8 Secrets I Learned Handing Out Food Samples at the Grocery Store

Yes—people will want to eat EVERYTHING.

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Young man showing healthy food products at the shop

I worked in a grocery store as a food sampler for seven years—and I learned some things. Not the rude things people do at the grocery store in plain sight. But the things that customers do when they think no one is looking! To give you an idea, I’m sharing my secrets and a true account of my grocery store experience.

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Young British couple sampling food at London market. They are dressed in Autumn clothing and the female is pickeing up chicken pieces to taste.
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Shoppers Will Sample Everything on Your Sample Cart

I never left a personal cup of coffee on my cart. The minute I walked away, anything on the sample cart was up for grabs. If I didn’t want to share my beverage, I had to ask a fellow employee to cover for me. Costco employees have secrets, too.

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Cutting a cheese for woman customer at the food store
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People Do Weird Stuff If You Leave Your Samples Unattended

Here’s an example: The man in the business suit, who didn’t go for the samples I left. He went for the entire block of cheese, face-first, mowing down on it with abandon. When our eyes met, he set it down, walking away without a word. Lesson learned!

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Upset hysterical girl with closed eyes crying loudly while manipulating parents and standing against food stall in supermarket; Shutterstock ID 1220942938; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Not All Kids Are Good Samplers

I wanted to have enough food samples to go around for everyone, so I’d occasionally have to ask kids to stop eating all my crackers. I also had to tell some cranky youngsters that they could get a stomachache from that gum on the trash can.

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Salesman with a woman customer choosing a cheese for buying at the food store
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People Definitely Want to Talk

One of the things about being a food sampler is that you are a captive audience. It’s always pleasant to have a friendly conversation with the locals. However, if they were keeping me from other customers, or bending my ear about conspiracy theories, I needed to be firm. I would politely excuse myself because, “my next batch of appetizers might be burning.”

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Handsome man sampling pineapples at the market.

Some Shoppers Like to Make It a Meal

I perfected the art of creating samples generous enough to enjoy. If someone wanted two because they loved them, OK. If they thought they could eat everything, I politely reminded them there were other samples to try throughout the store. Sometimes, you have to cut ’em off. See what grocery stores have the best free samples.

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Shot of salesman helping customer to choose some types of fruits
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Not All Shoppers Have Good Hygiene

It happens—and it’s not always on purpose. Someone grabs for a sample and rather than use the toothpick, they reach in and accidentally touch five others with their bare hands. Instead, I liked to hand samples to each customer, on a napkin. We know the polite habits that grocery store employees dislike, too.

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A mature couple picking out some cheese at their local delicatessen in the supermarket.

People Will Freak If You Run Out

Once, a woman showed up at exactly the closing time of a themed sampler day. Her reaction upon learning that she had missed our pan-fried scallops was enough to convince me. Never again would I sample something that we did not have enough of in stock.

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Salesman Offering Cheese Samples To Customers In Shop; Shutterstock ID 414153787; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
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Regular Shoppers Are the Favorites

The appreciative regulars were always interested to know what I would be demoing next. They took the time to talk to me like a person and exchange some basic pleasantries. I truly cherished customers like those and they were the bright spots in my day. By the way, they were also the ones most likely to get a second sample!

Colleen DuVall
Colleen is a writer/editor/podcaster who has made it a lifelong hobby to collect and try out new recipes. After another October has come and gone, she starts counting down the days until next Halloween.