How Not to Be a Jerk When Sampling Free Food at the Grocery Store

updated Jun 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Tyler Olson)

You know the drill.

It’s 5:45 p.m. and you’ve had a long day at work. You stop at the grocery store to pick up some essentials (yes, ice cream on a Monday is essential) and hope you can make it home before your hangriness takes over.

Then, you see it: a beautiful plastic dome atop the cheese counter offering a taste of grass-fed ricotta with a dollop of fig jam. You take one sample, but are dying for another. Should you go for it? And actually, you want to try some blue cheese, but it’s not on sample. Also, why is that person coming up and — yikes, did he just wipe his nose with his sleeve and then reach in with his hands to take a sample? How many germs did you just consume?

It can be exhausting and gross, but Rachel Hewlett, who works for Whole Foods’ supplier demo program for the global grocery team, is here to share how best to navigate the free food at the grocery store.

3 Things That Are Totally Fine to Do When Sampling Food

Grocery store samples don’t come with their own guide. Be bold when sampling, and feel free to ask for more and share your opinion.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Still hungry? Go back for seconds.

Yes, it’s totally OK to go back for a second sample even if you don’t plan on purchasing the product. Rachel says it’s fine to go back for seconds and adds, “If there are multiple flavors available for sample, feel free to try them all.” She also says the chain is most concerned that the customer is satisfied with his or her purchase. Even if you don’t buy what you sampled, that doesn’t mean you’re shunned from the sample station forever! Better to try a few crackers and decide to buy chips instead than spend money on something you know you won’t eat because you feel obligated to do so.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Share your opinions.

If you like the food or if you don’t, suppliers want to know. After all, how can they fix a super-waxy and hard beef jerky if they don’t know customers think the texture is off? Rachel adds, “Always read the ingredients label before sampling. Even brands that are recognized as typically nut-free or gluten-free may experiment with new products.”

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Ask for more cheese.

Rachel says, “Our cheesemongers get the most requests for samples! Some of our cheese counters carry more than 500 varieties of cheese, and since we can cut to order, it’s easy for our cheesemongers to give customers a sample.” Translation? You get to choose your sample. It’s like a dream come true, in a dairy-licious way.

Don’t ask to sample cheeses you know you’re never going to buy (if you don’t like blue cheese, it’s okay, you just don’t), but if you love goat cheese and get on a tasting bender, the cheesemonger is usually more than happy to give you samples until you find the perfect two (or seven) small wedges to bring home.

The #1 Thing You Shouldn’t Do When Sampling Free Food

When you visit a grocery store and they provide samples, they want you to try things. They want to make it easy for you. But there’s one etiquette rule you need to obey when you’re sampling.

(Image credit: Deemark Family)

Don’t grab samples with your hands.

If there is a serving utensil at the sample station, for the love of all that is holy, please use it. Tongs, spoons, wax paper, and sample cups are all there for your comfort. And the general public’s health. If you recently got over strep throat, take one for the team and just don’t reach into the sample basket this time. We promise that next Sunday it’s going to be open season again.