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You Tried It, You Bought It


Chris Amirault
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I shop a lot at Whole Foods, where there are usually half a dozen samples out. For some reason, I am happy to eat the samples, but I find the concept coercive enough that I get all snooty about buying the product.

Not yesterday. I had some tuna salad at the store that was quite remarkable. It was made with American Tuna, which is "pole caught, wild albacore" that's sealed in the can and then cooked in only its own juices and oils. $5 for a 6 oz can and I bought one.

That's the first time I've ever bought something after enjoying a sample. You? Are you a sucker for that sort of thing? Or do you just load up on the product like me and then point your nose in the air?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I generally avoid these things. The idea is good if you have a great product. But usually I find it's a frozen pizza or something. I think once in around 20 years I've actually bought something based on an in-store tasting. I think that was some sort of dip made by the store's deli dept.

There are definitley no upscale samplers in my area.

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I get suckered into this often at Asian markets that have lots of sample tables on the weekend. I eat a dumpling or a mini cup of udon soup and am told what a great sale it is today and often cave. The product is usually decent but I think I operate under a possible misconception that the company is tracking the sales and that the sweet ladies working the tables may be judged on the sales figures.

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I do this all the time at the Farmer's Market. I sample it, then I buy.

I tried a Shun Knife at Sur La Table in San Fran over xmas. Bought it( it was on sale and it was soooooo sharp, very different from my Wustof).

I usually end up buying the cheese at Whole Foods after I sample it.

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I bought some jarred salsa at Whole Foods after sampling, too. But that was a while ago. Yeah yeah... jarred salsa. But it was from a "local" producer. (some place in Texas). And it was pretty good. At Whole Foods, I got turned onto a drinkable yogurt from Lucky Layla Farms. They are VERY local to the Dallas area. I think for a producer like them, a tasting can really help a lot. Sure, they won't sell as much as Stonyfield Farms or Fage, but they seem to do pretty well. The store stocks a lot of their product.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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I often buy things that are sampled at Trader Joe's because that store has rarely disappointed me.

Many of the items have been things that I would not have purchased just seeing the package.

Being able to see the actual product and tasting it, showed me that it was easy to prepare and tasty.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I usually refuse samples because they are rarely anything I would be interested in. Sometimes I sample wine :-) Once I sampled Annabelle's lavender goat cheese buttons at Lee's Market in Westport, CT and they were so good I bought them, and then bought them regularly.

Correction: I meant, Westport, MA

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Yes, to Whole Foods, public & farm markets, bakeries, and cheese shops. Especially cheese shops - they can sell me pretty much anything I sample. No, to other big chain supermarkets like Safeway and Costco, where I don't even bother sampling lame deli meats or packaged granola bars.

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[font="Trebuchet MS"]Similar to Beebs for me, I think. Although I can't say I've never bought anything I've sampled in a supermarket, I'm much more likely to go with something sampled at one of my favourite suppliers (those who visited my foodblog on eG last month may remember me waxing lyrical in particular about samples at Ontrays). And farmers' markets and the like often have samples of things I'm likely to buy.

Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

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I'm under the impression prepared foods (frozen pizza, etc) have a much higher markup, which encourages the stores to promote them as much as possible. Coincidentally eGulleters might just be the last people to buy that sort of thing.

Just my 2c.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I have the same natural aversion to these promotions that several posters have mentioned. But I've gotten over it completely. These days I very happily eat free food and feel absolutely no obligation to buy. I make friendly talk with the person who's doing the promotion and I'll show an honest response by word or gesture, of how good I think it is at the very least . "Delicious !" with a smile or "hmmm" or an "euh" face or something. If the spirit moves me I might make foodie observations about nuances of flavour/ingredients/prep/whatever, and I'll give brutally honest feedback if it's warranted, which I find myself doing mainly on prices.

Since they have gone to the trouble to have a real, live person out front, engaging with me, the customer, and since I'm accepting free food from them, I feel I should give them the value they deserve in return.

None of that means anything other than being happy/friendly/charming. I love free food. The people on the floor are only doing a job to get by like so many do. It's no responsibility of mine if the offer is an utter rip-off 4-dollar pack of two frozen slices of expanded-polythene bread topped with formulaic tomato smear and flavour-free plastic cheese. It's not as if I'm forced to eat it, or one mouthful is going to give me cancer of the finger. I'll scoff a piece, mention the price, laugh, meet their eye and say "there's what? About 25 cents worth of ingredients in there, isn't there ?", or in this instance, maybe "that cheese reminds me of... soft rubber" for a laugh. What really does get up my nose sometimes is written survey forms, whose value, used right, I understand but which I think are over-used by what I picture as officious, unimaginative, soulless paper-pushers.

If it's an uber-expensive piece of artisan cheese, I'll scoff some and say "oh, that's excellent !". And then not buy any or offer any explanation whatsoever why I don't. And then have another piece. I've never bought anything after a sample from the lady who's regularly giving them out at one of the good supermarkets here, but having spent time chatting with her over the months is why I was able to score a whole two ounces of high-quality mimolette crumbs for nothing, recently.

One thing I do remember buying from a sample is handmade iwashi ba-ga-, or sardine burgers, from Marusho. They were a bit expensive, but not prohibitive, and they were very tasty. I bought some of the bean burgers too and was less taken with them in full portion size, but it was great to be able to sample such unfamiliar foods that I wouldn't readily have taken a chance on buying based on simple display. You can ask the vendor how to prepare stuff, too, and what's more, even if it's more expensive than you'd regularly pick up, you can figure out by eating it how you might make your own.

I guess that America being such a melting pot, the unfamiliar-ethnic-(to the shopper)-food is an element in in-store promos of what seem to the 'natives' very pedestrian products.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I find that it depends on my week and how crazy it is. When I'm swamped, I'm happy to taste samples of the various soups or tidbits at Central Market, and sometimes, I end up buying the item. Last week, they had a delicious quinoa salad that I ended up getting after a tasting. I also get some of their pre-made sauces like chimichurri or else a tapenade.

Outside of those really hectic weeks, I don't usually succumb. I love the free tastings, but I don't usually buy something unless it's a very unusual sort of salumi that I haven't had before, a very region-specific specialised olive oil that I ended up loving, some funky sea salt, or some very unusual sort of cheese.

But my mother... my mother <bangs head on desk>. She can't go into Central Market, Whole Foods or even Costco and Sam's without buying at least one thing she tasted. (Usually, it's more like 3 or 5.....) Last week, after a sampling and microscopically brief tutoring from the sales lady, she bought 2 bottles of some sort of Adobe Chipotle powder from Central Market that she has no idea how to use (and which I shudder at her attempted usage, since this is a woman who hates salt, fat, butter, spices, oil, cream and *ANYTHING* guaranteed to make food edible). And last Sunday for Family Dinner, she inflicted some pre-prepared, corn-tortilla-encrusted-and-spiced tilapia on us that she'd fallen in love with at some store (after a tasting) and bought. It actually made me flee to the bathroom to vomit.

I love my mother dearly, but her "cooking" <ahem> is really going to be the end of me. And it's only gotten worse since she has all those damn tastings in the stores!

Edited by Kafka Zola (log)

"There are dogs, and then there are German Shepherds.... "- Unknown

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Costco usually gives out a plethora of samples in their aisles. I've tried a number of tidbits, mostly depending upon the hour and how hungry I am. Most is processed dreck. Never anything with meat. And we have seldom bought any product based on tasting...with one incredible exception.

Mary's Organic Crackers. Yummm... :wub:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Costco...

Ha ha, yeah, Costco. I've said before I'm not a regular customer but I drove a card-holding friend down there in the autumn. They were giving out samples of tinned salmon, served on crackers with mayo mixed in and without. Eating-wise, it was actually quite good - my friend and I were shopping independently, but when we were later together we passed the salmon again and he asked me for advice as we both tried some - "what do you think ? Should I buy this ?" he said.

"Well, it's pretty good, but you know, it's *wild* salmon season right now and you get fresh-caught for less half the price of that, weight for weight", I told him.

The promo rep nodded and smiled in agreement and set her head back down on her shoulders ...

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Costco is a sample culture unto itself. The teen age boys would go there for a free lunch of samples with a boy who had a membership. The sample ladies tried to shoo them away but they overwhelmed her like a bunch of yellowjackets. Of course they never bought anything.

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I tend to abruptly change direction and make a wide detour around anyone offering samples, since the whole setup makes me feel incredibly awkward (and unless a sample is wrapped, I worry that I'll catch yet another of the year's fine selection of colds and seasonal diseases). I can't remember the last time I tried a sample, or whether I've ever bought an item I've sampled.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I love samples, the kids love samples, there's nothing wrong with them. Actually, sometimes I wish I could open a box or can or what to sample it before I buy and then toss it. I've bought things at Trader Joe's, most are samples from the ready made dinner area, which I don't buy much, but some of their frozen asian chicken things are pretty good and I tend to have them in the freezer for the occasional emergency. I do quite often buy cheese that's being sampled out as well. Sadly our Whole Foods is next door to a high school and they quickly stopped having too much to sample. Sometimes a cheese or two, sometimes a slice of their fresh made pizza, that's about it. I think you can ask to sample just about anything open/fresh though.

At costco I feed my little one with the samples (I'm usually there around lunch time) and sometimes buy things, but not that often. Often it's our local Kinder's meats that I'm not too fond of (and I can make all that stuff myself better to my taste) and Aidell's saussages, which I also don't care for all that much, the casing is too hard and I'm not a fan of mango-yogurt-apple-chicken-turkey-whatnot combo sausages, goes against my Bavarian blood :-)

Especially with cheeses it's nice to sample, wildly experimenting by shopping can get very expensive there quickly.

I also like the samples at the farmer's market, be it fresh produce, or for example Iranian or other middle eastern food that's quite delicious. I've bought those things after sampling. For a while they had to stop giving samples for some stupid health dept reason or other, but they must have found a way around that or maybe somebody is just not looking too closely.

Yes, it's a promotional tool, but I'd rather get something to eat than be exposed to some annoying Jack in the Box or plastic head Burger King advert on TV!

And after all, if you buy clothing, don't you sample (try them on) those as well? Or listen to music snippets before you buy a CD? Page through a book? All the same, isn't it?

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I go to a lot of different types of stores so it depends on whether it's a sample of something junk food-like (usually don't buy or even try) or a whole food preparation. I also like to try ethnic items I have never tried to see if it is a flavor profile I want to add to my own cooking. For instance I had never tried a homemade chaat/cracker mix and I loved the sample so much I bought a bag right there. I usually won't buy something I can make myself from scratch either. Unless... I want to make it and need to know what it should taste like.

Other reasons to buy or not to buy after sampling are: Buy if it's a local purveyor/maker giving me the sample. These people are not just doing a job and are small businesses I want to support if I can. If something is prohibitively expensive I will make small talk after sampling and wish them luck with their business to get over the awkwardness of not buying it. I want to be careful of peoples feelings if the only reason is price. I will always buy a cut to order cheese if I like the sample. I can get a small piece as a treat and artisan cheese is so good.

I guess I'm biased because I used to go to whole foods and other health food type stores and demonstrate whole food preparations using the featured product and/or other products like tofu ice cream etc. One funny thing I noticed is that often a person would pop a sample into their mouth and then ask what is in it. That got me into trouble sometimes with vegans or others if the preparation had an ingredient they didn't eat. Ask before you eat I would think!

www.farmandforage.wordpress.com

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Whole Foods always gets me with cheese. Lots of times it's what's out as a sample but I also ask whoever is behind the case to cut me a piece of something interesting that they like. One guy at my local has nearly identical taste to mine and I have bought some of everything he's ever had me try.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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I sample frequently at Central Market and feel no compulsion to buy. Not that I never buy, but I never experience pressure to buy beyond the obvious fact that they offer a sample in hopes you'll buy. Their products are generally very high quality, whether it's prepared foods, produce, bread, wine, coffee...whatever. So they offer a sample and some ideas about how to use it: you like it or not. Even if you like it you may not want to buy it or buy it that day. I have often seen a couple dozen people go by a sampling station without anyone buying.

Today I picked up a bottle of an Indian Vindaloo sauce that I had sampled yesterday. The cooking station foodie cooked it with chicken and florets of cauliflower and then finished it with mango chunks. Pretty good stuff. I have also bought a salad dressing after sampling at that station. But, other than bread and produce, I generally buy what I sample only - maybe - 1 out of 100 times.

No guilt, no looking up (or down) my nose at samples and samplers.

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Interesting question . . . the implication being that there's a strategy for sampling . . .

I always ask for a taste at the cheese counter. I won't buy anything I don't like the taste of. I'm not afraid to ask for several samples and not buy them.

I never used to get a sample. I saw the samplers as greedy and considered it beneath my dignity.

And then, as part of a general sort of plan to change my life approach I decided to consciously take every sample that is offered to me. Sort of a Zen exercise in openness. Most of these samples are really bad. A vegan cheesecake at Whole Foods stands out briskly in my mind. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking it spiritual practice akin to communion, the little cups are the same. Being one with The People, being open to Serendipity.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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I sample frequently at Central Market and feel no compulsion to buy. Not that I never buy, but I never experience pressure to buy beyond the obvious fact that they offer a sample in hopes you'll buy. Their products are generally very high quality, whether it's prepared foods, produce, bread, wine, coffee...whatever. So they offer a sample and some ideas about how to use it: you like it or not. Even if you like it you may not want to buy it or buy it that day. I have often seen a couple dozen people go by a sampling station without anyone buying.

Today I picked up a bottle of an Indian Vindaloo sauce that I had sampled yesterday. The cooking station foodie cooked it with chicken and florets of cauliflower and then finished it with mango chunks. Pretty good stuff. I have also bought a salad dressing after sampling at that station. But, other than bread and produce, I generally buy what I sample only - maybe - 1 out of 100 times.

No guilt, no looking up (or down) my nose at samples and samplers.

I should have mentioned that at Central Market stores here in Texas, you can sample almost anything. Wondering which of 3 types of pear is the best today, just ask anyone in the produce department and they'll usually offer to let you sample all of them. Which olive oil tastes best to you? Just ask to sample them if they do not offer first. Any cheese, just ask. I'm in a hurry and don't want to make a sauce tonight? Ask for ideas, and a foodie may take you to the large sauce, salsa and condiments bar and let you sample until you find one that suits you. Central Market has great customer service! Can you tell I'm a fan. Most employees are at the very least well-trained, pleasant and helpful, and many are good cooks with excellent palates.

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