Sunday, February 07, 2010


Of the readers who responded to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 65 percent believed that it is OK to take a sample of a food product, even if you have no intention of ever buying the product being sampled, while 35 percent believed that such an action is wrong.

Bill Jacobson, of Cypress, Calif., sees nothing wrong with sampling with no intention of buying, arguing that the sampling process offers the store a raft of benefits.

"If retailers were to limit samples only to those who were intending to buy the sampled product coming in," he says, "they might as well forgo the samples altogether."

Eric McNulty of Brookline, Mass., also sees nothing wrong with sampling with no intention to buy, pointing out that such offers carry no implicit agreement to purchase anything.

Perhaps, he writes, the question should be "whether it is ethical to go to a store specifically to take advantage of the food samples without an intention to purchase. Some of those big-box stores offer considerable opportunities for grazing."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of
The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 630 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2010 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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