Lipstick testers and cheese cubes aren’t coming back anytime soon

Before the pandemic, Brook and Julie Buckingham would follow the same route during their monthly visits to the Costco near their home in Columbus, Ohio. They would walk down the aisle that led to the baked goods, searching for muffin morsels. From there, they would venture into the meat and cheese department before hooking a left to the frozen-food cases. Along the way, they would see and — depending on their appetites — sample cheese, shrimp, trail mix, chicken taquitos, chicken wontons, veggie burgers, Popsicles, chocolate, potato chips and salsas. And to wash it all down: sparkling water.

Now, their navigation seems pointless.

“Costco isn’t as fun anymore,” said Julie, who with her husband is on a first-name basis with the cooking-demo staff, “because they removed the samples.”

As stores across the country regroup, customers will notice several new additions, such as social-distancing decals and hand sanitizer dispensers, and one significant subtraction: tables piled with free edibles or shelves laden with makeup testers.