Is the Costco Sample Station Ever Coming Back? Here’s What We Know So Far.
It’s not uncommon to work up an appetite while shopping at Costco — weaving through expansive aisles housing everything from high-end vacuums to budget-friendly bananas could very well be considered a workout! In the olden days, though, those Costco-induced hunger pangs could be quashed by snagging a snack at one of the (many) strategically stationed sample carts throughout the store. (Heck, I knew people who’d head to Costco to make a lunch out of the samples.) But Costco rightfully shuttered all in-store snacking opportunities once the pandemic hit Stateside.
The choice to do so was part of Costco’s quick and necessary safety response to COVID-19, which included stationing team members at the entrances and exits to monitor store capacity, assigning staff to cart-cleaning and mask-enforcement duty, and suspending food-court service and product demonstrations.
Months later, food courts have partially reopened and there have been signs of life at product demonstration carts (run by outside contractor, Club Demonstration Service). Unfortunately, sample stations have not yet returned to their pre-COVID glory. In June, Costco CFO Richard Galanti explained that they planned to gradually roll out sampling and product promotions in the coming months, while making it clear that sample stations would no longer be open-air, grab-and-go as they once were.
Costco and CDS are currently working together to identify where it’d be okay to restart product demonstrations (while following health and safety guidelines), and they’re putting new strategies in place. Maybe instead of helping yourself to a smoothie that’s blended in a Vitamix, there would be pre-packaged samples held behind clear barriers and distributed by masked and gloved associates. Or maybe you’ll only find “talking demos” in place of edible samples.
I checked with company reps at Costco and they emphasized to me that the gradual return of sample stations and product demonstrations would vary based on local health determinants: “Club Demonstration Service is in the process of returning to our warehouses around the world. This process will be managed with CDC and local health department guidance in each region where we do business. Based on these guidelines product demonstrations may look different in different regions.”
In short, shoppers (in certain areas) will have to snack on a few choice pre-packaged products or discuss new products with demonstrators from a safe distance — a sacrifice we should be more than willing to make for the health and safety of Costco employees and fellow shoppers.
Have you seen product demonstrations return to your Costco?