In 2010, a Minnesotan named Erwin Lingitz was arrested in a Supervalu grocery store after spending an excessive amount of time at the deli counter. In the words of a Supervalu spokesperson, Lingitz had violated “societal norms and common customer understanding regarding free-sample practices.” While the charges were later dropped, the evidence remains incriminating: After a search, Lingitz was found to have stored in his pockets about a dozen soy sauce packets and “1.46 pounds of summer sausage and beef stick samples.”
Lingitz may have gotten carried away, but his impulse is more or less universal. People love free, people love food, and thus, people love free food. Retailers, too, have their own reasons to love sampling, from the financial (samples have boosted sales in some cases by as much as 2,000 percent) to the behavioral (they can sway people to habitually buy things that they never used to purchase).
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