How retailers trick you into buying more crap than you really need. Mmmm, delicious sample day at Costco. [Joe Consumer]


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  1. synergy says:

    I saw employees handing out samples of Clamato at the grocery store on Sunday. I thought that was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. Who drinks Clamato alone anyway?

  2. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    It’s just profit motive — every company has one…

  3. starrion says:

    It works. My wife and I both tried samples at Costco, and brought home stuff we otherwise wouldn’t have bought.

    It brought some interesting variety to the meal plan.

  4. samurailynn says:

    I typically don’t take grocery store/Costco samples. I usually go to the store after a meal, so I’m full and none of it ends up sounding good. That’s probably why I also rarely come home with random snack foods.

  5. MerylBurbank says:

    The samples at Costco can be a money saver, too. More than once, I have sampled an item and decided to never, ever buy it.

  6. Jackasimov says:

    “While some stores pay their clerks to be obsessive about precisely-folded sweaters on display, others actually pay them to make sure the displays are just a bit little messy, because shoppers interpret that (often unconsciously) as a cue that other people thought it was a deal too.”

    Anybody in retail ever experience this? Sounds like BS.

    I like Costco’s samples and I’ve even bought some of the products they’re hawking. How else would I know what it tastes like? The packaging is so misleading you can’t trust it.

    What I don’t dig is the people who make a trip out of coming to the store with their families in tow seemingly only to snack. Is it just me or are old people the worst at vulturing the demos? The depression is over, people – grab a cup of yogurt squares and keep moving. Sheesh.

    2 words: un crustables. Yum.

  7. SaraAB87 says:

    I think the reasoning for this is because your buying something in a really large package from Sams that you don’t want to spend on something that is not known to you to be good, so they hand out samples so you can test it for yourself. We have bought many items from Sams that we wouldn’t have even looked at from trying the samples, and they were good and we enjoyed the items, so I don’t think its a waste of money. No we don’t buy every item on sample. But you have to be careful because lots of those samples are just processed food filled with calories and fat. Fortunately they have the box right there for you to look at, so you can check the nutritional information for what you are eating.

  8. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Jackasimov: That does make sense though. only problem is that you may think everybody else is going to have that shirt/sweater/pair of pants/assless chaps

    I worked at a mom & pop diner and they always wanted the 4 employees working any shift to park out front so it looked like they were a little busy and other people would come in to see why. I don’t know if it worked or not but they stayed fairly busy and people would try to come in before opening and after closing.

  9. Zyada says:

    Some of these are good, but I felt some of these were a little over the top.

    My, that’s a big basket you’ve got there

    Who the hell puts something in their basket just because there’s space? Please, if you are one of these people, please start in the family planning section!

    Mirror, mirror on the wall…

    This is a foreign concept to me. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror whenever possible, and would not go to a store where mirrors were pervasive. This might explain why so many clothing stores have those horrid flourescent lights, though.

    Buy in bulk and save?

    I agree 99% with Joe Consumer on this. However, if there is an item you know you use regularly, won’t go bad, and the bulk price is as cheap or cheaper than the grocery store price, it is worth buying in bulk. I buy chicken broth and canned tomatoes like this. The advantage? Less need for runs to the grocery store for that one can I need to make supper.

    How did they stack all those boxes like that?
    I would think that power displays are there to entice you into buying the product they feature. As for the maze stores? I wonder how well they are going to do in the long run – Central Market here in Texas does the same attempt to force you to go past every thing they sell tactic, and it seems to generate some resentment.

    To get to the cheese, you have to get through the maze
    You can almost always tell how much mark-up there is on an item by where it is in the store. Front, center and eye-level? That’s were all the profit margin is. This is especially bad for people who have to use those grocery store scooters – the only items they can reach are the items that have the biggest mark-up.

    Bargain bins and going-out-of business sales
    I must confess that the company I work for has been known to put items in the clearance section at 10, 5 and even occasionally 0% off. Part of this is the tyranny of the corporate driven store layout – if an item loses its “home”, then the clearance section is the only place for it to go. But if the executives really considered this a problem, they could do something about it.

    IMO, any time you buy something, you should know how much it normally costs, and how much it is worth to you. That may seem like common sense, but so do many of these “tips”

    Oooh, something smells amazing!

    Every frugal and dieting grocery shopper should know to eat something before they go shopping – hunger is the best way to end up with a huge stockpile of buyer’s regret food. However, I think samples are good for the store and the customer – who wants to buy something only to find out it’s nasty? Just don’t let guilt make you buy something that you wouldn’t otherwise because some nice lady gave you a bit.

    One note – my husband works in the gourmet cheese section at a grocery store. They will occasionally sample out cheese because it is getting close to its expiry date (not past, though – he will throw that out). Make sure that if you buy what you sampled, that you have plenty of time to eat it before it expires. On a related note, he will cut up any cheese in his case for a customer to sample (and possibly some of the other items they sell in that section as well). If you have a person behind a counter to ask, ask for a sample of what you are considering for purchase before you buy it. The worst they can do is say no.

    Save even more with our charge card!
    IMO, if you have more than one charge card, you should get credit counseling.

    Retailers love to put children to work “helping” you find things
    And for god’s sake, don’t give the little rug rats one of those miniature carts. Even if you don’t mind spending your whole shopping trip with little Timmy grabbing every sugar bomb and sparkly package they can reach, we don’t want to hear you bitching at him to “put it back”.

    Checking out? One last thing…
    If you are really trying to be frugal, don’t get anything in the checkout area. It’s all fluff.

  10. assirac says:

    I’ve been extolling the virtue of shopping cart-free for years. Especially at Costco. Not only does it save time navigating through the mess at the cash registers and receipt checkers, but it limits how much crap you leave with.

    When I’m standing in the freezer aisle asking myself if you actually need the giant box of burritos, the thought of having to carry it along with the coffee and cat litter I already picked up usually tips the scale.

  11. mac-phisto says:


    Anybody in retail ever experience this? Sounds like BS.

    yes – on both the consumer & retail side. consider the cheap-o dvd bins at wal-mart (& blockbuster), the discount video game bins at most game retailers, or discount bins at most outlet stores. i’ve even seen post-holiday sales bins popping up at the local supermarkets.

    on the retail side – at a chain electronics store, we often made piles of clearance items for people to rummage thru. that’s really the whole point – mimicking the “flea market” environment.

    now, i can’t say that i was ever told specifically to “mess things up” by a manager, but i was instructed “don’t take too much time” or “just dump it on the table”. & once i was told it “looks too neat – put some more shit up there” by my d.m. classy guy, he was.

  12. mac-phisto says:

    the article was well presented, but this wasn’t some ground-breaking exposé…everything presented here has been presented elsewhere.

    i thought some of the comments were more revealing than the story itself – it surprised me how uninformed many consumers really are & how uncomfortable they are with the thought that megacorp., inc. is meddling with their minds.

    did anyone else sense how angry some of the commenters became at the very thought? sucks to get shaken from your happy place (a/k/a mindless shopping) i guess.

  13. TPK says:

    Costco samples are great! Go in on a Saturday around noon, take a couple laps around the produce/frozen foods section and you’ve just had yourself a free lunch!