sampling Whole Foods

by Jasper on April 24, 2009

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I think that Whole Foods is great! I know that people sometimes call it “whole paycheck,” and there’s no doubt that I couldn’t afford to shop there for all of my food. Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is also a Whole Foods admirer. We both agree that it’s worth shopping there only for three reasons: for last-minute shopping when you’re desperate, for those almost impossible-to-find elsewhere things or for items that you actually want that go on super sale. Otherwise, forget it!

That said, there is something magical about the place. The one near where I work is almost fully staffed with this insane array of super trendy, heavily tattooed and pierced model types. It’s a bit intimidating but also really exciting to see these folks up close. The store is really pleasant and I find it to be a very relaxing mid-afternoon break from the hum-drum office routine. Really though, the main reason that I find myself back there several times a week is the generous sampling of their products on offer. Mmm mmm mmm!

typical Whole Foods cheese sample

typical Whole Foods cheese sample

Just this past Monday, I went with a work colleague around 3:30 or 4PM to check out the samples. We hit the jackpot! There were three tables set up peopled by vendors that do business with Whole Foods. Two separate selections of power bars were offered by two different vendors and the third offered something too healthy for me to try, so I passed. There were three kinds of cheeses to nibble. The olive bar was fully stocked with an ample supply of toothpicks to taste to excess. There were fruits, three kinds of crackers that were cutely shaped into butterflies and at least one bread sample.

I’ve been sampling on other days and tried freshly baked pizza; cookies, cakes and pies; coffee, teas, juices; designer chips, popcorn or pretzels; several types of roasted, boiled or smoked fish. Though I do not eat it myself, my friends have sampled various meats and cold cuts. My group always seems to end up in the wine section. And though my Whole Foods offers occasional wine samples, there are never quite enough and they’re not exactly free. California law requires that they charge a fee; but it’s just a token, only 25 cents.

a Whole Foods olive bar

a Whole Foods olive bar

Whole Foods sampling can really cut down on the afternoon stomach pangs. I’ve gone so overboard on cookies in the past (I love the ones with the large colorful sugar crystals on the top) that I lose me appetite for dinner. I think that there’s a Whole Foods sampling culture just under the radar. Several women from my office go en mass daily at about the same time to sample. You’ll hear them saying to each other, “Let’s go sampling!”
It’s always more fun to sample with others. Then you can compare and contrast the samples with other days and be doubly, no, triply sure that you like the product on display today, before sampling it again. Though I prefer the expression, “Ready for some retail therapy?” or abbreviated simply,” retail?” when planning my visits to the store with friends. I think that it sounds more like going for a spa treatment or a beneficial mental health intervention that way.

fruit selection at Whole Foods

fruit selection at Whole Foods


If you think that you might be interested in sampling your Whole Foods, you should know that the best sampling is not usually at the most popular times for shopping. Mid mornings and mid afternoons on weekdays are generally good. I’m not sure about weekends. Also not every Whole Foods offers this service. The one by my friend, David’s place, for example, rarely has samples.

If your neighborhood Whole Foods offers samples, you should check it out!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Xanthe Asher April 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

This is a charming tip, about sampling! I hate that California law requires that they charge a fee;you did mention it’s just a token, only 25 cents. They have this wierd CA fee if you eat a salad or hot food bought in the store. It’s a tax for eating at the grocery store! It’s not enough that they take your whole paycheck, but they bring California Law into it too! Oh my! It’s still great food though you have to admit it’s kinda worth it!
“Let’s go sampling!” That is so cute! It’s sort of mischievous. It’s like window shopping but you actually get to take something tangible away with out having to pay! Tempting.
I love how the best times are mentioned like the off-rush hour shoping periods. It’s true about not all Whole foods offering the samples cause that one near Potrero Hill is sample free. GRRRRRRR!

Charlie C April 28, 2009 at 3:51 am

The Whole Foods in Boulder is HUGE and has an amazing buffet of samples throughout the store. A friend of mine would “go to lunch” at Whole Foods on her break, grazing her way through the store on samples. I think it’s nice to have lunch on them sometimes… WF SHOULD treat us every once in a while for putting up with their ridiculous prices! It’s sampling therapy!

Clarence April 30, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Dear Charlie,

I so agree with you! Plus you get to develop a taste for their things and then you come back for more.

Deby Wozniak May 2, 2009 at 3:11 am

Whole foods is great, but it sounds like to me that we are a bunch of fat winos that may really need to go to the gym and rehab.

Although, if Whole Foods decided to do a joint venture with 24 hour fitness, maybe the 25 cent fee for wine tasting could be waived (at least for the first 6 months). Hmmmm……

Jasper May 2, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Linking Whole Foods with 24 hour fitness sounds like a brilliant way to cross market! One place works it on; the other, off.

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