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Costco Pulling Free Samples As Coronavirus Prevention Takes Priority

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Concerns over the spread of coronavirus has led Costco to suspend free samples in a number of stores across the country. While Costco's in-store food and drink samples have long been one of the more iconic perks of shopping at the chain of membership-only warehouse stores, their suspension is merely the latest example of how concerns over the novel coronavirus are impacting life in the United States.

"Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, there are no food product samples," a Costco representative in Nashville, Tennessee, told Today.

Costco stores in Staten Island, New York, Chicago, Miami, and in multiple California cities also confirmed the temporary suspension of in-store free samples to the news outlet. As Today reported, the store representatives were not sure when the sample program would resume. In Oregon, where state officials declared a state of emergency over the weekend after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 14, a number of Costco stores in the Portland area told The Oregonian that in-store samples had been suspended. Romper has reached out to Costco for further comment.

News that Costco was suspending its in-store sample program, which is run by the marketing agency Club Demonstration Services, was reported late last week by the Instagram account @CostcoDeals. "Just got word, one of our followers is a sample person for CDS which is Costco's vendor who does all the food samples and looks like they will not be serving samples for the foreseeable future," @CostcoDeals wrote in an Instagram post shared Friday. "Not sure if this is immediate and will effect all stores or will be a store by store basis."

Costco shoppers have spent the weekend mourning the (hopefully) temporary loss of free samples on various social media networks. "I have unfortunately had to stop taking my wife on our regular date night as Costco has suspended giving out free samples," one Twitter user wrote.

"You can cancel flights, sell out of hand sanitizer, and cancel events, but suspending Costco free samples? You got my attention how do we stop this corona virus," another user joked.

As fears of a widespread coronavirus outbreak grow in the United States, Costco and other retail and grocery stores have struggled to keep up with consumers' panicked demand for toilet paper and bottled water, reported CNN. In some instances customers have turned unruly over store's shortages. In Chino Hills, California, for example, San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies were called to tame and control frustrated customers at a local Costco, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It was unclear Monday how long Costco would suspend its free samples for, and how many stores would ultimately be affected by the suspension. For now, you'll have to fill up at the food court.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.