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Costco Shoppers Say Popular Free Sample Experience Is Disappearing

Members speculate that reps are being replaced with self-service options.

Costco memberships come with a whole host of perks, including the ability to buy in bulk and take advantage of cheaper gas at Costco gas stations. But another fan-favorite benefit of shopping at Costco warehouses is the free samples. Throughout the store, you'll find little stations where reps hand you a bite-sized portion of food—and if you get a taste of something you like, you can easily toss a package into your cart. But shoppers are reporting that the free sample experience they've come to know and love is disappearing. Read on to find out how Costco is switching things up.

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Free sample kiosks have been popping up at Costco warehouses.

A close up of a shopping cart inside a Costco Warehouse Store
Shutterstock / a katz

According to food and pop culture website The Takeout, shoppers have been noticing more free sample self-service kiosks at Costco warehouses, as opposed to those typically manned by free sample reps.

The outlet pointed to a Reddit thread, where a shopper posted a photo of a self-service sample station, although they didn't specify which warehouse they were shopping at. In the comment section, however, another Redditor wrote that new "Grab-and-Go" kiosks were reportedly stationed at a Costco in Issaquah, Washington.

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There are a few reasons why Costco could be making this adjustment.

Costco free sample station
David Tonelson /

With so many stores automating processes—and some eliminating cashiers entirely—it's not all that surprising for Costco to make this move.

The Takeout also points to the ongoing labor shortage as a driving factor, pointing out that these free sample reps aren't actually Costco employees, but rather work for a company called Club Demonstration Services. As a result, they don't get "Costco company benefits," and because the pay isn't all that enticing, people may not be eager to take the gig.

Best Life reached out to Costco for comment, and will update the story when we hear back.

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Redditors aren't thrilled with the changing free sample experience.

holding sam's club membership card
Jarrett Homan / Shutterstock

The Takeout described the new kiosks as "low-tech," since there's apparently no way to restrict the number of samples shoppers take. Even though they're clearly instructed to "take one," shoppers could easily grab more from the bottom of the chute. On Reddit, shoppers likened this honor system approach to the "Halloween 'take one' bowl."

"I can feel people becoming selfish Halloween candy thieves," one comment reads, while another added, "I got burned by the old 'take one' direction a few Halloween's. 1 out of 5 people rob you."

Another said that people are already greedy with samples, and this could make the situation worse.

"The vultures at my store would have that cleared out in 4 minutes," they wrote. "I watched a lady yesterday post up at a sample stand as the lady was putting the tray in the oven. It was gonna be a while."

Others pointed out safety factors, as children with allergies could easily walk up and sample something, with some suggesting that Costco implement an added layer of security. According to several Redditors, Sam's Club (another wholesaler) has vending machines that require you to scan your membership card to get a sample.

"The honor system won't work at a lot of systems and they are at risk for lawsuits for kids with allergies (even though all kids are supposed to be attended)," another wrote. "I'd require a swipe of the membership card to get the sample, max sample being two per membership card."

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Some will just miss the human interaction.

handing out free samples at costco
The Image Party / Shutterstock

While many shoppers expressed concerns with the kiosks' feasibility, others said that they will miss the free sample reps—who will also have fewer job opportunities.

"I prefer getting samples from retirees [to be honest]," a Redditor wrote.

Another added, "As much as I couldn't care less about samples and the crowds they attract, at least when people are doing it, it means someone's getting paid … I'd rather see someone with a job than not."

However, because these kiosks are so "low-tech," free sample reps aren't likely to disappear entirely. As The Takeout notes, the current self-service stations won't work for messier food samples that aren't pre-packaged, so free sample reps will probably continue to dole those out.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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