Spending

Costco is bringing back its sample stations this week

Plus, Costco is reopening its food courts.

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Costco is bringing back sampling stations at 170 of its roughly 550 locations this week. The highly anticipated move comes almost 14 months after the warehouse club suspended sample stations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is not the only change the retailer is making as it eases Covid restrictions. By June 7, Costco will reopen all of its food courts at 50% capacity with social distancing. It will also offer new food items on its menu, including a new, bigger, dough-braided churro, which will cost 50 cents more than the previous version, and soft-serve ice cream.

The return of samples has many Costco shoppers excited. "Samples are back at Costco and this might be the happiest I've been in 15 months!" Scripps national correspondent Chris Conte tweeted.

Sam's Club, other stores offering samples again, too

Sam's Club is bringing back sampling at all 600 locations this week, the warehouse club announced Monday. The company is also relaunching its demo program, Taste & Tips, where consumers can sample foods and review them in stores. For now, demos will only be held on weekends with sealed samples and limited quantities.

Regional chain Stew Leonard's resumed demos this week, a company representative tells Grow. Samples are being offered in some stores now too. However, the olive bars and buffet bars will remain closed.

Hot and cold food bars at regional grocer Wegmans also remain closed. A spokesperson told WIVB "currently, we do not have plans to bring the self-serve bars back in their traditional way."

BJ's Wholesale Club, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's did not respond to requests for comment.

Is supermarket sampling safe?

You should still be cautious when visiting supermarkets and eating in crowds, especially if you are not vaccinated, says Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. 

"We know the main transmission is airborne," he says. "The risk comes from having your mask down and eating. Recall that restaurants have been main spreading events."

If you want to sample something in a store, try not to have your mask off for too long. And make sure the workers handing out the samples are taking proper precautions, he says: "To get life back to normal, we would need vaccinations to continue and to practice safety, especially for those passing out the samples."

At Costco, those handing out samples will be behind plexiglass. At both Sam's Club and Costco, employees who are fully vaccinated will not have to wear a mask unless it is state mandated.

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