Why Some Costco Shoppers Actually Have A Huge Problem With Free Samples

Costco has built its reputation on free samples, its famous hot dog combos, and well-priced TVs — quite a résumé. Of course, it's also known for being a wholesale retailer that offers deals on everything from groceries to clothing. These days, there are even members-only Costco gas stations where you can fill up for a fairly low price.

Consumers have long loved Costco for all of these reasons, and members of the chain love to talk about it on any kind of Internet forum where their voice can be heard. Though it's hard to believe Costco's loyal customers have anything to complain about, some Reddit users took to a thread to discuss what they don't love about Costco's free samples. 

It turns out, some shoppers might find the free samples to be more of a burden than Costco thought — not to mention, they are somewhat of a health hazard.

Costco shoppers have an issue with free samples

It's not so much the samples themselves that irritate shoppers. Rather, it's the people who don't understand proper Costco free sampling etiquette. One Reddit thread had users venting about their disdain for shoppers who don't take the sample and immediately walk away. Some shoppers lollygag, enjoying the sample in front of the stand and ultimately clogging up the aisle.

"The samples are fine. The people who block the aisles sampling them are annoying," someone wrote on Reddit. Another person added, "The worst is when they stop their cart so they're blocking the aisle and other people from getting samples, and proceed to have a conversation with the sample worker ... Like grab it and move on."

The general consensus was that the samples are enjoyable, but sample etiquette is the problem. Some users even suggested that Costco should create a "showcase aisle," dedicating an entire aisle to just samples, which would allow users to sample all in one place without blocking the way for other shoppers.

Why you might want to avoid free samples altogether

Whether you know free sample etiquette or not, you might want to reconsider picking up those small bits of free food from grocery store stands. That's because free food sample stands are swarming with people who are leaving germs behind every time they step away. "Food preparation is one way germs can travel between people, and a free sample station means that many people have been in that area touching food," Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center, told Eat This, Not That! in 2022.

Getting sick from free samples isn't a myth, either. Back in 2010, an e. Coli outbreak was linked to free samples of cheese at Costco stores. The outbreak sickened 25 people; Arizona was the most affected state, with 11 cases. 

Though free food is enticing, it may be best to skip the freebie stand — and make sure you always wash your hands before eating.