What The Sample Lady Won’t Tell You

Max Banner

Grocery samples are an invention of the devil; it’s mentioned in the Book of Revelations. “And a toothpick of fire shall cleave portions of a pepperoni pizza reeking of sulfur, and tongues and roofs of mouths shall be burnt lightly, and shops shall close early for the holidays.” So sure, go over and eat that stuff, but don’t be surprised when green goo starts pouring out of your eyeballs.

An old friend of mine used to hand out free samples, except he was a car salesman so it didn’t work so well. “Here, try this brake pad,” he’d say. Half the people would try to eat it, and the others would have to spend all this money to install the brake pad in their current car, so they didn’t have enough left to buy the new one. My friend got fired from selling cars and started working for the National Park Service, where he handed out eagles to the people who walked by.

Some samples can be good luck, though. Martin Van Buren and John C. Calhoun went for groceries one night and the sample lady offered them a taste of anti-Bank cheese. Van Buren took a sample and gained the support of anti-Bank cheese merchants. Calhoun, who hated cheese for supporting the tariff, forced by custom to take a small piece. He was outmaneuvered yet again, and his political career was never the same.

Sample ladies will never tell you any of this, it’s forbidden. (Or, in Germany, it’s verboten.) Here’s what else: they also can’t tell you any of the nutrition facts about the product. “You have to look at the label,” they’ll say. They can tell you nutrition rumors, though, such as: “I don’t know if this is true or not, but I heard this has polysorbate 80 in it.” It’s all because they’re so insecure about the fact that they only do samples, so they fight back by being really strict about the sample rules. But try getting into a fight with one, you’ll be in the hospital for a week recovering from numerous toothpick-related injuries.

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