10 Secrets of Your Local Food Sample Demonstrator

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If you’re like me, you try to time your trips to the grocery store, or places like Sam’s Club or Costco, for when you know there will likely be delicious — and free — food samples available. Not only can you discover new products that way, but samples make shopping with little ones in tow a whole lot more pleasant.

Win-win, right?

But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of the foot sampling enterprise? Maybe not, once you read what these demonstrators have to say about it might make you stop and think the next time you casually grab a sample.

#10. They’re wise to “sample ninjas”

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Most of us feel guilty going back for seconds or thirds of free food, but there are those who try to cleverly circumvent the cap on the number of free samples a single customer is supposed to get. If you think you’re being sneaky, remember…those security cameras are there for a reason.

#9. They probably don’t know where stuff is

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The sample staffers are often not employed by the store itself, but by the companies who manufacture the actual food product, or by organizations like Club Demonstration Services (CDS) — separate entities that hire sample reps to lure buyers to check out products endorsed by a place like Costco. That means they can’t tell you which aisle you can find the ketchup in.

#8. They might secretly appreciate the sample ninja

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Someone who can’t get enough of a sample might be more likely to actually buy the entire box. So why not just let ’em think they’re sneaky, right? Also, when they run out of product, it makes them look like they’re doing a great job.

#7. They’re actually very busy

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Prepping the samples can take a lot of time, and freshly made or cooked things, like potato salad or steak, are more likely to intrigue shoppers than something like chips or popcorn. You can tell by the way people hang around waiting, even if it takes a while to restock!

#6. Unattended children policies

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There is an unofficial, unwritten rule to not give samples to children without an adult unless they’re tall enough to see what’s on the cart. This is likely because parents like to supervise what their younger kids eat, especially if there are potential allergy issues.

#5. They have to stay within a 12-foot radius of their cart

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There are several reasons a demonstrator cannot stray from their cart, which is typically set up near where the product is stocked in the store. The first is for safety reasons, especially if your station has something hot, like a grill, or a choking hazard, like a hotdog, that could intrigue children. The second is because if someone were to pick up a sample, taste it, then put it back, it would violate food handling procedures.

#4. Regulars work in their favor

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Most demonstrators prefer to have regular stores where they hock their wares. People get to know them and then it’s harder to ignore their smile and pitch. Psychology for the win!

#3. An acronym helps them find success

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Food sample demonstrators don’t work on commission, but they can earn bonuses for selling a certain amount of their inventory. Many of them use the acronym SITGA — Smile, Invite, Talk, Give and Ask to get them closer to their goals.

#2. Some people don’t maintain civility where free food is involved

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Remember, these are people trying to make a living, so don’t just grab the food and run. It’s common courtesy to at least stay and listen to their pitch once you’ve devoured your free snack.

#1. It can be hard to smile through the same, canned responses all day long

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It turns out that people have the same or similar remarks, especially when it comes to certain foods. One demonstrator says they often hear responses like, “Where are the pancakes?” if they’ve got sausage, or that a cold drink “would be better with vodka.” Wash, rinse, repeat.