My family loves Costco. And not just a little crush. We really love Costco. I suppose it could be any warehouse store, but Costco is what’s convenient for us, so Costco it is.
Why, you ask? Cheap prices? Limited selection but tons of inventory? Great selection of meats? Rotisserie chickens cheaper than you could cook them yourself? Yes, all of that, but at the top of the list… samples!
I would say that at least one maybe two Saturdays a month, our family drives to Costco just to see what’s there that looks good to cook for dinner. (We are big fans of their meat selection.) Our daughter can literally have lunch dining on samples – and on a really good day, we can too!
Just so you know, Super Bowl weekend seems to be one of the best weekends for samples of the entire year, but any weekend before a big “gathering-type” holiday/event is pretty solid.
You have to be willing to take what comes and not get too hung up on eating an ice cream sandwich sample in between the pizza and bites of barbecue, but if you can go with the flow – or backtrack as I’ve been known to do – then it can make for a great culinary stroll. Oh, and lest you think we are takers and never buyers, all too often we fall for the “kid loves it in the store, let’s get some” game. Sometimes it’s still good when we get home (like the cracker chips), and sometimes her opinion has changed (like the meatballs).
Once you get used to taking small bites of food from strangers as you walk around a store, you start developing some opinions on the approach and the encounters in general. I think it’s fine, for example, to tell customers about what the product is and where it’s located if someone wants to buy it. I do not think a “hard sell” on all benefits and features of the food is necessary. I can see for myself that it is easy to heat and serve.
I think it’s nice when they encourage you to get an extra bite if your child seems to enjoy the sample as well. And, I’m always impressed when children are told to get permission from their parents before grabbing something from the tray.
Psychologically, giving something away is a great way to get people to buy your product. It makes them feel indebted in some small way.I recently heard a study cited on the radio illustrating the direct correlation between a consumer touching a product and the resulting increase in likelihood to buy. Obviously, giving away small samples of your product results in increased sales or they wouldn’t do it.
Also, Costco has an annual membership fee. It’s not a stretch to look at sampling your way through the store as simply a benefit of membership.
I think it’s also become a little like what the town drug store/soda fountain/coffee shop used to be for my grandfather. Granted, it’s a bit different in that the drug store in Houston, MO (pop. 2026) was a gathering place where town news was spread and opinions were shared. Men sat and talked and no actual shopping was ever done. However, it’s a rare visit – especially on a Saturday or Sunday – when I don’t run into someone we know. We may not share a $.63 Coke or a $1.50 hotdog and try to solve the problems of the world, but running into neighbors and friends while out and about helps secure the small-town feeling that Smyrna offers.
And while we rarely talk about it, we know we are there for the samples.