Why It's Socially Acceptable To Sample Grapes At The Store

Sampling grapes at the local supermarket is a hotly debated issue. There are many who believe this behavior isn't appropriate under any circumstances, particularly in a post-COVID world. Others feel that it should be okay for shoppers to sample before deciding whether to purchase these products, and many supermarket chains are supportive of this idea, so long as people don't abuse the privilege.

So who's right? It is socially acceptable to sample these small berries (yes, you read that correctly — grapes, like watermelon, are berries) because the supermarkets themselves approve of it, but it's considered polite to follow proper grocery etiquette. Small, of course, is the operative word. Most fruits are not samplable, based on size alone; because what happens when you decide you don't want them? In the case of grapes or any small easily consumable unboxed fruit, proper etiquette dictates that you ask permission from a store employee before popping them into your mouth.

The store employee can not only apprise you of whether the grapes have been washed or not — you may not want to taste them, otherwise — but may also be able to make seasonal recommendations, and may even offer a glove for sanitary purposes.

The reason grape etiquette exists in grocery stores

Grazing, as it's known in supermarket parlance, isn't acceptable in all circumstances. As we mentioned, size is an important consideration, but so, too, is how the food is charged. It's one thing, for example, to try a small grape that is charged for in terms of overall weight, and quite another to remove an item from a box or carton that someone else may eventually buy. It's essentially the difference between stealing and sampling.

Many supermarkets or grocery chains make the issue a moot point by offering grapes as samplers. "Grapes are one of the most common items we wash and include in the 'sample domes' in our produce department, where customers can self-serve a sample to themselves, especially if it's a specific variety that piques customers' interest," a Whole Foods Market fruit buyer told Delish.

Grapes aren't always given sampler status, however, which is why it's appropriate to check first with a store employee. It's exceedingly unlikely you'll be arrested for sampling a grape without a verbal okay. Supermarkets have helped to make this behavior socially acceptable, by encouraging it to drive sales. But it's bad manners to do so without asking, and certainly, you shouldn't abuse the privilege by consuming more than two grapes of any particular type.

The special status of grapes

There are a select few items in a grocery store that it feels okay to try. It's true that people sometimes open something and eat it, paying for it afterward. This is bad etiquette, and potentially problematic if the cashier is unable to fully weigh an item that is charged by the pound. But many shoppers feel entitled to try a grape or two.

Is this solely due to the fact that supermarkets allow it, or is there a specific compulsion that compels us to try grapes before purchasing them? After all, it's unlikely that finding a single sour grape would discourage a larger purchase. And no other fruit seems to demand such frequent sampling. Perhaps it's the supermarkets themselves that have driven the interest by the way they display the fruit. If the grapes were in plastic packaging, for instance — as they often were in years past — surely no one would rip the packaging open just to sample a single grape.

Thankfully, at least, an etiquette has arisen to determine what is and is not acceptable in regard to supermarket grapes. The grocery stores all seem to agree that it's socially acceptable to try a couple of grapes, so long as you receive permission, observe any requested sanitary protocols, and don't eat too many.