There's a certain kind of etiquette we all stick to when buying groceries. Sure, people love debating over personal preferences—the type of shopping cart they choose, pulp vs. no pulp orange juice, or where to find the best deals. But, in general, we all agree on how to behave at the store.
That said, a grocery-store debate recently proved to super divisive amongst my friends. Everyone was firmly in one camp or the other. The debate in question? Whether it's okay to sample grapes at the store before you buy them.
Half the group said it's disgusting and unsanitary. Plus, it's technically stealing from the store. The other half said that if they’re spending that much for fresh produce, there’s no harm in trying a few grapes before buying a big bunch.
There's isn't really consistency on the rules from store to store. For example, in New Jersey, where I live, some stores let you husk fresh summer corn on the cob so you can see what you’re buying. Other stores take a firm stance against customers doing this. So how is an everyday consumer to know what to do or not to do? After Covid and social distancing, everything has changed, especially the way we buy food. But for something as small as a grape, why can't we come to a general consensus? It’s become such “a thing” that even The Simpsons did a joke about it. It's clear which side Lisa is on.
People who are anti-sampling argue that it can be challenging to find a bag of grapes that clearly hasn't been opened. And what if someone sneezed or coughed into their hand, then reached in to sample the grapes, but didn't buy them? It goes without saying to always wash fruits and veggies before eating them. But there’s still an ick factor around strangers touching your food.
On the flip side, pro-sampling people maintain that it doesn't matter because grapes are so small. What does a single grape cost, a penny? Plus, food is getting really, really expensive, and it's difficult to tell how sweet or sour a bunch grapes are just by looking at them. They're often sold by the pound, so it doesn’t matter if one grape is gone.
The debate can go beyond grapes and can also apply to berries. But grapes, for whatever reason, seem to be the most common (and controversial) fruit when it comes to sneaking samples.
Some folks in the grocery industry were more than happy to chime in. Susan Morris, Chief Operations Officer for Albertsons Companies, which operates Safeway, Shaw’s, ACME, and more, said, “We’d love for customers to sample our grapes! To help maintain a sanitary environment, however, feel free to ask one of our store employees for assistance before digging in. Plus, he or she may be a great resource for deciding which grapes are best to buy depending on the season or your recipe needs. Cotton Candy grapes are my favorite!”
Laurie McCann, who worked at ShopRite customer service for over 40 years, said what's probably on many grocery store owners’ minds: “I can’t imagine that the owners are thrilled about customers eating their profits. But as long as they aren't eating the whole bag, store employees will tend to look the other way when it comes to tasting a grape or two.”
The bottom line? An employee won’t report you for sampling a grape, but for good etiquette and peace of mind, simply ask them before tasting anything. With high inflation, store employees tend to understanding that you want to make sure you like what you buy. A little courtesy—for both your fellow customers and the store owners—will go a long way.
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