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trader joes

People have clearly missed their free treats.

The COVID-19 pandemic had us waving a sad farewell to many of life’s modern conveniences. And where it certainly hasn’t been the worst loss, not having free samples at grocery stores has undoubtedly been a buzzkill. Sure, one can shop around without the enticing scent of hot, fresh artisan pizza cut into tiny slices or testing out the latest fancy ice cream … but is it as joyful? Not so much.

Trader Joe’s, famous for its prepandemic sampling stations, has recently brought the tradition back to life, and customers are practically dancing through the aisles.


On the big comeback weekend, people flocked to social media to share images and videos of their free treats, including festive Halloween cookies (because who doesn’t love TJ’s holiday themed items?) along with hopeful messages for the future.

“Apparently the COVID pandemic is really over,” one person tweeted.

“The end of the pandemic is nigh!!!!!!,” another added, right next to a picture of their free granola sample.

Some even got genuinely emotional. “The sample station is officially BACK after the last several years at Trader Joe’s and I am not kidding when I say that I shed a genuine tear. One of life’s greatest pleasures,” commented one person.

Trader Joe’s is certainly not the first to bring back free samples. Costco, Sam’s Club and Whole Foods have previously brought them back using different COVID precautions. But Trader Joe’s fanatics are just a different breed—the store has its own cult-like following, so of course the response to seeing its quirky snacks laid out again is going to get an overwhelmingly positive response.

As CNN pointed out, sampling is a major sales strategy not only for retailers, but for small, up-and-coming brands trying to raise awareness (as a former demo girl, I can also attest to this). The return of this beloved staple also signals opportunities for startup food companies to recover. Basically—a win for TJ’s, a win for startups and a win for sample-hungry shoppers yearning for simple comforts. Win, win, win.

Sometimes the best news is bite-sized.

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