The days of leisurely strolling through Costco and sampling free food may be over. Temporarily, at least.
As cases of the new coronavirus (which results in the disease COVID-19) continue to spread, Costco is reportedly taking precautionary measures and suspending free food samples in select stores.
On Friday, Business Insider reported that certain Costco stores in the U.S. and China have suspended free samples. It remains unclear if free samples will be suspended in all U.S. stores or simply those in areas significantly impacted by the coronavirus, but USA Today notes that Costco stores in California, Washington, and Florida are unsure when they’ll start offering free samples again.
Recently, Costco shoppers have been mocked online for snacking on samples amidst the coronavirus panic. And on Thursday night, some Reddit users claimed that Costco was starting to suspend samples in stores.
God bless the 100% of people doomsday prepping at Costco right now and still eating the little food samples sitting out for everyone to touch!
— Maureen Beat (@artxltd) March 4, 2020
A Reddit post called “Samples suspended until further notice!” was shared by someone who claimed their mother-in-law is a sample server for Club Demonstration Services (CDS) at Costco in Santa Maria, California. Per the website, CDS is the “in-house marketing provider to Costco” known for using face-to-face interaction to engage and inform customers about products.
“Today [she] was told they will not be serving samples for the foreseeable future. Costco is allowing CDS workers to work at the warehouse in various other capacities until samples are resumed,” the Reddit post continued.
An Instagram post from @costcodeals also claimed that another sample server from CDS confirmed that samples are suspended at the moment.
While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that there’s no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through food, it’s still a problem because customers have to interact with the people handing out the food.
Coronaviruses are reportedly spread from person to person by close contact, respiratory droplets, or touching an infected surface. That’s why washing your hands and refraining from touching your face are such important preventative measures, and it’s also why free samples are being viewed as a bit of a risk.
Costco isn’t the only grocery chain reevaluating its sample procedures. A recent Trader Joes memo to employees, which was viewed by Business Insider, reportedly calls for changes in the way free samples are handed out in stores.
“Serve samples with a fork or spoon, so customers do not need to use their hands to eat the sample,” the memo instructs.
While it’s sad to see free samples go, with more than 101,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, it’s clear why extra caution is being taken.
Mashable reached out to both Costco and Club Demonstration Services for comment, and will update this article if we receive responses.
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