The best parts of any trip to Costco are 1) gaping at great deals on 24-piece cookware packs, 2) gaping at vats of mayonnaise, and 3) enjoying the free samples. As COVID-19 spreads throughout the United States, the wholesale warehouse chain is temporarily shutting down its iconic free sample distribution, leaving customers with no other option than to buy a $1.50 hot dog/Pepsi combo on their way out. Wish I’d considered the massive public health crisis four days ago when I went back for seconds of free Costco mozzarella sticks, but c’est la vie.
Considering the number of precautionary measures that have been enacted over the past week or so, tamping down on samples seems pretty reasonable. The amount of handling, hand-to-mouth contact, finger-licking, and disposable-paper-cup-licking associated with free samples invites a lot of easily avoidable germs. The free sample shutdown appears to be happening on a store-by-store basis, or perhaps regionally. The news first spread on Reddit, and there’s been no official statement from Costco or Club Demonstration Services, the company that handles their in-store product demonstrations. It’s business as usual for CDS in France, Spain, and the U.K., according to Business Insider, though CDS China has halted samples.
Beyond the free samples, though, coronavirus has been good for business at Costco. According to USA Today, the home goods giant keeps selling out of disinfectants, bottled water, toilet paper, canned goods, and more lockdown necessities. So now in this age of panic, we’ll get to see the real appeal of shopping at Costco. Is it wholesale goods at reasonable prices? Or is it simply the free samples? Only time will tell.