When Are Free Samples Not So Free?

The argument is as old as retail itself: What are reasonable limits to all-you-can-eat offers, free sample tables and "help yourself to spare change" jars? If a store doesn't explicitly say what those limits are in signage, can it still enforce a cutoff? This issue is being argued in a Minneapolis courtroom, where a shopper has sued Supervalu, accusing the chain of saying that free samples aren't really free. Well, to be precise, that the free part of the offer is limited, even though no limits had ever been declared by the store. Supervalu's position is that the shopper violated societal norms by taking more than the store wanted him to. The most bizarre part of this litigation is that it is so unnecessary. One sign loudly declaring a two-per-customer limit would have eliminated not only the litigation, but the bad feelings on both sides. Do you think that other shoppers reading stories about this come away thinking kindly thoughts about the chain? Even if the chain is absolutely right, the fact that no limits were declared puts the chain in an awkward public perception position. Story

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