Bite Me is a special 14-installment series based on an undercover  stint at a supermarket to draw out lessons on how to better relate to challenging colleagues in the workplace and how to be a better colleague.

These “profiles” are based on real customers who wanted free samples of food.

It’s cheeky and deliciously honest.


Free Samples Today

Do you ever go to Whole Foods or Costco because you know you will be fed by all the free samples? Admit it. You’ve done it at least once. Do you ever pay attention to the person giving you your free lunch or do you just laser focus on the bourbon chicken?

You may have seen me passing out little samples of yogurt (“no cholesterol!”) or some green substance (“flax seed super food!”), but to most customers, I was just the non-descript Sample Lady (for the record, I did not wear a hair net, but a bad-ass bandanna).

What most customers didn’t know was that the person behind the table handing out their free cubes of bison sausage was also a seasoned corporate trainer and admissions officer at a selective university. During the economic downturn in 2008, I did the unthinkable: quit a on-paper glorious job with a fancy title to delve deeper into what I love to do – help people become better versions of themselves. I went undercover as a Sample Lady at a national grocery story to answer the question: can someone’s everyday behavior predict his or her likelihood to flourish at the workplace?

I made $10 an hour and worked with some of the coolest, brightest, honest people I had ever met. I stood for hours, cooking on a portable stove and handing out samples in little 4 oz. cups with teeny plastic spoons. Some of you spoke to me, treating me as an equal with something worthwhile to offer. Some of you looked right by me as if I was no more visible (and likely less important) than a bag of chips on the shelf. Others of you shot me the pity eye, shaking your head that my ineptitude and poor life choices led to such a “pathetic, dead-end job” (real quote from a real person).

Having the vantage point that I did – perched near the Seafood counter, presiding over the Produce department, or tucked away in the comforts of the Bakery – I observed hundreds and hundreds of shoppers, from health-conscious 20-something bachelor with mega-sized protein whey powder, to the 40-something woman with perfectly coiffed hair, a fur coat, and a box of vegan cookies. Each negotiated the grocery store aisles as they negotiate life.

The way we shop is an overlooked source of rich information. Some people slowly browse and meander. Others briskly go about their business with a shopping list in their tightly fisted hands. Still others view the store as a community-gathering place, chatting and connecting. Our everyday behavior offers insightful hints to others about our leadership potential and effectiveness in teams.

Although I had over 17 years of experience in the private, public, and academic sectors, interviewing, evaluating, and coaching people from potential college students to senior managers, being a Sample Lady is undoubtedly one of the most insightful, educational, and humbling experiences of my life.

I share my observations with you to help us be more mindful of everyday behaviors that can help or hinder professional growth, as well as to better manage more challenging personalities at work.

Check out the next 13 installments – recognize yourself or someone else?



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