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The Definitive Guide for Food Grazing (for free) at Costco

Posted on | March 26, 2010 | Comments Off

costcoImagine this scenario: it’s the Thursday before pay day. You’re at work, it’s lunchtime, and you’re starving. On top of it all, you’re flat broke and you forgot to grab that box of instant Kraft mac & cheese from your counter on the way out the door this morning. Sound familiar? We have all been in this situation at one time or another. However — if you’ve got a Costco nearby (and a membership), it might just be what saves you.

For those of you who don’t have a Costco membership or frequent their behemoth warehouse locations very often, let me describe how Costco samples work. It’s rather simple. During business hours, Costco staggers tables of freshly grilled, baked, or microwaved samples throughout their warehouse floor. Costco employs very nice
workerpeople called sample droids to man these tables. They are responsible for the preparation and replenishing of the samples throughout the day. When a tray of samples runs out, they prepare more, cut them up, and place them in little paper cups. Make no mistake, while they look human they are only droids, and being such they don’t say much else other than “Try [sample name]… Pick one up in the [location] aisle/section..” Some of them are programmed to tell you a little bit more about the product; like if it’s all natural or has vitamins, etc. Other than that, you won’t get much more information from the sample droids. Talk is cheap anyway.

Costco sample grazing is more of an art than a science. However, over the years I have developed some surefire techniques to make the whole experience a little bit easier:

#1 Scope out the situation – Any successful mission depends on good reconnaissance and a good plan of attack. First of all, know this above all else — Costco is hell on weekends. It could be comparable to the battlefield at Normandy. The parking lot alone is a clusterfuck. You will have more success scoring a free meal during the week. Once you enter Costco, you will want to complete a walkthrough of the entire warehouse, that way you know what samples are being offered, where they are located, and possibly to plan your meal in the appropriate order of dining etiquette (i.e. appetizers, entrees, desserts). For example, you may notice that there are samples of cheese conveniently located near the wine section. You obviously want to hit this area before the rotisserie chicken samples. If you have flair for Asian Cuisine, you may or may not want to hit the Sushi samples before the pot stickers, or vice versa. And of course, you will want to hit the warm, gooey cinnamon roll samples last. You get the idea.
#2 If you stop back, they will come – Don’t be discouraged if you come to an empty sample table and the samples are being replenished by the sample droid. Simply move on and come back at a later time. I know this may be discouraging if you have already put your plan of attack in motion, but think of it from a Vegas perspective. If a table is not a “heater” you don’t want to be there anyway.

snaks#3 Assume attack position and move in for the kill – Your first time approaching a sample table with a mob of drooling customers may feel something like entering a mosh pit at a death metal concert for the first time. Yes, it’s a bit intimidating and you worry about getting elbowed in the teeth but you will get the hang of it. Just remember to be assertive, but not too aggressive — nobody wants you knocking them out of their wheelchairs or running over little old ladies just to get a little cup of peanut butter filled pretzels. Remember, sample grazing is a contact sport, so recognize the rules and make sure you watch your elbows, shins, and toes.

#4 Wash, Rinse, Repeat – I’ve always noticed that Costco doesn’t provide drink samples too often, so you may have to work your way up front where they keep the vending machines and splurge fifty cents for a water or a soft drink. But this is part of the cycle; the key to your free meal at Costco is hitting each sample table more than once. Wait a minute. Doesn’t this violate some sort of sample taking etiquette? Probably; so you will want to be discreet about it. It’s unlikely the sample droids will notice your return since they are too busy preparing the next batch of samples as they are rapidly removed and eaten. I recommend attacking from the rear or the side on the second round. Just swoop in from the aisle, grab the sample, and eat it while en route to the next station. Be inconspicuous about it though.

#5 Use a disguise if necessary – It may be a little less obvious if you look like you’re shopping while grazing samples. You may want to grab a cart, load it up with a couple 50 lb bags of dog food, and use this as your cover while you complete your mission. This way the Costco attendants won’t give you the evil eye. Trust me, it works.

#6 Leave no man behind (or hungry) – The last phase is crucial — do not, I repeat do not retaliate from Costco if you still have the slightest feeling of hunger lingering in your stomach. This would constitute a failed mission. A failed mission results in spending money at Subway, or some other nauseating fast food joint to finish the job.

Remember, you’re out to score a free meal from Costco and you must maintain focus at all times. Once you have these steps memorized, you can consider your training complete and you are ready for the Costco grazing battlefield. Good luck soldier!

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