The Costco Tragedy

We can all agree living through a pandemic blows.

From sickness and death to isolation and depression, it’s been one eternal slog of shit. You think hope is coming, then it dims. You think the nation’s attitude is improving, then you see some maskless bobo strutting through the toothpaste aisle of your nearby CVS.

It’s the worst.

In a nation of 330 million, however, I do believe we can all agree there is one COVID-19 byproduct that is—hands down—the absolute worst.

The end of free samples at Costco.


The Costco free samples were life. Dignity. Hope. Explosive joy and the tie that bound rich and poor, dumb and smart, Jew and gentile, MAGA and those with all 32 teeth. Save for (maybe) that first bite into a Fig Newton, no pleasure could match turning the corner in your local Costco and seeing a short (they’re always short) woman pushing forth a tray of … anything. Chicken meatballs. Chocolate bars broken into eighths. Quesadilla triangles. Almonds sprinkled with vanilla powder. You could receive the worst information imaginable (“M’am, I’m sorry but your husband didn’t make it …”) and as long it were followed by, “Would you care for a piece of fresh brie? On sale for $14.99 …”—well, the world was just fine.

Now, however, because COVID sucks and progress is slow and people still refuse to wear masks, the Costco samples are gone. Possibly forever. I actually hit up the store today, and while the short women still stand at attention, they are mere props, offering nothing beyond a smile and (if requested) a route toward locating that 50-pack case of dental floss you desperately sought.

One day, when a John Meacham (or a Bobby Meacham) sits down to write about this period in American history, he will highlight rescue workers, political strife, a confused population.

And he will write of the death of the Costco free sample.

As well as the hope that vanished with it.