What's the day like for Free Sample people on the street?
June 19, 2017 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I work in downtown Chicago and I frequently see people employed to pass out free samples of pre-packaged food or goods. What is a typical day like for people who do this?

Is the employer the company that provides the samples, or is it more like a distribution company that does this? Is transportation provided to the locations they distribute free samples at? Are they treated well? How do companies target the location of these events? When they run out of samples, are they done? Or do they go back to a location to get more, and it's normal shift work?

I'm curious not for a job opportunity or anything, but I always wonder what a day in the life of a free sample person is like.
posted by agregoli to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
My sister did this for a while. She worked for an agency that represented lots of different clients (food and drink brands). So she did lots of different kinds of samples at lots of locations and events. She had to provide her own transport.

The pay was okay but not great, but she often got free food to take home, and she liked the fancy locations she was sometimes assigned to. She enjoyed the work, but she's a people person.

I think when she ran out of samples, she was done for the day.
posted by lollusc at 8:53 AM on June 19


I did this a couple times through a job posting on Craigslist, often on the morning of Black Friday. The original gig economy, I guess, before it got Web 3.0'ed. ATN is one agency I worked with, though there were plenty others. The specific example I remember was little packets of cranberries.

ATN still emails me a decade later for things like product sample distribution at grocery stores or brand promotion at service industry locations.

Is the employer the company that provides the samples, or is it more like a distribution company that does this?

In my case, the manufacturer of the product hired a marketing company who hired people to work on a contract basis. The marketing company identified unrelated retail spaces to distribute the product, and shipped pallets of the product there. I was connected with a manager at the retail space who handled the details of where the pallets ended up, where we would set up, etc.

I'll mention that this was a one off thing. I'm sure Sam's Club and similar stores who regularly hand out samples have a different set up, and I have a cousin who does alcohol promotions in bars which I assume is handled in yet a different way.

Is transportation provided to the locations they distribute free samples at?

Nope. This is just standard "gig" work - show up at this specific location in this specific outfit at this specific time. Since we had a remote manager from the marketing company, there was a lot of texting confirmations that we arrived on time and had checked off items on our to-do list.

Are they treated well?

Sure. They gave me a fleece embroidered with the product's logo.

Again, in my case, this wasn't regular ongoing employment, so getting paid on time with no surprises about the nature of the work is probably doing pretty well.

How do companies target the location of these events?

This was the aforementioned marketing company's doing, so I can't speak to that. This specific time was part of a national advertising campaign with teams handing out products throughout the country.

When they run out of samples, are they done? Or do they go back to a location to get more, and it's normal shift work?

Yes. We had pallets of tiny packets, so realistically we weren't going to run out. If we had, we had a contact at the marketing agency we would have asked for direction. In our case we had so much product left over that she asked us to work a few additional hours.

When we still had product left over, I loaded up my trunk with as much as I could fit...and until I was afraid my shocks were bottoming out. Turns out cranberries are surprisingly dense. The remaining pallets were left at the retail location, and I can't imagine there was any benefit to shipping them back, so presumably the retail employees were given free reign with the remaining samples.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:49 PM on June 19


I did it years and years ago, through the temp agency I worked for. Instead of typing or filing or whatever that day, I met up with other temps and we handed out what-is-this-crazy-new-thing Starbucks ice cream (that's how long ago this was).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:50 AM on June 22


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