The Dark Truth About Costco's Free Samples

You can sense the attraction of Costco as soon as you wheel your oversized cart through its giant warehouse doors. Your favorite foods and electronics are stacked to the ceiling at unbeatable prices. Hot dogs sell for a dollar fifty and a slice of pizza costs just two dollars at the lunch counter, per Fast Food Menu Prices. Free samples are stationed throughout all the food aisles.

Costco's free food samples are arguably one of the biggest perks. By the time you finish strolling by the giant bags of frozen vegetables and huge displays of beer and liquor, you'll have collected enough free samples for a full meal. And the demonstration workers don't mind if you come back for seconds.

But is Costco taking advantage of the workers who give out tasty treats? While the wholesale retail store hasn't given out food samples since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been criticized in the past for using demonstrators who get paid low wages.

Costco demonstrators only get paid $13 an hour

As reported by Glassdoor, the average Costco food demonstrator receives only $13 per hour and no benefits. This is in stark contrast to full-time Costco employees, who receive an average of $24 an hour, not including overtime, via GOOD Inc.

Bloomberg Businessweek also reported in 2013 that about 88 percent of the store's employees have company-sponsored health insurance. In 2018 interviews with Business Insider, employees raved about the 401k match and vacation time as well.

Why is there such a big difference in salary between food demonstrators and Costco employees? As explained in a HuffPost report, Costco does not directly employ demonstrators. Instead, contracting companies such as Club Demonstration Services hire and pay these workers. They are required to work part-time in six-and-a-half hour shifts and their hourly rate increases by just 25 cents per year. These employees are said to account for ten percent of in-store Costco workers, though this number has been debated.

Whether you blame Costco or Club Demonstration Services for the low wages of food sample workers, it's important to know how the system works. While free samples may return to your local Costco in the near future, according to Daily Hive, the low wages of demonstrators won't change anytime soon.