What Costco’s Free Sample Employees Wish You’d Stop Doing
Costco’s really low prices may make your bank account happy while stocking your pantry with enough bulk grocery goods to last a lifetime, but we know that what really gets your heart pumping is that constant array of free samples on offer throughout the store daily. Yes, we said daily. While you may think you can only get them on weekends, Costco samples are actually available every day of the week, though there are more of them dispersed throughout the store on weekends. However, there are also more crowds on Saturday and Sunday, so pick your poison and shop (and munch) accordingly.
Costco samples include a wide range of products from vitamins to toilet paper, but there’s no denying we’re all lining up for the edible favorites like pizza and cookies, even if we have to create a shopping cart traffic jams to do so. Everyone loves free food, so there’s no need for shame around Costco’s coveted free samples, but there are some things you should keep in mind while scoring yours. While there may be some secrets Costco doesn’t want you to know about the rest of its business, there’s even more that some of its employees wish you did know, especially regarding giveaways. From what you shouldn’t say to them to knowing when to call it quits on all the repeat gorging, here’s what Costco’s free sample employees wish you’d stop doing.
Stop making excuses for seconds
Look, we’ve all been there, standing at the sample counter wondering just how many of those delicious morsels we could acceptably take. It’s probably the number one question most of us have regarding free samples in general. Whether you love the product, are super hungry, or just can’t resist loading up on freebies, you don’t need to feel bad about coming back for seconds and you can probably come back for even more without raising any red flags and getting your Costco membership revoked.
Costco’s free sample employees say their primary job is to give away samples, as you’d expect, so they really don’t mind if you take seconds. There’s no limit to how many they can give away in a day, and they’re encouraged to unload as much as possible, so enjoy that second bite. If you’re self-conscious about being recognized as you return for more, you’ll just have to get over that one. Costco’s free sample employees say they do recognize you no matter how long you wait between appearances, but they simply don’t care. You can even come by four or five times without getting on the nerves of some free sample employees, but don’t try to swipe entire bags or trays of goodies in one shot. All told, it’s simply not true that they only want you to have one taste; it’s just one of those Costco myths you should stop believing, so you don’t need to make excuses for seconds.
Don’t overstay you’re welcome
Now that we’ve confirmed you can take multiple samples, particularly if you get back in line later (please don’t take three helpings in one shot if there’s a line of people waiting for a turn at the tray), we need to warn you about limits. You’re welcome to come back a few times, and sometimes more, but don’t set up camp at a single sample station and chow down all afternoon.
During a Reddit Ask Me Anything, one former Costco free sample employee said he didn’t even care if someone came back for a sample ten times, but his patience was once pushed too far. "One time I had a family of four stand next to my cart for 45 minutes when I was sampling pizza and literally have dinner. That’s not okay," he said. While this irritation may have stemmed partly from the quantity of samples the family scarfed, the employee’s true grievance seems to rest more with the amount of time the customers spent hanging around his station. A Costco free sample station is not a restaurant, so don’t overstay your welcome by hanging out for an extended period. In fact, if you’re there for more than a minute after you’ve reached the front of the line, you’re probably taking advantage of the situation. Continue your shopping and come back later if you still want more.
Stop asking where to find products
You might assume it’s fine to ask a Costco free sample employee where to find the orange juice, but unless this person is serving up samples of that orange juice for you, there are a couple of reasons you shouldn’t do this. You may be surprised to learn that Costco free sample employees are not actually employees of Costco itself. Instead, these specific workers are hired by a third-party company to show up and dish out the days’ freebies on behalf of the products on offer that day. Asking one of these heroes where to find something is often akin to asking another customer — they might know because they happened to see it once, but it’s not their job to know because they don’t work there. If you must ask, just don’t be upset with them for not having that knowledge right at their fingertips for you.
Moreover, even if a Costco free sample employee did happen to see where the orange juice was stocked a few weeks ago, those directions may be useless now. These employees say that Costco intentionally rearranges its products regularly to keep customers in the dark so they can’t dash in for one item and get out quickly. Costco wants your cart full by the time you leave, so they prefer you wander around for a bit, picking up items you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them, all while searching for that one item you did need.
Don’t forget to say thank you
Hopefully you’ve been taught to say please and thank you in any service situation, and we hope you generally do. If you fail to say thank you to a Costco free sample employee after reaping the reward of a delicious giveaway, we’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume you just forgot. Still, these employees want you to stop doing that, and so do we.
Yes, the employees are getting paid to give these items away to you, but they’re not servants and they’re standing in one spot all day dealing with scads of hungry or greedy guests, so a little human kindness can go a long way. In fact, some Costco free sample employees say they’re willing to overlook other missteps as long as the shopper is polite, and others even say that hearing a simple thank you is literally the only thing they hope for from the recipients of their scrumptious samples. Dropping these two words is the absolute bare minimum we sample seekers can muster and it’s not much of an ask from these employees, or anyone. So please stop forgetting to say thank you at the sample station. It still doesn’t cost you anything.
Stop ignoring them
Some things are fine to ignore. No one expects you to answer spam calls, you don’t need to pay attention to every expiration date, some cooking rules can be ignored, and you might even get away with leaving some messages on "read," but ignoring other humans who are physically in your presence is just not okay. Costco’s free sample employees are no exception, and they really wish you’d stop ignoring them. We don’t blame them — they’re giving the same greetings and delivering the same spiel all day long, so the only thing that ever changes for them is the shoppers themselves. At least give them the excitement of a reply.
Costco’s free sample employees admit that they might do the same if the roles were reversed, but it’s disheartening when shoppers refuse to make eye contact and keep walking, pretending not to hear their friendly greetings. You may not have time to stop and sample, but it doesn’t take any extra time to say hello or even politely decline a sample while you continue strolling. Despite this, one Redditor told an Ask Me Anything audience that he spent three hours demonstrating a product and during that time only six out of 200 shoppers replied to him saying hello as they walked by. It’s not just rude, it’s demoralizing. Please stop ignoring Costco’s free sample employees even if you don’t have time to stop as you acknowledge them.
This one may sound a little vague — and it is — but intentionally so. From pretending you have a whole group elsewhere that also needs samples to acting like you love the product until it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pretend during a free sample interaction. But please stop. As we previously discussed when considering those who come back for helpings again and again while trying to blend in with the crowd, Costco’s free sample employees know what you’re up to and they generally don’t care. What they don’t like is all the pretending, because it’s just another word for lying in these cases and no one wants to feel like you’re trying to dupe them. Especially over a free bite of cheese.
Costco’s free sample employees say that if you really love the food, just say so and you’ll probably be rewarded with more samples anyway. Sample employees love enthusiasm (remember how many people are simply ignoring them?). If you don’t like the product, you don’t need to lie about that either. The sample worker is neither the inventor of the product nor an employee of the brand, so you’re not going to hurt their feelings. Above all, don’t act like you’re seriously considering a purchase and then appear to change your mind at the last minute. This makes them feel like they got close to making a sale and somehow failed.
Don’t start fights over samples
We’re not sure why this needs to be said, but apparently it does. Please don’t start fights over free samples in a Costco store, or anywhere. And please keep in mind this includes both fights with the free sample employees and with other shoppers. Scoring a free sample is not an inalienable right, so remain calm if someone in front of you snags the last bite or if the employee is busy whipping up another batch while you wait.
Fighting for a free bite of food in the middle of the store is not good style and Costco’s free sample employees really wish you’d stop. According to them, this type of food fight breaks out regularly at Costco, especially when a shopper takes more than one helping of a sample. While some of these employees have learned ways to diffuse these altercations with the simple promise of more food to come, they’re not mediators or babysitters and shouldn’t have to deal with adults arguing over chunks of hot dog day after day, so please stop fighting over samples. If you don’t have time to wait for the next batch, just go finish your shopping without that tiny bite of free food. You’ll be fine.
Don’t rush the process
Nobody likes to be rushed, regardless of the situation, but Costco’s free sample employees really need you to stop rushing the prep process, and not just because it’s rude and annoying. Sure, the rudeness is frustrating and we did already learn that free sample employees are desperate for an ounce of kindness. But the real reason they wish you’d stop rushing the process is because it’s often wasteful and sometimes dangerous.
Because of food sanitation guidelines, Costco free sample employees have to toss everything contaminated by a shopper’s hand, so if you reach into a bag of chips or candy before the employee has a chance to safely portion them out, that entire bag instantly goes in the garbage. In that case, you’ve wasted all that product and slowed down the process for the employee and everyone else waiting for samples. Even worse, employees say the most difficult sample stations are those that require baking because impatient shoppers will actually reach inside the ovens to snag cookies or brownies. One Costco free sample employee told Reddit that a woman burned herself by grabbing an unfinished pancake from his tabletop griddle, injuring herself from the heat of both the griddle and the hot batter. A free bite of food is not worth a burn or any other type of injury. Why anyone thinks this dangerous (and rude) move is okay is beyond us, but please stop rushing the process in any way.
Stop complaining about what’s available
Add this to the list of blunders we simply don’t understand, but apparently some shoppers don’t just feel entitled to free samples — they want to choose what free bites they get. This is never going to happen, so Costco’s free sample employees really wish you’d stop complaining about what’s available and asking for something else. Consider free samples as a take it or leave it scenario and make your choice.
Out of curiosity, it is still fair to wonder how and why some products are sampled and others are not. The answer rests not with the free sample employee or even with Costco at all, but with the brands behind the goods. Brands pay to have their products demonstrated for Costco shoppers, so what’s available is based purely on who’s requested their products be given away, and is paying for the privilege. Almost nothing about the free sample process is determined by anyone within the Costco store itself, so complaining about which products are available that day is completely useless and surely frustrating to the person who can do nothing to help you. Please stop.
Stop telling them you know better
Here’s another one you can apply to most situations in life, but Costco free sample employees in particular wish you would remember while sampling their freebies. There’s no need to tell everyone that you know better about a product, from how it should be sampled to what’s inside of it. Some employees say this scenario isn’t just frustrating, but is the worst situation they encounter as a Costco free sample pro.
Even if you happened to be factually right about something you’re dying to say, recall that nothing about this process is determined by the employee or anyone at the store. Therefore, you’re not only displaying a bit of arrogance by speaking up, but you’re also wasting everyone’s time and making people uncomfortable for no reason. Employees can’t change what they’re sampling or how the brand has instructed them to demonstrate it. It’s merely a paid service that offers you some freebies for exposure to the brand, so take your gift and go without adding your two cents about the process. It can’t help, even if you do know better, so you’re just embarrassing someone for no reason and you’re probably embarrassing yourself, too.
Stop dining and dashing
We know what you’re thinking: How is it possible to dine and dash from a free sample station? They’re free! It’s true that you don’t have to pay any money to enjoy whatever freebies are being presented by Costco’s free sample employees, but that doesn’t mean nothing is expected on your part. We’ve already seen that some politeness and human kindness is hoped for, but there’s something else that’s actually expected of you and you should pay up.
Costco’s free sample employees are happy to give away almost as much as you can politely handle, but they’re still technically in a sales position and they hope you’ll be inspired to pick up a package of whatever they’re hawking that day. You don’t have to buy — that’s definitely not part of the deal — but you should actually listen to the spiel they’ve prepared in order to inform you about the product you’re sampling. It’s literally the only thing they fully expect from you in exchange for their freebies. And they say they don’t even care if you initially have no intention of purchasing the product, but it bothers them when you run away without even listening first. Take the samples — that’s why they’re there — but please don’t dine and dash without spending thirty seconds to hear what they want to tell you.