I’d never before been chased down by a demonstration person at retail.

Don't skimp on the samples, please

Pamela Riemenschneider
Aisle Wandering

But this guy wasn’t going to be denied.

We were shopping at H.E. Butt last weekend and a produce clerk tracked me down and insisted I try some empire apples from New York. He even sent a few extra bites for us to nibble as we shopped.

As a self-proclaimed apple snob, I was prepared to turn him down, thinking of all the boutique varieties I love. Something as simple as an empire couldn’t possibly be as good as a fresh Minnesota Honeycrisp, could it?

Well, I was wrong.  They were excellent. So much so that I took at least 5 pounds of them home and went back looking for more midweek. 

Around the next corner, the sushi person was pushing her tempura rolls and down in the meat department they had Cajun sausage.

That’s the thing about a good sample. A good sample is more than just a snack on your way through the department. It can change your meal plan for the evening on the spot.

Want to sell a couple of cases of spinach?  Demo it with a good, sweet vinaigrette.  Need to move some butternut squash?  Show me how to make it.

This is what scares me when I hear that Sam’s Club is cutting back on its sampling. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is cutting its army of 10,000 samplers and outsourcing the jobs to a marketing firm.

This isn’t to say I don’t think a marketing firm will do a sufficient job doling out the tasty shopping snacks, but I’m just worried that other retailers will follow this example and decide the best place to cut corners is to stop handing out slices of goodness in their produce aisles.

Sure, in-store demos aren’t free, but they’re not exactly expensive, either.

People also remember which stores give out the tasty snacks.  I know I’m much more likely to hit a Whole Foods at lunch hour when I remember the in-house guacamole they always seem to have available for a quick bite.

When you’ve got something really great — like those excellent empire apples — people come back for more.

E-mail pamelar@thepacker.com

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