Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Free Samples at Costco - Tustin

Really? Am I really about to blog about Costco samples? Yes, Virginia, I am. If you consider this as this blog’s “jump-the-shark” moment, I will argue with you that the shark was jumped many moons ago. Next week, I might just start talking about grilled cheese (if you know what that’s in reference to, consider yourself a seasoned food blog follower).

But admit it: if you’re a Costco member, you relish zig-zagging through the aisles picking up a taste of this, a nibble of that, a sip of something else—all for free. It is in our nature as economic creatures to be cheapskates, to gravitate to things that we can get for nothing. Even The Simpsons, the most reliable mirror on our culture, had an opening sequence parodying our collective but unspoken love of free samples.

As soon as I get in the store, those stations appear in my peripheral vision as if they glowed white hot under night-vision goggles. I make a beeline to them like a pig trained to root out truffles, or a divining rod to water.

Some of you will rightly point out that sampling isn’t actually free. You fork over the yearly membership, so you’re technically paying for the experience. And as a selling tool, it works. Costco wants you to take full advantage, because they know the more you taste-test free samples, the more likely you are to buy a whole year’s supply of GoGurt.

Never in a thousand years would I have believed that the Harris Ranch pot roast would be any good until I took a sample. Now I buy it almost regularly. And hemp seeds? They taste rather good. Am I going to buy a whole sack? Not really, but I’m glad to know what they taste like. It goes the other way too. Though it should be common knowledge, I can confirm from sampling that the sushi rolls should be avoided. The rice is more like gluey paste.

To make this post somewhat useful for those of you who still think this blog could be useful, here’s a piece of Costco trivia that I bet you didn’t know: To find out whether your favorite item is about to be discontinued, look for an asterisk or a plus sign on the upper right hand corner of the price label. Any item with a price that ends in a “7” is also likely to become history. If you see any of these indicators on a product you like, you’ll know that that’s the time to buy the year’s supply.

So there you go.

Next week, another post, another shark to be jumped.

2700 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782
(714) 338-1933

Class 302 - Irvine


At 6:45 PM, Blogger caroline said...

I couldn't not read this post, and then it made me laugh out loud! Thank you! :)

At 9:37 PM, Blogger caninecologne said...

Dude, I am thrilled that you went HERE with this post!

i normally skip out on the free samples but my daughter likes them occasionally depending on what they are.

and good to know about the 'trivia' too. i hope they never discontinue aidell's chicken teriyaki and pineapple meatballs.

At 11:37 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Definitely good to know about the trivia! I haven't tried that many samples in one visit yet.

My most memorable recent sample would be the (Seapak) shrimp scampi, which was served on a piece of hard crusted bread. There was literally a crowd waiting for the shrimp to be served.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger dumplings said...


I am glad to see that you're still finding the time to keep this blog going!

The free samples I enjoy the most are when temporary booths visit certain local Costcos. I remember the sausage booth, Lee's Sandwich booth, and Popcornopolis!

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous JB said...

Was that the same Simpsons episode that produced one of my favorite scenes ever.....
the one where they go to Monstro Mart (i.e. Costco) and after Barney crashes into an end cap display of cranberry juice, everyone in the store starts drowning?

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

I was gonna say this reminded me of the classic Elmo post on IKEA's 99 cent breakfast.

And I did understand the grilled cheese reference so I think we've both been around too long. :P

My sister calls Costco sampling eating "dim sum."

At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy these quarky posts. They are much more entertaining. A great take and perspective on the seemingly ordinary and mundane. How about posting on sports arena food or even your favorite movie theater snack from the concession stand? :-)

At 9:13 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I was hoping it would, at the very least, make someone laugh! So I'm glad it did!


Aidell's sausages are excellent. I actually ended up buying a few. Any of those sausages make a great bangers and mash!


OOOH! Shrimp scampi on bread?! I missed that one. I remember they sampled a roasted lamb leg once. You almost thought they were giving out money!


I remember Lee's doing its coffee tour. Now *that* was surprising. Unfortunately, I've not seen their coffee in the stores since. For the record: Popcornopolis' kettle corn cones are way too dangerously addictive.


I believe so. My memory is hazy on the rest of the episode. But it's the one where Homer figures out that if it's on a toothpick, it's free. So he sticks a whole ham on one.


Thanks, as always, for the nice comment. I knew the OG food bloggers like you would get the reference! And it is like dim sum isn't it?! Sometimes they even have tea...albeit, some sickly sweet fruit tea, but it's tea!


Thanks for the nice note. But I'm ay ahead of you! I did the food at Angel's Stadium for OC Weekly a few years ago. That was quite fun!


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