There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (Unless You’re at Costco)

We’ve all done it.  Or I tell myself that, anyway.  Attempt to feed our children (and ourselves) lunch–and a healthy, well-balanced one at that–solely on free samples at Costco.  Why is it that kids (at least my kid) are such picky eaters at home, but suddenly develop an impressively vast pallet upon entering the doors of Costco?  Macaroni and cheese at home?  Only if it’s shaped liked dinosaurs.  Yogurt?  Only if it comes in a tube with Sponge Bob on the front.   Vegetables with texture?  Forget it.  But at Costco:  Chicken Parmesan?  Well of course!  Tomato bisque?  Bring it on!  Spinach dip and fancy, aged cheese?  More please!

On a recent trip to the Free Samples Warehouse, my son was acting as if we’d been starving him for the past week.  He couldn’t get enough of the chicken parmesan, and as I waited in a line longer than that of a new Halo release, people actually shoved and reached and cut in front to get their hands on a paper cup of microwaved noodles.  Just as I was reaching for the coveted sample, a hungry family of five swooped over the red tray like vultures, licking and smacking their lips, saving their sporks for round two.

The third time I went back for the chicken teriyaki meatballs I actually removed  my red jacket in hopes that the sample guy didn’t recognize me and withhold my skewer.  I watched the workers, cheerfully donned in plastic gloves and hair nets, and I wondered about the thoughts that must be running through their heads as they witnessed, day in and day out, the swarms of greedy, pushy, desperate Costco customers, unable to keep a line formed, worse than school children.  I wonder if these sample providers look at the human race in a different light than others.

What is she really thinking?

What is she really thinking?

Sampling at Costco is, apparently, a very popular, well-known and widely-covered subject.  Upon Googling “samples at Costco,” you’ll be provided a variety of information from guides to free food grazing and New York Post articles revealing the best days to get free samples to ways that you can save a whopping $2000 a year by taking advantage of Costco samples.

As one Yelp-er laid out the rules of sampling:

To All The People At Costco Eating The Free Samples:

1. Can you not go up to the free sample table with your big ass cart, and/or surrounded by your entire family??
2. Put your cart out of everyone’s way, get your sample, and move on.  Don’t stand there pretending you’re going to buy it when you know all you wanted was a free bite. 
3. Don’t stand there forever talking with the person giving out samples about the product. Most of the questions you’re asking can be answered by just reading the damn box. 
4. Don’t get greedy. One sample is enough. If you like it that much, buy the product. Or go to the food court and buy a cheap hotdog/churro/chicken bake.

These quarter-sized portions of food that we already have in our freezers (sometimes for months) somehow become irresistible to us and, within the safe walls of Costco, we forget our professionalism, class and manners, turning into something else.  Something that can only be explained through the novelty of the words “free” and “sample.”  No matter what our income is, what nationality or religion we are, or who we voted for…  When it comes to free samples, we’ve GOTTA GET US SOME!!**

** This is a reflection on myself and the other sample-searchers I see at Costco every time I go.  To those of you who get in and get out with just your grocery list: you have awesome self-control.

1 thought on “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (Unless You’re at Costco)

  1. LOVE this post. We ended up canceling our Costco membership in part for this very reason. I just couldn’t stand the people shopping there who suddenly loose all ability to not stop and block an entire aisle with their enormous cart while looking at…absolutely nothing. All while a huge backup forms on either side of them. Throw in the free sample carts and it’s all over. Ugh. Not worth it.

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