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21 Secrets Costco’s Free Sample Employees Wish You Knew

Yes, we see you coming back for seconds.

The best part of shopping at Costco

The best part of shopping at Costco is easily the free samples. A snack while you shop, what could be better? There’s a reason they are both a Costco staple and fan favorite. These are the secrets about the free samples that Costco employees wish you knew—and these are the 6 things you won’t see in Costco anymore.

Saleswoman Holding Cutting Board With Various Cheese
Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

We know you come back more than once…

“I’ll have customers come up six times and ask me each time if I think [my sample] tastes good. Usually, around five or six, I’ll say, ‘You tell me!'” a former Reddit user who spent six months as a Costco sample employee.  Check out these amazing Costco shopping perks that only members know about.

Salesman Holding Cutting Board With Assorted Cheese
Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

…and yes, it’s ok

“Feel free to take more than one sample, especially if you take the time to talk with us. As long as you don’t take an entire tray or take three when there’s a crowd, you’re more than welcome to take multiple samples. Our job is to give them out, so don’t feel bad for taking them.” —Reddit user rivanio, a former Costco free sample employee

Melbourne, Australia - Oct 26, 2017: Neatly arranged bakery on the shelves in Costco supermarket.

Don’t ask me where the bread is

“Costco rearranges its products almost daily. And the actual reason is because they want to provide a ‘treasure hunt atmosphere’ to their members. This leaves them wandering around aimlessly, and before they know it, their cart is full and they don’t know how it got that way. This is an actual Costco marketing scheme. We’ve all fallen victim to it.
“Because of this, we do know where the basic things are (milk, deli, chips, etc.), but they move everything else around as much as they can. This is why we’re usually clueless. Most actual Costco employees are clueless as well. They just send you in a direction with confidence. Whereas we’re honest with our cluelessness.” —Reddit user Number1dad, a former Costco free sample employee. Learn some more surprising secrets Costco employees aren’t telling you.

Senior woman sitting outside on a wooden bench and rests. Hands of a woman pensioner holding a walking stick.

Working with all elderly people can be great

“I was one of the first younger people to get hired on at my store, so… I did [feel young] with all the elderly workers, but most of them were super cool! It was like I had 15 grandmas looking after me. I still go back and visit them regularly.” —Reddit user ROBaddict, who worked as a Costco free sample employee for two years

“I’m 20. The majority of my coworkers are 60-plus-year-old women. And they’re all golden girls. Love ’em.” Number1dad

glass of milk on white background

We know some of the samples are gross

“I had Lactose Free milk, which was awful, and no one tried it. Also, Purple Carrot baby food… no one will try either of them.” former Reddit user.  Gross samples are just a small portion of some of the bizarre things you didn’t know you could get at Costco.

Burbank, CA, USA: July 27, 2016: Costco Wholesale recently reported that their earnings per share growth will be 12.90% over the next five years.
Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

Pressuring you to buy stuff makes us uncomfortable, too

“We have to [do that]. And if we seem forceful, a manager is nearby and watching us. We hate that part of the job.”Number1dad

Cups of waffle samples

We’re never fully out of salesperson mode

“I’ve had a friend mention cinnamon bread… that I’ve sampled, and it sort of triggered something in my head and I accidentally starting talking to them as if they [were] a customer.” former Reddit user

Hands of person proposing money to you - closeup shot
Sergey Mironov/Shutterstock

We don’t make more money if you sample more

“We could literally sell every unit Costco has of a product and we wouldn’t see a dime more. We get a pretty good hourly wage though… If we personally sell over the warehouse goal on average throughout a pay period (two weeks), we get scheduled more. If our warehouse (the sample team) collectively is above the warehouse goal, our supervisor gets a bonus. We do not get any monetary commission for doing well.” rivanio. Here’s the truth about how much Costco employees get paid.

fresh cheese tastings with toothpicks in the cheese shop over the cutting board

Yes, we do eat them

“Oh of course [I eat them], but only when I’m on my break. At my store, you can be fired for eating a sample while you’re working.” former Reddit user

Chef's hands with knife cutting a cheese on the wooden board for sandwich, italian pizza or snack in the kitchen. Preparation for cooking. Healthy eating and lifestyle. Food concept.

And we sneak stuff home!

“Could I [take home leftovers]? Not technically. Could I give my brother that was walking by a large portion of my extra product? Yes.” ROBaddict.   Especially if the sample is of one of these Kirkland items you should always buy at Costco.

Catering dish up food, Chinese dumplings with sauce. Paper dish with dumpling in one hand and spoon with sauce in another hand.

We wish you wouldn’t dine and dash

“We are obligated to try to sell our samples to you, not just give them out for free. If you’re going to take a sample, and especially if you take two, just humor us and listen to our little speech.  [And] there’s nothing nicer you can do than say ‘thank you.’ You’d be surprised how many people just waddle over to us, shove things in their mouth, and stumble away. We thrive on the rare times people treat us like human beings and not human vending machines.” rivanio

Advertising, Business, Food, Health Concept - Offering food samples to customers in shop. Smoked tuna on a wooden stick. Select focus
anucha maneechote/Shutterstock

We very rarely sell out of product

“Selling out means that there are zero left in the store. Sometimes the display next to me would run out and I’d get super excited but then a worker comes with a whole new pallet of product. I’d only seen two people completely sell out by the time I left.” —Reddit user CostcoSampleGirl, who spent eight months as a Costco free sample employee.

Economy GDP, Mountain View, USA
Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Standing for hours on end gets rough

“[We have to stand for] six hours. We get a fifteen-minute break and a half-hour [lunch]. It’s uncomfortable. Your knees sometimes swell. We get stiff mats to stand on. We can’t walk anywhere out of our twelve-foot space. I appreciate sitting.” Number1dad. It’s not all bad, though. There are perks to the surprising secrets one former Costco employee learned while working there.

Earns Costco, Mountain View, USA
Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

It’s a good seasonal job…

“If you need extra money, it’s a good place to work on the side if you can manage it.”ROBaddict

Closeup of Woman Completing Application Form

…that’s not too difficult to get

“My advice to someone applying for the job? Know how to sell. You’re not going to have much competition; 90 percent of my coworkers were women in their 50s-70s. They’re going to ask you how you will sell a product. Give a good example and you’re in. Also, you have a required drug test, so if you do drugs, do not apply.” CostcoSampleGirl  Watch out for the things you should never, ever buy at Costco.

HOUSTON, TX, US-SEPT 16, 2017:Customers walk in with cart at Costco entrance. Costco Wholesale Corporation is largest membership-only warehouse club in US. It has total of 705 warehouses worldwide
Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

Saturday is the best time to go

“Saturdays and Sundays will always have the most samples. If you want unlimited amounts of samples and no lines, go on a Monday or Tuesday, but there are less to choose from. On the weekends, go right around 1:00 or 2:00 because all shifts are out at that time.” former Reddit user

“Try to avoid coming on Sunday. Everyone and their dog comes into Costco on Sunday, usually after church. Unless you enjoy waiting for ten minutes in a crowd of people, of course.”rivanioWhile you’re there on Saturday, be sure to grab some of the foods nutritionists always buy at Costco.

Biden Economy, Washington, USA
Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock

We’re technically not Costco employees

“We don’t technically work for Costco, believe it or not. We work for a contracted company called WDS (Warehouse Demo Services)*. But we only stay in one store.

“WDS treats us fairly well. Costco employees get treated MUCH better. We don’t get any benefits and get $11 an hour with only a $.25 raise every year. Costco employees get full benefits and frequent raises. I’ve applied at Costco many times to no avail.” Number1dad

*This company was called Warehouse Demo Services when this Reddit user worked at Costco, but they changed their name to “Club Demonstration Services” in late 2014. So nowadays, Costco free sample employees work for Club Demonstration Services, but it’s the same company.

Broken piece of dark chocolate in child's hands.

People do take the whole tray (and more)

“Once I was giving out Ferrero Rocher [chocolates] and this 15-year-old took nine trays’ worth. That was 63 candies and about 50 bucks’ worth of product, right into his pockets…He kept asking if he could have more. We’re told not to say no, and he figured that out. He stopped because I was scowling at him. [This] story is unique because it’s extreme, but people taking loads of samples is not really unique, and I’m not really fazed anymore.”rivanio

Earns Costco, Seattle, USA
Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock

We still shop at Costco

“I’ve always been a fan of Costco samples. I still enjoy them. And bulk goods. But I am kind of jaded at this point.” Number1dad. It’s not just the samples that are inexplicably amazing—learn the secret to why Costco’s pizza tastes so delicious.

Liquor Privatization Washington, Seattle, USA
Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock

It’s not as good a job as it might seem

“On the surface, it sounds great. Stand in one place giving people free food. If that was the job, it probably would be good. However, our job is to sell the food to you. So, while we’re either making or giving samples out, we have to convince you to put the package in your cart.

“Combine that with people who don’t say thank you, having samples spit onto the tray or the table or (maybe) the garbage, people demanding to know where things are and scowling when we say we don’t know, being called horrible things on an occasional basis, and no benefits, I’m pretty sure there are better jobs in the world.” rivanio


People love cheese and chocolate

“I’d say that anytime we bake brownies, it’s like we’re giving out [drugs]. In terms of how many people actually buy though, [the most popular product] would probably be the multigrain tortilla chips. We also sell a lot of steak strips.”rivanio

“Most popular is probably anything cheese-related. Who doesn’t want to try free cheese? That and anything cooked hot—cookies, hot pockets, pot stickers. We demonstrated each of those at least once a week; they smell SO good cooking.” ROBaddict.  Whether or not you’re buying the samples after trying them a few times (a lot of times), be sure you are checking out these things you aren’t buying at Costco—but totally should be.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.