Freebies are often the best part of grocery shopping, but COVID-19 forced grocers far and wide to stop handing out free samples in stores. Luckily, those terrible pandemic days are behind us and many of the dearly missed perks are making a comeback.
Trader Joe’s made waves on social media this summer as shoppers reported seeing food samples at locations across the country. A store in Coral Springs, Fla. announced their return for October 1, while a shopper from Virginia said their location was already handing out free apple cider donuts. While the company hasn’t yet confirmed this development, CNN piled onto the excitement with a report about granola and Halloween cookies being handed out at some locations this past weekend.
Unfortunately, the outlet also reported that some of the best in-store freebies are still missing, and may not be returning after all—at least not on a nationwide scale. While single-serve snacks and treats will be available for customers to try, hot coffee won’t be returning as a free in-store perk, according to employees at New York and California locations.
A Reddit user claiming to work at Trader Joe’s accurately predicted that we had seen the last of free coffee samples, writing: “Crew here. I’ve been told coffee won’t be returning which I totally get. Way too many customers abused it.”
Additionally, live food demos will return to select Trader Joe’s locations, but will not be making a nationwide comeback. Trader Joe’s did not respond to requests for more information on these changes.
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Known for affordable prices and creative in-house offerings, Trader Joe’s has always marketed itself as more of an experience than just a grocery store. Free samples and live cooking demonstrations had always been a big part of that identity, which could now be in jeopardy.
Besides Trader Joe’s, free in-store samples and live food demos were a common sight at warehouse savings clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club prior to COVID-19. Since 2020, each brand has brought back in-store samples at its own pace. Freebies returned to Costco in 2021, but they are now handed out by employees from behind plexiglass barriers.
Whole Foods, meanwhile, offers only prepackaged free samples in cities or states with a mask mandate currently in place. If there is no local mask mandate, open samples are offered.
This content was originally published here.