Is it safe to bring back food sampling?
Costco revealed plans last week to bring back sample stations after suspending the service in early March to counter the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re going to start doing some things in mid-June on a slow rollout basis in sampling,” said CFO Richard Galanti on the retailer’s third-quarter conference call. “I can’t tell you anymore, but … needless to say, it’s not going to be where you go and just pick up an open sample with your fingers. But sampling — food and nonfood items — are popular.”
The warehouse club will also be bringing back its roadshow events featuring sales rep demonstrations to likewise “get people excited about coming in.”
The pending return of free samples received broad cheers but also some pushback on social media. One commenter stated, “Noooooo! Costco is so much better without people blocking all of the aisles to get those samples.”
Some were curious about how shoppers would be able to eat considering Costco’s mandatory mask policy imposed since May 4.
Other food retailers have likewise suspended food demos and sampling.
According to a March 5 article from Business Insider, Trader Joe’s was planning to shift to serve samples “directly to customers” instead of placing samples on trays. Forks and spoons were to be encouraged and coffee sample cups were to be handed out on request rather than self-serve. Frequent cleaning of surfaces was also to be stressed. Trader Joe’s has since suspended sampling.
Dallas-based Central Market, part of H-E-B, is considering putting samples in individual serving cups with lids, individual bags or blister packs to bring back the practice. Mabrie Jackson, public affairs director for Central Market and H-E-B, told The Dallas Morning News, “Samples are huge for us. Our stores are different because it’s really an experience. Samples are part of delighting the senses.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that there’s no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through food and recently updated its guidelines to affirm that the virus “does not spread easily” from “touching surfaces or objects.”
- Costco Wholesale Corporation Reports Third Quarter And Year-To-Date Operating Results For Fiscal 2020 – Costco
- Costco Wholesale Corp (COST) Q3 2020 Earnings Call Transcript – The Motley Fool
- Updates and Coronavirus Response – Costco
- In a post-Covid world, here’s what Costco and other grocers are doing about samples – The Dallas Morning News
- Costco plans to bring back free samples after suspending the snacks due to coronavirus pandemic – USA Today
- Costco’s free samples will be back by June, but they may not be the same after the coronavirus – Business Insider
- Trader Joe’s won’t stop serving free samples despite coronavirus outbreak, but it’s making employees change how they hand them out – Business Insider
- When will Costco’s free samples return? The store just made a big announcement – Today
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more benefits than risks in bringing back food sampling in stores? What measures do you see as necessary to bring sampling back safely?