Some U.S. locations have apparently stopped offering samples to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated March 09, 2020
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As the ongoing COVID-19, or coronavirus, outbreak has continued to spread around the globe, its impact on businesses has continued to grow as well. For instance, six weeks ago, Starbucks was closing thousands of locations in China, but by last week, concerns had hit American shores: The coffee giant announced it was temporarily prohibiting customers in the U.S. from getting their own reusable cups refilled. However, though the ramifications for most companies have been negative. (On the other hand, oat milk sales have spiked since the dairy alternative lasts longer than traditional milk.)

Costco is another company that’s seen both sides of the coronavirus coin: The wholesaler saw a self-described “big uptick in sales” at one point last month “related to the concerns over the coronavirus.” But the brand has also recently had to pull back on one of their most popular promotions over health concerns: Costco is reportedly temporarily ending free in-store samples over worries that a steady stream of hands repeatedly grabbing from the same surface could further spread the virus.

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Multiple sources have stated that neither Costco, nor Club Demonstration Services (CDS)—which runs Costco’s free samples program—have been willing to comment on the suspension of samples; however, Business Insider reports that CDS’s French affiliate told them that samples in the U.S. have been halted, and USA Today states that individual locations in California, Washington state, and Florida confirmed that their sample programs had been put on hold with no set return date. That said, it’s not clear whether samples have been pulled at all locations nationwide or only at some stores. (I have also reached out to Costco for confirmation and details and will update if or when I receive a response.)

The lack of samples in the wake of coronavirus concerns has certainly been a big topic of discussion on the r/Costco section of the social news site Reddit—which is where word of the sample suspension reportedly broke. One Reddit user, who claims to work at Costco, wrote that a member was so upset about the lack of samples he demanded a refund of his membership fee. That said, at least one shopper on Reddit apparently had a different take: “I must say shopping with no samples this Sunday was kind of blissful,” someone posted. “I moved like a ninja through the aisles with two kids in tow.”

Learn more about prepare your home kitchen and pantry during the coronavirus pandemic here.