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Staffing a sample station at a Big Box store is not for the faint-footed.  You show up well ahead of store opening time. You get your station assignment from the boss---What you will  prepare and present on your tray, and where in the huge store you'll set up your station. You don't work for the store, you work for the sampling staffing company. There's a difference.

OK, say you really are going to offer hot hunks of those scrumptious sausages to the milling crowds. You heat them on your hotplate, and you arrange them just so,  then stab each one with a toothpick....and when those front store doors open for business: Show time!

Armed with the smile that got you this gig, you practice your pitch lines... Of course, the smell of sizzling sausage will tempt all but the hardcore vegetarians. It's important to be friendly, engaging, even when folks don't make eye contact, but take a sample, and roll their cart onwards...maybe just to the next sampling station. You quickly learn there are lots of folks who really do treat the store as a food court. The store counts on this, actually. They keep track of the number of packs of sausages sold the day you're offering samples thereof. If it's a lot, you get a bonus of some sort. Not money, but who knows...sausages?

You learn, after a time or two, that there are tricks to this. If you get assigned a sampling station on a less travelled aisle, you won't be going through as many packs of product as when you're in the center aisle somewhere. So it's time to turn on the charm, large size. Obviously, your station will almost always be BEFORE the actual display of the sausages for sale....not after, not on the way to checkout. Traffic patterns count. You chat, but don't engage...carts and their pushers are there to move, and buy.

You know to expect that rush when church lets out on Sunday. You can time it to the minute: In comes the Sunday-best folks: Grandma, Mom, Dad, with kids in tow.....straight for the sample trays. The record is: From fully-stocked trays to not a crumb left--- two minutes. A smart staffer will have his or her hotplate full of product ready in reserve, BEFORE the nearby United Evangelical & Eternal Church of Whatever Ethnicity winds up worship in the strip you're ready for the second coming of consumption. If you're not, expect no slack from the lady who, paper cup of sample coffee steaming in hand, tells you she expected her sausage “now” to go with her coffee. Sale lost.

You do meet interesting people.  An older guy points his cart your way. He's talks to someone, but the someone is not there, not even on his cell phone. “Have you tried our great sausages?” is the opening line. “He threw me out of the house!” is the reply. “My son. Threw me. Out of his house. Here, see those marks still on my arm?”  Well, there's no provided script with which to answer. “Here, try this, sir” seems inadequate. You are next informed that Old Guy has a bottle in his car. “I might just go to my car, and start drinking,” he opines. No, no, that wouldn't be a good idea. What if you're stopped with an open container of alcohol.....or get in an accident. Better to go home, and drink there.'Going off message, off script,.. but saved by your next patrons.....a woman outpaces her cart-pushing mate by 20 yards. He, bellowing to her backside, “Wait! You never listen to what I say. Ever!” She trods purposefully up, ignores the guy who was thrown out of the house. But he tells her anyway: “I've a mind to go to my car, and just start drinking in the parking lot. I told him never to marry that woman!”

This woman, who doesn't listen to her mate, immediately empathizes with Old Guy, and they have a few words over sausage. Cart-pushing mate catches up, they all mosey on.

Another morning, sampling life in the Big Box Store.

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