Do You Have a Sample?

cancans silver plateThere are lots of things on display at the farmer’s market: freshly cut flowers, a forest of leafy produce, hand-turned pottery, and all manner of things to eat, most of it artisanal.

(Many people do not realize artisanal is an Olde English word which translates, roughtly, to mean  “takes so long and is so hard to make that even if we charge you a small fortune for it we will barely break even.”)

Human nature is also on display and nowhere more so than when people are scarfing up free samples.

Can I have a sample, asks a very strong-voiced lady. She comes down hard on the I, as if rebuking me, and chastened, I give her one. There is a constellation of family members around her and they each hold out their hand for a sample, and next thing I know I’m cutting up a second and then a third pastry in order to fill all of these outstretched hands with samples.

Before I know it I’ve given away more than six dollars worth of product. The entire family proclaims it ‘good’ and ‘yummy’ and gives me congratulatory smiles and then turn as one and continue on their way to the next tent, and the next free sample and I am left to pick up all the empty sample cups before they blow into a neighbor vendor’s stall.

“That’s really good!” exclaims one woman. “Now can I try the chocolate? I haven’t had the chocolate yet so I don’t know if I’ll like it.”

I silently hand her a sample of the chocolate. I suppose there might be a chocolate in the world that is so hideous that when added to something you really like you will suddenly really hate it, but I’m pretty sure that chocolate is not Ghirardelli, which is the one we use.

It may be human nature to want to scarf up free things but it is also human nature to glare at people who scarf up more than their fair share of free things. “Now that caramelized pecan sounds interesting!” she says. I sigh and hand over a third sample. After eating $2 worth of product she buys a seventy-five cent mini canelé.

“Do you need a bag,” I ask her, and she laughs without a trace of irony and says of course, this is for later, she’s full now.

“Can we get a sample?” one mom asks, with her three small sons zooming around her legs. One picks up a sign on the table and slams it down, making all of the canelés on the tray jump to attention. One sticks his head under the table skirt where I have stashed my purse. One turns the nozzle on the water station to ‘on’ and the water patters into the bucket below so loudly his mom has to raise her voice to be heard.

I hand her her sample, and she says in a tone of voice that suggests immediate obedience is absolutely her expectation “My sons each need one too. Their own, not to share. Also, I’m going to need one for my husband, he’s just finishing up over there.” The woman has fished her keys out of her purse during this speech.

“Come on kids, let’s get to the car,” she orders, and then turns back to me expectantly. I silently hand the samples over to her and the dad arrives, takes his sample, thanks me profusely, and they tumble out to the parking lot, munching.

“Mmmmm!” the husband calls over his shoulder, and gives me the thumbs up, which the bank will not accept as legal currency but is nice all the same.

“It’s too bad you don’t have a sample, because I’ve never heard of this, and don’t know if I’ll like it,” says at least one woman every week that I don’t have my sample station set up. I shrug; sometimes I forget to bring the sample cutter, in all the crazy confusion of getting out of the bakery in time to get to the market in time to get set up in time to avoid getting fined.

A man walks up and laughs. “How can you NOT like those ingredients?” he asks, pointing to the recipe which we have framed on the table. “What’s NOT to like in there?”

Well she should have samples, she grumps and huffs off. The man buys a seventy-five cent mini canelé and winks at me, and I congratulate him on his risk-taking, and we smile, and then guffaw, and I give him another mini canelé on the house, and later he comes back and buys 5 boxes, and not the mini ones but the big ones.

You don’t have to give them a sample you know, says the guy in the stall next to me. He sells seafood, and I offer him a free pecan canelé, which he proclaims ‘really good’ and nibbles at with surprising daintiness for a big beefy man, and regales me with tales from thirty years ago when he offered samples of crab cakes only to find a line of 50 people forming in the blink of an eye “and not a damn one of them buying anything, either,” he groused.

The people that come to this market drive Teslas, they don’t need free samples! he says.

Ten minutes before the market closes we always get a rush of customers; we are one of the few stalls that don’t begin breakdown before one, mostly because we have only a short fifteen minute trip back to the bakery after loading up.   The produce guys and fishmongers have hours of driving in front of them, and they are briskly efficient breaking down their stands and packing everything up. When one o’clock rolls around they are ready for it.

See you next week, they call to me before driving off.

Oh are you here every week? asks one of the straggler customers.

Every week, I agree. Rain or shine.

Wow that’s quite a commitment, she says.

It sure is! I say, perhaps too emphatically because she laughs. She buys four boxes and I give her a free box, not mentioning it, just adding it to the stack. She’s the last of the customers and we are halfway to being finished breaking the tent down some ten minutes later when I look up and she is there.

You gave me an extra box by accident, she says. I almost kept it!

Oh it wasn’t an accident. I should have told you, and saved you the trip back, I told her.

Really?! she exclaims.  Wow, this really IS a good day!

She walks off and I finish packing the truck, thinking yes, it really is.

3 thoughts on “Do You Have a Sample?

  1. I like your post, even though I cannot tell exactly why. Probably because it creates empathy for your business, without too much finger pointing. And a happy end is always nice. Even though it might not happen every day.

    Liked by 1 person

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