Don’t try it before you buy it unless you want to risk getting sick.

By Tim Nelson
March 09, 2020

Update: Costco confirmed that all warehouses are halting free samples via social media.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are temporarily suspending all demos and food roadshows in our U.S. Warehouses," Costco told concerned shoppers. "Thanks for checking."

There’s a reason that Costco requires a membership card: it’s a shopping experience that breaks from the ordinary. Between the food court and the dizzying array of products like cheap knockoff Bailey’s, there’s so much to love. But nothing takes the two-pound red velvet cake like Costco’s top-notch arsenal of free samples beckoning you to try so many tasty things.

Unfortunately, an abundance of caution in response to the spread of Coronavirus suggests that Costco has curtailed its issuance of free samples— at least for now. According to reports on Reddit confirmed by Business Insider, the spouse of a Costco manager was told that the store would be putting a pause on product demonstrations (aka free samples) for the time being.

It makes sense given what we know so far about how Coronavirus spreads. The idea of plucking food off of a shared tray and putting it directly into your mouth is an obvious way for an illness of this sort to travel, especially at a time when we’re told to (rather futilely in my case) not touch our faces. Add in how many people shop at Costco on a typical day (maybe trying to buy up whatever bulk hand sanitizer or soap is left), and you have the recipe for the transmission of illness.

So far, it’s worth noting that Costco hasn’t officially said much about the suspension of samples and any possible connection to Coronavirus. However, at least one French representative for CDS, a company responsible for managing Costco’s free samples across different countries, has indicated to Business Insider that they’re aware of the move to suspend free sampling in the U.S.

It’s worth noting that this is a precautionary measure. There are no reports of the disease linked in any way to Costco at this stage. At the same time, it’s possible that a relative lack of testing and an overall slow response to Coronavirus in the U.S might not be providing us with a full picture of what’s really going on. For now, stay smart, wash your hands, and just trust that you’re going to want to eat that Costco item you have your eye on without trying it first.

 

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