Costco May Be Changing How You Enjoy Its Free Samples

Membership has its privileges. We're not talking about the Yacht Club or American Express, we're talking about Costco (of course). The retailer keeps people coming back by tantalizing customers with a number of smart strategies. While Costco's advantages come with an annual fee, once you're in, they are all available to you. Costco's formula has proven to be a winning strategy for drawing people in and keeping them loyal to the store, despite the slew of maddening things designed to keep you on your toes (and your wallet open) while shopping there.

Naturally, one of the things that members love at Costco is the food. Customers have become devoted to Costco's rotisserie chicken, food court, and most of all, the samples. Despite the crowds, people come to Costco at lunchtime since it's easy to assemble an impromptu lunch by traveling from one sample tray to another. Costco typically has an army of appetizers, snacks, and dips standing at the ready.

But it looks like the chain may be shaking up the system. An Instagram account focused on all things Costco caught a glimpse of a new type of sample server at one Washington store, with nary a human in sight. It's actually a sample kiosk.

Self-service samples

It's too early to tell if self-serve kiosks are the future of Costco. The specific branch with a kiosk may have been in response to being under-staffed, according to the Instagram account, but we can't help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come. Some fans questioned how a kiosk system would work, with one person suggesting, "Or scan your card to dispense one to make it fair" and another saying, "Don't like it because we live in a world where people are greedy and will not be courteous of others" (via Instagram).

As great as a sample kiosk is, it's not the same as being handed a warm, cheesy burrito sample in a mini paper cup and coming back for more, after making the rounds through the rest of the store. Some users touched on this sentiment, worried that the jobs of those who usually hand out samples might be in danger. One person wrote, "Most of our sample people were retired age folks. Like grandpas and grandmas. Even if that just gave them a tiny bit of extra income I would prefer that over this."

On the other hand, kiosks may be one way of making sure that some sampling will always be around, even in the eventuality of another pandemic — as 2020 saw almost no sampling at any Costco locations. And as much as customers love samples, retailers may love them even more since they help boost product sales. While we prefer people to machines, safe samples are something we can get behind.