July 16, 2010
Every time I go to the grocery store now there are women giving away samples. It’s odd because it seems like the only time the sample pushers used to be out was on either Saturday or Sunday, but now if I run to the grocery store at nine o’clock on Wednesday night because I’m out of milk and also bored and there’s nothing good on television to watch, so I might as well use being out of milk as an excuse to kill the hour before bedtime, there’ll be some woman in a shower cap and protective eyewear standing just inside the grocery store entrance. And she’ll say, "Would you like to try some mango pie?" Or at least that’s what she says to everybody else. For some reason they never offer me samples. Maybe it’s because I’ve got that "I’m just here to buy milk" look even when I’ve got a grocery list three feet long. Maybe I’ve got that "I’m not going to buy it no matter what it is" look, but how do they really know I won’t? Maybe I haven’t come there specifically looking for jalapeno crab dip but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be tempted by it, even at nine o’clock at night on Wednesday. And they always give me the same look. It’s a look I’m very familiar with. It’s the same look I get when from someone when I’m, for instance, passing through the women’s shoe section of a store. Some woman who works there will give me that look right before she says, "May I help you?" And I usually say no thank you, and sometimes I’ll even add that I’m on the way to the men’s shoe section. And we both know that "May I help you?" really means "You look like you don’t belong here. You’d better be on your way somewhere else or I’ll call security." It’s because I know that’s what it means that I’m often tempted to stop and ask something like, "Do these pumps come in aubergine?"
But the women giving away samples never ask if they can help me. They never say anything to me, which is odd because I think the samples are intended for everyone. As far as I know they’re not working on commission, but isn’t it part of their job to try and get people to buy whatever they’re pushing? If it didn’t matter they could just slice up a bunch of the guacamole and pepperoni taquito wraps and set them out unattended. Recently I did see an unattended sample tray. Well, technically it wasn’t unattended, since a guy who looked like Bob Denver was standing next to it eating all the samples, but that’s another story. Once in a while I’ve been bold enough to go up to a sample table and try something, and the women handing out samples are usually nice and will tell me that whatever it is they’re pushing is on sale. That, of course, is where things get really confusing because the sample tables are always as far away from the item being promoted as possible. The woman handing out the pepper dusted salmon quesadillas is standing right in front of the cereal aisle, while the woman with the huckleberry yogurt granola chunks is in front of the meat department. That’s why, as I’m working my way through the vegetable department, I’m tempted to say to the woman handing out deep-fried bacon wrapped around a cube of cheddar, "That looks pretty good. Does it come in aubergine?"