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Sampling Rules to Live By

1. Take one. This is not a meal.
2. After taking one, step aside to allow others access.
3. If there are tongs/spoons/toothpicks, use them.
4. Don't double dip, or use toothpicks twice.
5. Make sure your kids observe all the above.
6. If there are others waiting, don't engage the sampling person in long-winded conversation. Especially vital when person is pouring alcohol and needs to pay attention to others who are not you.

Your rules?

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  1. My one rule is for the establishment offering the free samples:
    Keep your sampling area clean and appealing looking. Take pride in what you are doing, especially if you want customers to buy what they are sampling.
    So often I see unappealing, dirty displays. Turns me off completely.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      Great one about keeping it clean and replenished. Dirty unkempt displays not only turn me off from the product, but from shopping there at all.

      Another for the person giving samples: Distill your pitch down to 20 seconds. Yeah I get how unique your artisanal micro-distilled beet-infused vodka is, I really do. I just don't have time for your 30-minute dissertation on every blessed detail on how it's created!

      Concerned this thread may be in vain, as anyone bothering to read it probably isn't the culprit!

      1. re: Leonardo

        I'm sure that's a script that they're required to recite. I doubt they have much freedom with those types of demonstrations.

        1. re: evenworse

          Often if it's a really small business hawking the product, it's the actual owner doing samples. A case of too much pride & not enough objective perspective.

    2. Great post, you reminded me of many a comical moment in the grocery store watching the adults and kids alike eating samples like it's dinner.

      1. 7. If you park your shopping cart so it's blocking the aisle while you browse the munchies, don't be surprised if I put more stuff in your cart while you're not looking.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ricepad

          If available in your location, the institutional size box of prophylactics and a gallon tub o' Vasoline are a good choice for this. And maybe a few packs of reddi-whip. People blocking the aisle really irk me.

          1. re: Coogles

            Sadly, I don't normally think that far ahead. I usually just grab whatever is closest to add to the cart. At Costco recently, one guy got an assortment of magazines and women's sport socks.

            1. re: ricepad

              How fun for the store employee who then has to put them back! That's the only person you're really sticking it to.

              (Is saying "excuse me" really so much harder?)

          2. Basic common courtesy both to others around you and the poor soul doling out the bites.

            I was at Costco a couple months ago and they were sampling smoked salmon. There was a crowd around the table. I saw multiple people ordering the guy to put more salmon on their 1/16th bagel like they were paying for it. One old white dude grabbed a sample and made a huffy grunting noise at the guy while shaking the thing towards him. After the vultures cleared the round and dissipated, there was one left sitting on the table with this lady hovering over it. As I passed by, I asked if it was hers. "Yes.", she said a little snappily, "I'm just waiting for him to put some more fish on it." while rolling her eyes as if he was incompetent.

            I don't blame the guy for taking the path of least resistance and just doing as they requested (demanded) without comment, but damn, I seriously felt for dude because he was really being treated like shit.

            10 Replies
            1. re: evenworse

              " One old white dude..." Just curious. Why?

              1. re: ttoommyy

                Why was he white, or old, or male, or combination of the three?

                I dunno. Genetics, time, Y chromosome.

                1. re: evenworse

                  Why mention it. Seems like it had nothing to do with the story.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    Just a descriptor. Doesn't have to be taken as some sort of diss.

                    The lady who rolled her eyes was white, too. Didn't mention that until now.

                      1. re: evenworse

                        My query had nothing to do with a "dis." I just thought I was missing something. Simple as that.

                2. re: evenworse

                  "old white dude" Yeah, we're a troublesome lot.

                  1. re: evenworse

                    Yeah, the vultures at CostCo crack me. Crowding around the samples trying to get a free light lunch out of them. Heck, go to the Food Court upfront and get your hot dog and soda for a $1.50 and don’t be so cheap.

                    1. re: evenworse

                      I know there's a group of older residents in SLO that takes trips to Costco solely to make rounds at the sample tables. Nothing else. At least they're getting some semblance of exercise since Costcos are gigantic.

                      1. re: breadwinner

                        It's like mall walking with hors d'oeuvres.

                    2. Unless it's a wine tasting, don't sample. You never know whose grubby, disease-ridden hands have touched the samples.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: beevod

                        Then I guess you should not eat in restaurants either!

                      2. I do not sample at supermarkets as they are normally selling the latest frozen meal that I would not buy anyways.

                        I do treat charity and sampling events as I do our theme parks.

                        1. Arrive early. It will take you longer than you think to park and get to the good stuff.

                        2. As most people are right handed, go counter-clockwise through the stations. Do not follow the herd.

                        3. Start with the pastries and deserts. They will never be fresher.

                        4. Now is the time to experiment. The wines of Sicily or Spain may find a place in your cellar. Do you really need to try 10 more cabs from tiny wineries from California that you will probably never find again?

                        5. While the local celebrity is giving their 20 minute presentation, now is the time to hit the formerly packed stands. This is the equivalent of going to Space Mountain while the parade is happening.

                        6. Bring business cards with your picture. Have a pen that you can write notes on the back of their card.

                        7. Smile. You are here for an enjoyable time. There is no rush. There will be another batch of risotto in 20 minutes.

                        1. Frfom 1993-2003 I was the area supervisor for one of the two 'Demo' companies that ran the sample tables at COSTCO. Therefore I have certain insight into the rules and rationale behind sampling there.

                          This applies ONLY to tables/carts run by the demo companies, NOT to 'road shows' run and staffed by the manuifacturers.

                          The manufactureres pay to have their items 'hawked; by the demonstrators. Inventory is taken befoire and after the demo to assess sales. The demonstrators are given a script to follow and are there to SELL, not just hand out free lunch.
                          Sample size is officially 'two bites' which is why you only get a taste. If you aren't sure if your family will like it, COSCT has a money back guarranty.
                          Demonstrators MUST put the sample down on the tray, they may not hand the sample to you.
                          There is an 'official limit' of one sample per customer. Don't ask to take one for your spouse across the aisle, your spouse should come get it.
                          Children under 10 may NOT take samples, their parent/guardian must take and give them the sample. (Allergies, temperature, otjer liability reasons).
                          The demonstrators are shopped by Mystery Shopping Companies to make sure these rules and guidel;ines are being followed.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Technically no, but demonstrators can't say: "don't take that you were here 5 minutes ago.' They can say: 'please let customers who haven't had a sample get theirs before you take another.'
                              Pushy members have been known to complain to Costco managagers that a demonstrator won't let them take more than one sample, or a sample to take to a spouse on the other side of the store. Our demonstrators were taught to tell the manager; "I'll get fired if I let the customer take two samples at once, if you the manager wants to take the other sample and deliver it, go ahead,' Costco managers could make it tough for the demonstrators, but the demonstrators didn't work for Costco. However, Costco bought the demonstration company, CDS, and managers now can tell demonstrators what to do.

                          1. Years and years ago I used to spend 3 hours every Saturday afternoon at a grocery handing out generous samples of some of the best ice cream in the world. We'd scoop it into little cups and I'd take a cooler, spoons, and napkins to the grocery with me, where they would provide a table. I wasn't required to give a speech, just to smile and ask if they'd like to try it. If they did I'd tell them it was in the freezer case. Weirdly it was hard to give away sometimes, and was generally one of the most boring jobs I've ever done. I gave a guy who worked in the same shopping strip 10 cups one day so he could take them back to his restaurant and make a milkshake. Obviously there were no strict guidelines or mystery shoppers watching me. If someone was nice and chatted with me for a few minutes, I'd encourage them to try another flavor.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                              "Weirdly it was hard to give away sometimes..."

                              Not so weird. I rarely take free samples. Just not my thing. I venture to guess there are many others like me.

                              1. re: NonnieMuss

                                I've done demos myself and found it very cool. Then again, I love talking to strangers about anything, or everything. Good times!

                              2. I have to admit to eating quite a bit of fruit at Farmer's Markets, especially when they have abundant samples set out on a kiosk. The citrus guys are usually the most generous.

                                1. Are Bevod and I the only ones who wouldn't touch a "sample" of anything with the proverbial 10-foot pole? Where have those fingers been? How many hands have those gloved hands touched? Ick. Can't imagine eating anything off a "tray" in a grocery store... our grocer's deli dept. routinely puts out a cheese and a meat tray for passers-by to sample. Even with the picks offered, I'd sooner kiss Typhoid Mary than eat anything off those trays. Good Grief, Charlie Brown! what a great way to come down with the 'flu OR WORSE! Sample wielder, Pass on By ( or I will). I try not to think about this when I'm eating in a restaurant. Sob.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: amazinc

                                    Seriously? Your aversion frightens me.

                                    1. re: amazinc

                                      You can come down with the flu just by touching the shopping cart when you walk in the door!

                                      1. re: amazinc

                                        Guessing you never ride in a taxi, plane, train, or bus. And I'm sure you never dine out. And trying on clothes at a store? Heavens!