straight to the trash.

                                          1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                            If you have permission to sample no problem. But for those who don't, it is stealing.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              Finding an employee and using their time probably costs the store more money than sampling a grape. Time is money

                                              1. re: MVNYC

                                                That's just a rationalization.

                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                  Not really. If I interrupt an employee from doing their job for 1 minute and they make $10 an hour then that wasted minute is approximatively $0.17 of their employers time. Seems like that is worth more than a grape.

                                                  This whole argument is a little silly to me but I just wanted to point out that things aren't black and white.

                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                    I'd counter your productivity model with the fact that no clerk is expected to refuse to deal with customer-related issues, whether directly, or push it to a higher-up. Been there, done that. These kinds of assumptions are built into floor personnel's duties and productivity goals. And if they aren't, I'd be careful about shopping at a store that is cutting their margins that closely.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      "And if they aren't, I'd be careful about shopping at a store that is cutting their margins that closely."

                                                      You think a few grapes isn't doing the same thing? Stores take into account spoiled/damaged produce and a few missing grapes. Both scenarios are pretty much unworthy of too much thought. That is all I was trying to point out.

                                                      1. re: MVNYC

                                                        Any well run business takes everything that can be expensed or forecasted into expenses into account. The typical supermarket worked on a very slim margin when I was in the business back in the late 70s/early 80s - even more so now with big box stores, express stores and FMs competing for the same dollars.

                                                        Poster coll mentions upthread of the typical "shrinkage" rate of about 2% - I recall something very similar. So if you're a with $1M in sales, you'd be willing to hand over $20,000 in "samples" to the "ants' that feel entitled to inventory that you paid for? That's a lot of ground to make up somewhere else in a typical business model for a supermarket - typically that means a part-timer equivalent is out of a job.

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                            Actually not really. I understand the business model well and the cost is built into the product for damaged/spoiled produce. The sampling of a cherry pretty much falls into this. Especially since they will GIVE you a sample if you ask. The distinction between asking for and getting a sample and taking one without asking is arbitrary from a financial bottom line. This whole thread is much ado about nothing. .

                                                            1. re: MVNYC

                                                              I think you're pretty much verifying what I mentioned. The end result is something like potential part-timer's job is still nixed from the business plan though, and $1M is a conservative amount for a typical supermarket in LA. The produce departments of stores I worked at typically grossed $30K-45K a week. Since you're business savvy, I'll let you work the numbers based on a even a 1% "shrinkage" rate...

                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                Nope, what you don't get is that whether they GIVE you a sample when you ask or you TAKE one without asking the end result on inventory is the same.

                                                                1. re: MVNYC

                                                                  The end result may be the same, but giving is ok, taking is not.

                                                                  I may expect my dog to jump up and snatch my food, but that doesn't mean it is right. If she doesn't, I may decide to give her a morsel for her good behavior. The end result on the plate is the same, but only one of these scenarios is the correct one.

                                                                  1. re: Lixer

                                                                    Maybe it is to you, but this is purely subjective. I don't make the distinction.

                                                                  2. re: MVNYC

                                                                    Actually many places do not condone sampling in any way. In fact most cultures do not allow this. I think you're a pretty cosmopolitan person and have been around other cultures and have found this out. I.e, the local Japanese markets (and Asian markets in general) seriously frown on this. They go to the extent of plastic-wrapping sample-prone produce into trays. Stalls at farmers markets typically will either outright offer or allow if you ask, but many will not give samples. To assume this on your part is bumpy.

                                                                    The produce manager of my first market frowned on this as well. "If they don't trust my judgment in picking the good produce at the right time of the year, they don't have to buy it." He found that picked-at grape clusters didn't sell - this required either "manicuring" the cluster into smaller clusters (use your cost analysis on that alone - journeyman clerk wages were around $17/hour) or just tossing it because the cost involved in manicuring.

                                                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                I would like to see data that attributes $20,000 worth of loss to sampling a grape.

                                            2. On one level I think it's a bit silly to call it stealing, even if it technically is taking something without paying, a couple grapes are what, a couple cents worth of food ? Even if a store had one hundred customers each eat ten cents worth of grapes each in a day they would be out a total of ten bucks, not exactly a big deal.

                                              On the other hand, I do think it's a bit uncouth to eat non-samples in the grocery store. When I see a parent that lets their kid open up a box of cookies or something to munch on while they push the cart around I have to admit that I judge them, and wonder why they can't teach their kid a bit of self control. When I see an adult walking around the grocery store munching on an as-yet-unpaid-for item, whether or not it will be paid for in full at the checkout line, it makes me wonder where decorum and manners have gone in this world.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                Well then we have you grapes, somebody else's cashews, a cherry tomato or two out of the salad bar, it all adds up. And grocery stores operate on profit margins under 5% so it does add up. Taking things and not paying for them is stealing.

                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  In response to escondido: +1 Oh, no, this is so true, you cannot sample from a salad bar. That produce has been washed and is ready to eat, even right there at the store if they have tables!! No fondling or sampling salad bar fare, please.

                                                  In response to general thread: I do, however, sample grapes or cherries. I take one and if I like it, I buy it. I only sample from the bags that are sold by weight, not by bag. My grocer actually leaves out tons and tons of free stuff to sample including whole tangerines. They are courtesy tangerines and you don't even have to buy any. My smaller grocer by home marks things down in price for us locals. He marks them based on who buys a lot of what. I like that. I ask him what I can sample and he says grapes, and cherries, but nothing else is allowed. I stick to that rule.

                                                  If you've asked once at the store, you don't need to ask again, just my opinion.

                                                  I can see that this is a hot topic so I'll keep reading since sometimes the advice/opinions of others is helpful to me. But, I'm pretty happy with how I'm doing things right now. If my grocer doesn't see it as stealing, why should I?

                                                2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                  If i'm going to buy a package of crackers or a can of Red Bull and drink or eat from it I run it through the checkout empty or part full or whatever, anything with a bar code. I'd never ever nosh on produce or something that's bought by the pound. It's stealing period. Once I watched my mother at the Smith's meat counter where they had little squares of smoked turkey and some toothpicks out for sampling, with a trash can nearby. She gobbled down about six of them really fast, putting the picks in one hand until she had several, then threw them ON THE FLOOR and then ate about ten more turkey cubes. I was so humiliated I could have died.

                                                  You don't need to taste most produce to tell if it's good or not, it's truly an excuse for most people. Avocados are an exception. Use your eyes and sense of smell, if you have doubts then by all means ask somebody in the produce dept if you can try it. To the OP, I have to echo those above that say you're cheating somebody else who's paying full price. Come on- there aren't that many potatoes in a five-pound bag. At the very VERY least, you should put the rest from that bag into the bulk bin, but that's technically vandalism.

                                                  Please come clean and do right by everybody, not just yourself.

                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                    "You don't need to taste most produce to tell if it's good or not."

                                                    What about peaches, plums, citrus, apples, pears, berries and most fruit that I can think of? How can you tell whether it's mealy or has the right sweetness without tasting it?

                                                    1. re: virtualguthrie

                                                      You can't always tell, but you can make a good guess based on smell, color, firmness, weight. Also buy in season, so you're less likely to get a mushy apple or an unripe apricot.

                                                      It bothers me to see people grazing in a store. It seems...I dunno, to show a certain attitude of entitlement. Maybe that's just because I live in Berkeley. Anyhow, I don't do it.

                                                      1. re: virtualguthrie

                                                        So does that mean you're taking a bite out of all those kinds of fruit? If I get fruit that is not up to snuff, I return it and then find some place else to shop if it seems to be a pattern.

                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                          I don't graze. Most of the places I shop have samples out or will sample upon request.

                                                        2. re: virtualguthrie

                                                          Does that mean one has the right to "sample" a peach or an apple too? Now we're talking about a dollar or so for "just one sample" I just use my best judgment as to the look, the smell, etc. I thinking sampling is "uncouth" and unnecessary. So occasionally you get a bad buy. Whatever.

                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                            I think we've all established that people do this even if they do not have the 'right' or expressed permission.

                                                            It is so hard for me to imagine that a supermarket would deny me if I asked to sample a grape, that I don't bother to track someone down and ask.

                                                            As far as the larger fruit, no I don't sample.

                                                    2. Of all the produce items, I'm pretty sure grocery stores understand/expect grapes to be the most "tested". This theory seems to be born out by the fact that they are usually packaged in easily accessible/"openable" containers. That being said, even though I do think there's a tacit understanding about grapes, I still ask if I can try one every single time I sample. That way I don't feel guilty trying one and subsequently foregoing the bunch if it doesn't meet my "snap" standards. And I only try one from one bunch, if that doesn't make the cut I have no interest in trying the from other bunches.

                                                      Ok, I have to confess- I have no idea what to make of the potato example. In the example there seems to be available options from either bagged or loose potatoes. If you have such a problem with the bagged version having a few overly large potatoes, why not just make your own bag from the loose ones? Also, IIFC, the bagged ones are sold as a unit, as in, a 5lb bag for X amount. So if you remove two large potatoes, you're only shorting yourself, right? As in you're paying for a 5lb bag but only getting 4lbs worth of potatoes? Frankly, I don't get it, just buy a few well-matched ones of the same size and leave the bags alone.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mjhals

                                                        In the old days grapes were not in containers. they put them in containers or mesh bags now so that people won't steal one or two, as well as for the store's convenience.

                                                        i think you misunderstand the person buying the potatoes. That person walks over, opens a 5 pound bag of potatoes, picks the one he/she wants, puts them in another bag and leaves the bag they were in sitting there a few potatoes short.

                                                        i don't believe in sampling from a grocery store. It's not a produce stand, it is a take it or leave it situation. I am reminded of my grandfather going to the produce stand and cutting a piece out of a watermelon to see if it was good inside. Very rarely would he reject one, and he generally cussed out the produce man for trying to sell an unripe or overripe or bruised fruit on the rare times he rejected it. That isn't how grocery stores operate.

                                                      2. I don't normally sample grapes. But I'd feel better sampling a loose one than plucking one off a stem. Do you want to buy a stem with obviously missing grapes?

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          I've been a stores where they have a small container with the loose grapes in it. I've always assumed those were the ones for tasting.

                                                        2. I couldn't eat an unwashed grape directly out of the bin. Not ever going to happen. 1) It's stealing. 2) It's gross.

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: justalex

                                                            Having worked in a supermarket during my college years, I did work in the produce department for a while, and produce coming in contact with the floor was still put out on the tables/racks. There's no way to avoid stuff falling on the floor on occasion (cases falling over, clusters of grapes falling out of our hands or tearing through the bags while bagging them, etc.) We didn't think anything of it as we assumed that it would be washed by the consumer anyway.

                                                            Sampling? Most folks who did it seemed to not think twice about it. I didn't think it was right because the vast majority of those who did it weren't just sampling one - it was usually a handful followed by another and another. And yes, cherry pits spit on the floor were commonplace. One has to wonder how folks like this were raised. Samplers and noshers in the markets would have a sense of entitlement. They were the same ones who would ultimately pan out to be "high-maintenance" customers as well.

                                                            This habit does add up, and I approached management on this issue - they just shrugged their shoulders because to approach those types of customers wasn't worth the hassle to them (one sees all kinds of folks in the markets - everyone has to eat). Considering the average super operates on a very thin margin, I was at first shocked by management's apathy toward this issue. But looking back at it, if I were a manager, I wouldn't want to deal with the hassle either.

                                                            These habits not only leverage the store (which ultimately rolls right over to Joe Consumer's pocketbook), it's a potential health issue as well. I have no idea where the hands of a sampler or nosher have been. It's amazing how many customers would use our restrooms and not wash their hands...

                                                            1. re: justalex

                                                              Same here. I'm too afraid of pesticides to eat them unwashed. I understand why people do it and think it's not a problem when grapes are sold by weight. That way other customers don't get shorted.

                                                              On the other hand I can't really understand noshing even if you pay for it later - is hunger or thirst that strong? I hardly ever see it in person, but it gets mentioned frequently here.

                                                              1. re: uwsister

                                                                Completely agree! I'd never eat unwashed produce at home. Why would I do it in the store? Also, would I want to buy a bag of grapes some random shopper had fondled? nope. So, I don't do it to other people.

                                                                1. re: uwsister

                                                                  RE- "is hunger or thirst that strong? "
                                                                  In southern AZ in the summer, thirst certainly can be that strong. As long as it has a bar code so I pay full price and assuming I'm not drooling or spilling on the floor, what's the issue?

                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                    You're consuming something that is not yours, it belongs to the store until you pay for it. I live in Texas so I'm well aware of the need for a drink, but in those cases I grab a water or soda at the deli counter or go through a short line to get my Paid sticker before I continue my shopping.
                                                                    The cashiers should not have to scan your or your child's trash.

                                                                    1. re: Lixer

                                                                      Why would a cashier care one way or another about whether what he or she is scanning is trash? If you really go through the line to buy your item, and then shop for other items, I can guarantee you that is a bigger hassle for the cashier.

                                                                      1. re: kevin47

                                                                        It's not about hassle, it's about drinking something that is NOT YOURS.

                                                                    2. re: EWSflash

                                                                      Well, I don't exactly have a problem with it. I think it's strange and don't really understand the practice, but it's not like I'm gonna give someone a nasty look because s/he is noshing on chips while shopping for groceries. My mother NEVER let me open anything we hadn't paid for yet, whether it be gummy bears or soda or whatever. So that's probably where my slight aversion comes from.

                                                                  2. re: justalex

                                                                    I agree. I wouldn't eat them until I've washed them. I will say that my smart daughter pointed out that the red seedless grapes usually have much more flavor than the green seedless grapes, so now I only buy red ones, and only when they're on sale so they're moving faster. Usually they're pretty good.

                                                                    1. re: justalex

                                                                      Excellent point, it's not washed and potentially harmful when you consider how many people handled the bag before you. Even if you're not germaphobic, produce needs to be washed!

                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                        I am not germaphobic so I won't comment on that but I would highly doubt the amount of pesticide on one cherry will have any negative effects on your health.

                                                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                                                          You don't wash the produce you buy? Gosh even farmer's markets have to follow strict guidelines at the state level to offer legit samples. Should anyone ever get sick "sampling" w/out permission at a grocery store...the ill effects could be argued, strictly yours to deal with.

                                                                          While you think this topic is much about nothing, I enjoyed the p.o.v.'s and some valid observations and human characteristics have been very interesting to discuss.

                                                                          1. re: MVNYC

                                                                            I'm so not a germaphobic so that's not an issue for me either, but pesticides I stay as far away from them as possible. Yeah, one cherry won't have enough pesticide to affect your health, but some pesticides stay on your body for years. One cherry here, one grape here, one strawberry here - you get the picture.

                                                                      2. To the OP: good for you for asking the question. I always find it admirable when people step back from their upbringing or ingrained habits to check if they are doing the right thing.

                                                                        Maybe I am a prude, but I also think sampling without being offered or asking permission is stealing. Wanting to be assured of freshness is understandable but it is easy enough to ask someone if it is okay to sample.

                                                                        I am also stumped by the potato example. It would never occur to me to repackage or just fetch out what I wanted. If the grocer doesn't sell things the way you want to buy them you can either take your business to someone who will or accept it as is. I don't like raisins in trail mix but I would never open a package with them included and pick out just what I wanted and leave the rest.

                                                                        It's interesting how people develop different approaches and thinking about these issues. I usually have my 10 year old daughter with me and that keeps me honest about all kinds of things!

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                          "Maybe I am a prude, but I also think sampling without being offered or asking permission is stealing. Wanting to be assured of freshness is understandable but it is easy enough to ask someone if it is okay to sample.
                                                                          I am also stumped by the potato example. It would never occur to me to repackage or just fetch out what I wanted. If the grocer doesn't sell things the way you want to buy them you can either take your business to someone who will or accept it as is. I don't like raisins in trail mix but I would never open a package with them included and pick out just what I wanted and leave the rest. "


                                                                          1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                            I was going to type up a reply, but this would pretty much be it! I've never understood people who eat things in a grocery store before paying for them.

                                                                          2. I will often put something in my cart, such as Italian Parsley or grapes, and test a leaf or grape from my own selection, on the chance that it tastes terrible and I decide to not purchase it - that has never happened but I'm just lucky.

                                                                            1. Grace, *always* ask someone in the produce department if you can have a sample. i know it seems innocent enough to take just one, but think about it this way - anyone who chooses to help themselves to a grape or two probably does so from a bag that's more prominent or easier to reach. if several people end up doing that, there's a good chance the same bag gets hit more than once...and the unsuspecting customer who ends up buying that bag gets screwed because they pay for what was *supposed* to be a certain weight, but it's now short by a few ounces.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                Well i guess then it's ok to to put something in YOUR buggy, taste it, and if it sour/rotten, than just dispose of it in a trash can inside the store mind you. Rather, pick or "nosh" at something on display or in a bin *shrugs shoulders*
                                                                                P.S. Don't most ppl. carry a bottle of H2o w/ them?
                                                                                so theoretically they could "rinse" w/e they were thinking about buying off? (Grape, parsley etc)

                                                                                Gas is $4 or so a gallon, why should I buy $16 of nuts at $8lb if they're stale cause some1 left the bin open or the grape are sour etc etc. i'm not paying more $$ 2 drive BACK 2 the store 2 Do a return!!

                                                                                1. re: JamesPapa

                                                                                  if you re-read my post, you'll see that the very FIRST thing i suggested was to ask the produce person for a sample. nowhere did i say you should buy it blindly, hope for the best, and end up having to return it. i've never seen a store refuse when someone asks for a sample, and they'll usually just end up putting out a bag or tray for anyone to sample...everybody wins.

                                                                                  1. re: JamesPapa

                                                                                    I don't carry water with me since I don't live in the Mojave. Asking never hurts and at least it keeps you honest, if that matters to you.

                                                                                    1. re: JamesPapa

                                                                                      >>P.S. Don't most ppl. carry a bottle of H2o w/ them?
                                                                                      so theoretically they could "rinse" w/e they were thinking about buying off? (Grape, parsley etc)<<

                                                                                      So where are you supposed to wash off your produce sampling?

                                                                                      And where does the water go as you are rinsing this sample?

                                                                                      And are you pouring this water from a bottle that you've already drank out of?

                                                                                      Sorry, but your proposition (or your reality?) poses even more problems to me, and it still seems to rationalize that sampling or noshing without permission is an entitlement.

                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                        What if there is no produce person around? (Perhaps it is a 24hr store and they don't work at 2AM)
                                                                                        Water can't be poured from a personal bottle in a produce bag which are usually always available? what difference does it make if one drank out of said personal bottle?
                                                                                        it is one's sample and not going to contaminate the rest of the potatoes or grapes etc?

                                                                                        the argument is unsound.

                                                                                        1. re: JamesPapa

                                                                                          >>What if there is no produce person around? (Perhaps it is a 24hr store and they don't work at 2AM)<<

                                                                                          Extreme example at the tail end of the bell curve. So if there's no produce person, ask a clerk, a checker, a manager, a box person. It's not your prerogative to self-initiate this action.

                                                                                          >>Water can't be poured from a personal bottle in a produce bag which are usually always available?<<

                                                                                          So where do you put this produce bag with waste water and why are you wasting the bag for this purpose that is wrong to begin with?

                                                                                          >>what difference does it make if one drank out of said personal bottle?<<

                                                                                          The human mouth is full of bacteria, viruses and yeast/fungi - most are not welcomed by the general public. I'm not taking your word that your mouth is clean - I don't know you and neither do future unsuspecting customers. So if you spill some of that suspect water on surrounding produce - I'd love to see you hold a bag open, hold the produce and competently pour the water from the bottle with two hands - I'd love to see that.

                                                                                          >>it is one's sample and not going to contaminate the rest of the potatoes or grapes etc?<<

                                                                                          Again, you base your argument by rationalizing that taking samples without permission is ethical.

                                                                                          >>the argument is unsound.<<

                                                                                          Yes it is - you really should consider your points before making the unsound argument.

                                                                                  2. I think its perfectly fine to sample a grape. Everywhere I buy fruit, the grapes are sold in perforated ziploc bags and sold by weight -- not by the bag. I've even taken a half or quarter bunch when I only need a certain amount. To me, its no different than breaking off however many bananas you want to buy from a bunch.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: neel2004

                                                                                      Like you, neel, I will open the ziploc and add or remove grapes if the bag is too full or empty/has some good ones, some bad/etc.

                                                                                      With the quality grapes I've gotten lately I am actually going to start sampling them. the last few batches have not been good.

                                                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                        I have never had any completely inedible grapes...at least none I have every thrown away...they can be used for something.

                                                                                        If I were not sure, I'd take my purchase to the register, have them weigh it, then taste one so I could tell them if I don't want to purchase it. But I would not just grab from a display, taste and walk away. That is just wrong.

                                                                                        1. re: Cathy

                                                                                          @ Cathy. Oh that's a good 1. Hmmph. Maybe I will just consider that. Chuck the item in my buggy,
                                                                                          Take w/e 2 register, tell the cashier, I'd like to try B4 I buy, then proceed, then either buy or not. Sounds good 2 me. I mean it's not like the deli, where they service you, and one can ask oh, may I try that honey ham on special this week? same concept as the deli.

                                                                                          1. re: JamesPapa

                                                                                            Not at all the same concept. The difference is that the deli knows you are sampling--they either have it out on display with toothpicks, etc., or they provide you a sample when you ask. People don't just go up to the deli and start hacking off pieces of hame to sample.

                                                                                    2. I'd also like to know WHAT DIFFERENCE IT MAKES. Has anyone seriously tried a grape from a particular batch and then found that every single one in the bag had the exact same, wonderful taste and none were less than or different than that first one? Where are these magic grapes that all perfectly mirror the taste of the one next to them? Or bag of oranges, or whatever.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                        Excellent point! All food items are subject to imperfections and lack of freshness whether packaged and sealed or in the fresh sections of the market.

                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                          now THAT may be the most sensible thing any of us has said in this entire thread :)

                                                                                        2. I am one of those who take 1 grape or cherry to taste. I have asked the people in the produce department where i normally shop if it's ok to sample one & they said of course. They usually offer to cut a piece of apple, orange, melon & are more than willing to if I ask for a sample (which is really rare). I don't ask anymore because they always tell me yes, BUT I don't take any more than 1.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: jcattles

                                                                                            Every store is different and it is smart to ask. Especially when there is a big sign (in a store where I shop) that says "No samples Please".

                                                                                            Otherwise, taking something without paying for it from a store is...well....a misdemeanor ;)

                                                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                                                              >>Otherwise, taking something without paying for it from a store is...well....a misdemeanor ;)<<

                                                                                              Except at Whole Foods - at their prices I think it would be upgraded to a felony. ;)

                                                                                          2. It's amazing to me the lengths that people will go to rationalize their own behavior that they (should) know to be wrong. Sampling without express premission is stealing.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                              evidently some think they have tacit permission.

                                                                                              1. I'm now starting to realize why produce stalls in many other countries (I'm thinking mostly of S. America here) won't even allow the customer to touch the fruit. You're supposed to just tell them how much you want, and they'll pick out the "best" for you, weigh them, and hand them over. This always seemed overdone to me, but perhaps it's to keep people from "sampling" the merchandise....

                                                                                                1. I think most grocery stores expect this to happen and accept it as a tiny cost of doing business. It's really a non-issue in my opinion. The easy solution is for a store to put up a sign if they don't want anyone sampling the grapes. If someone samples a grape even though there is a sign saying not to, then that's a different story. At that point, the management of the store can decide whether it's worth it to confront the grape thief or not.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: BKK Brendan

                                                                                                    "The easy solution is for a store to put up a sign if they don't want anyone sampling the grapes."

                                                                                                    And the sign should say, I guess, "Please do not steal from us. Thanks -- Management"? ;^)

                                                                                                    Does there need to be a sign over the apples, pineapples, and watermelons also, requesting same? I don't walk into a store assuming I can sample; if offered, that's great; if I ask and am granted, also great. Tiny thefts are still thefts.

                                                                                                  2. There always seem to be a few loose grapes sitting in the bin. I always try one to make sure they are sweet. Right? Wrong? I'll write to the NY Times ethicist.

                                                                                                    1. Totally ok to test out a grape or cherry.

                                                                                                      1. i see no issue with testing the grape or cherries by trying one. I've been doing for a long time and even do while speaking with the produce manager.

                                                                                                        1. Testing things out in the store reminds me of this Mr. Bean video.....


                                                                                                          1. As someone who works in law enforcement, I would admit to being tempted to charge you with a misdemeanor for shoplifting. It probably would not be brought to court, but you might very well also receive an interesting rebuke from the judge. Flat out, if you are in a store, and it's not in a specifically marked, or labeled sampling area, then it is shoplifting. As to whether or not the store will want you charged, that is another story.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Nocturnalbill

                                                                                                              That was a rejected script for the old Andy Griffith Show. Andy goes out of town for a wedding, and Barney arrests a guy for sampling a grape at the supermarket, Meanwhile, Floyd's Barber Shop gets held up by a gang of thieves.

                                                                                                              Nice work, Barn!

                                                                                                            2. This thread is really eye-opening to me. It's hard for me to believe how many people can rationalize stealing something, and that's exactly what this kind of 'sampling' is. Taking something without permission and for which you have not paid is theft. I understand why some people do it, and there's a lot of different reasons, but come on, people, at least admit that it's WRONG!

                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                I agree. I also am flummoxed by the rationale it is okay to do it for grapes because sometimes grapes aren't as fresh/tasty/whatever as they should be. That same rationale could be applied to everything in the produce, cheese, meat, deli departments of the store yet it isn't common practice to sample all of those items to assure one isn't being ripped off by buying bad food.

                                                                                                                In my world, stealing is stealing whether it is a little thing or a big thing. Rationalization is a slippery slope.

                                                                                                                I am curious as to what people tell their kids about this practice? It's okay to take a grape, but not pocket a pack of gum?

                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                  Ok, I'll admit it. It's morally wrong. So is eating animals for pleasure.

                                                                                                                  But I do that as well.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                    Don't parse it. It's just plain wrong. Eating animals is a moral choice, and while it may be bad for the animal and for the environment, it's not illegal.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                      It "may" be bad for the animal?

                                                                                                                      Nothing parsed, of course. It is also illegal to go any amount over the speed limit. And EVERY car goes over the speed limit.

                                                                                                                      Sorry, but the illegality of sampling a grape still does not give me pause for thought.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                        Your comparisons are, well, apples and oranges...

                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                          Not really if someone is arguing "right and wrong". On an ethical level, being more concerned about "stealing" a grape seems to be a bit skewed compared with eating an animal that spent most of its miserable life in a pen before being unceremoniously dispatched to feed people that probably eat too much meat anyway.

                                                                                                                          Steve's comparison is spot on to this carnivore. There are some "ethical" questions that people seem to spend way too much time discussing in the grand scheme of things.

                                                                                                                          1. re: MVNYC

                                                                                                                            Food organisms are raised, harvested or grown expressly for consumption. How one attains them and consumes is at question. The ethics of consuming other sentient beings or their products is another totally different debate.

                                                                                                                            So if I pay for my otoro sashimi at the local seafood counter, I'm legit. Now if I reach over the counter and "sample" the otoro, I'm guessing I'm not legit. Deciding whether or not to even eat tuna is a different ethical question all together. By the way, since finding out how critically low tuna stocks are, I haven't had any bluefin products is years, so I guess I'm clean on this example as well. But again, ethics for consuming certain foods versus ethics in how one attains food are as I mentioned above, apples and oranges. Spinning off into a tangent is a typical fallback of one who is losing an argument. I don't fall for it.

                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                              No the question is about ethics. I do not find it unethical to take a grape at a supermarket, however I do question farming practices. I find it amusing that people get so worked up over something so meaningless while questions of life and death are overlooked. This is clearly related to people's priorities over what they worry about.

                                                                                                                2. One of the discount groceries near my home always trays and shrink wraps all the fruits and veggies. Now I know why. I couldn't see why they spent the extra money on all the styrofoam trays for a couple of pears, or a bunch of grapes, or a handful of cilantro.
                                                                                                                  They have the freshest produce and great prices, so I like to shop there. Apparently the 'shrinkage' costs more than the shrink wrap.

                                                                                                                  1. I would tend to agree with the posters above that say it's a kind of theft. But it's a kind that many apparently have become accustomed to. And so it seems innocent. I have done it myself, so I wouldn't judge you harshly for it. But, I'm surprised that grocers and markets haven't figured out a solution that satisfies both the consumer's curiosity and the retailer's need to protect their produce.

                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: nooyawka

                                                                                                                      Nooyawka, I think you offer a very even-keel response.

                                                                                                                      In general--I am glad I asked because it was very interesting to see how many sub-topics a grape could be related to. Moreover, I asked it because I never thought much about it yet I witnessed my very conservative, law-abiding mother do it for years--therefore, I thought it was 'the way' to find grapes. Yet, I tend to be hyper-sensitive to etiquette; I did then want a final answer as to how and why I could have been de-sensitized to mild-albeit-fully-illegal grape tasting.

                                                                                                                      1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                        I'm curious, Grace, have you found an answer? I'm guessing that your hypersensitivity to etiquette (and, I would assume, rules and laws) would tilt you in the direction of "don't do it unless you have permission".

                                                                                                                        I liked this topic and had expected everyone's responses to be "of course its okay!"

                                                                                                                        hah, I was wrong about that :)


                                                                                                                        1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                                                                                          I was really shocked at how extreme responses were. I did not expect many to have such--dare I say--aggressive opinions about it. In my OP, I mentioned that I "always" do it when I buy grapes; in reality, I prefer berries therefore I hardly purchase grapes. Part of what inspired the question was the fact that I would never consider 'testing' a berry--which made me wonder how I ever came to think it could be 'ok' for a 'mere grape.' That being said, I do not think I will ever do so again (due to the possibility it could be seen as rude or stealing). To be honest, I do think that the area I used to live in--used to have more grape-tasters--which is interesting since it was an area that housed more wealthy, more health-conscious, more sustainable-living adults and families.

                                                                                                                          Thanks for responding and the inquiry about finding an answer.

                                                                                                                          1. re: GraceW


                                                                                                                            You're welcome and, thank you!

                                                                                                                            I was surprised too at the responses but, seeing as how I have grape and cherry sampling permission, will continue to sample, just in case.

                                                                                                                            I had this feeling that maybe I would stop just because I agreed with much of the "don't do it" opinion, but then if left. I'll just make sure I never do this without asking when I'm not at my regular place.

                                                                                                                            I've noticed less samplers too. I wonder if it is the economy bringing more attention to that which isn't paid for? Maybe we can all see a little more clearly that the store actually does not get paid for the lost grapes? I certainly now see why they wrap so much produce these days. As one poster said, the styrofoam trays and plastic wrap are less of an expense than the sampling.

                                                                                                                            Funny, I would never sample a berry either, nor a snap pea, not even a loose green bean and I have been sad about buying expensive green beans only to find them stringy and tough.

                                                                                                                            It is all so much food for thought!

                                                                                                                    2. I don't know...just think that if everyone just sample a grape then it will add up. Besides I find the produce so erratic, one bunch is great but another is subpar even in the same bag so kinda pointless, you'll have to sample every bunch! I just feel the grape and if is soft I don't buy it, it's a very reliable test.

                                                                                                                      1. Ah the poor lonely grape gets picked on (& popped in the mouth) all the time. Should the day ever come that a lb of grapes will be wrapped so tight no fingers will be able to open it without pliers, I recall this thread...sour grapes :)

                                                                                                                        1. Folks, this thread is going around in circles and getting pretty mean-spirited, too. We're going to lock it now.