When I was a kid, my father would devise a cheap lunch that consisted of taking me to Costco to snack on some free samples, and then we’d split the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo in the food court (it’s still $1.50 today—an amazing deal after taking inflation into account). This was done more out of necessity than frugality, though I was unaware of it at the time. I was more fixated on that fact that stores gave all those samples away for free.
The Atlantic writes that this is a tactic that actually boosts sales, builds loyalty, and occasionally gets people to buy things they wouldn’t have picked up at the store in the first place:
Ariely adds that free samples can make forgotten cravings become more salient. “What samples do is they give you a particular desire for something,” he says. “If I gave you a tiny bit of chocolate, all of a sudden it would remind you about the exact taste of chocolate and would increase your craving.”
But maybe the most interesting part of this story has less to do with the premise of the Atlantic article, which is to examine the psychology behind free samples; it’s about the labor behind free samples and you’d miss it if you didn’t read until the very end:
Welcome to the US of A, where you can get arrested for letting your nine-year-old play in the park while you go to work at McDonald’s. Spluttering with indignation? Let Conor Friederdorf of the Atlantic articulate your outrage for you. His skills are well-honed.
By arresting this mom (presumably causing her to lose her job) and putting the child in foster care, the state has caused the child far more trauma than she was ever likely to suffer in the park, whatever one thinks of the decision to leave her there. Even if the state felt it had the right to declare this parenting decision impermissible, couldn’t they have given this woman a simple warning before taking custody?
Also, even though it is against the law for your boss to tell you not to discuss your salary with your coworkers, odds are your boss will either not know that or not care. For that matter, you may well not know your rights, either. Let’s go over them, shall we?