Nature Has Healed: Costco Is Bringing Back Free Samples And Reopening Food Courts In June

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USA TODAY- Attention, Costco shoppers: Those free samples are about to make a complete comeback. The retailer revealed during its third quarter earnings call it will bring back full sampling as well as its food court and seating, in another sign of the U.S. slowly shifting toward normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richard Galanti, chief financial officer and executive vice president at Costco, said the retailer will introduce full sampling in phases.  About 170 of Costco's approximately 550 locations will bring back full sampling by the first week of June, with the rest of locations returning to full sampling by the end of June.

"Increased safety protocols are and will be in place, including all samples prepared behind plexiglass, prepared in smaller batches for better safety control and distribute it to members one at a time," said Galanti during the earnings call.

WE DID IT, WE DID IT, HUMANITY DID IT! For some absolutely outrageous reason that I'll never understand, Costco somehow became the marker of our battle with COVID-19.  Losing free samples was the moment we realized that life was about to change for the worse, people lining up for hours to horde comical amounts of bulk paper products showed that panic that had set in, and mamalukes losing their minds over mask rules was the beginning of the constant battles of people getting recorded for acting like absolute assholes in public.

But all that is over. Seeing the return of free samples and the food court is like the first flower blooming in a post-corona world as we slowly transition from Scar's Pride Rock to Simba's Pride Rock. In fact, I felt the first breeze of the winds of change when I was at Costco last Sunday (Yeah I'm not scared of going to Costco on a Sunday, even if the parking lot is the 7th circle of hell).

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The biggest winners in all this isn't even the Costco customers that get to sample some of the finest bulk food on the planet or the parents who can go shopping in peace since their kids are too busy gorging 10 different foods out of tiny cups. It's the sample people, who were planted firmly atop the popularity pyramid at Costco. People would line up to see them, laugh at their jokes, and even act like they would buy a 10 gallon jar of mustard just to get a free speck of food. Then the pandemic hit and the free sample people became the display people who cooked their food just to SHOW what it looked like, which placed them at the bottom of the popularity pyramid since they couldn't actually give it out for people to eat. Nobody deserves to do a 180 and go from the cool kid in school to the leper.


In typical Costco fashion, we got an extra large package of good news 

Costco also plans to bring back seating for food courts by next month, but it will be about half the seating capacity as it was before the pandemic. The tables will be spaced out to maintain physical separation, and seat a maximum of four people.

Kaboom! No more eating the greatest bargain in the universe ($1.50 for a mammoth Kirkland hot dog and fountain soda) in my car. Spaced out seating could be seen as a bummer since the Costco food court is always hopping since you can feed a family of four for like 10 bucks. But I never loved the crowdedness of the Costco food court anyway considering it was usually packed with people as well as their jam packed shopping carts. A little bit of room to breathe is a good thing.

However, there was no way I could prepare for the next tasty tidbit.

The retailer also plans to roll out new food items this summer as it expands its food court menu, including "new and improved churros" as well as high-end soft ice cream to replace their frozen yogurt, said Galanti. 

"New and improved churros"?!? How do you improve perfection? Did Costco send their food scientists into the lab overtime to pump out the greatest culinary creations the world will see? I'm honestly as a loss for words on how this is even possible. But that's fine because for the first time in more than a year, I finally feel like everything is going to be okay.

h/t Scott