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I’m not sure why, but I’ve neglected so far to give my chapter and verse on food samples, the lowdown on when to send and when not to send.

Actually, who am I kidding? I know full well why I haven’t addressed it. Because what journalist doesn’t like to receive the occasional unsolicited gift, and my suggesting that they are frequently a waste of your clients’ time and money feels very unbrotherly. So please, keep them coming. But you might want to read on, as well.

Cheap things like snacks, sauces, new ready-meal ranges, drinks, etc, generally I’d say just send them. They don’t cost much and the chances of my writing about them, while small, are considerably higher if I’ve actually tasted them. You can email ahead and ask if I want to receive them if you like, but I generally don’t bother replying (sorry, but at least I know myself).

If they are perishable, do drop me a line in advance so I can look out for them (or ask for a different drop-off day), and please don’t organise a delivery on a Friday as they’ll likely spend the weekend in the post room. The amount of “fresh” samples I bin on a Monday makes me queasy.

For more expensive things (and I guess what the cut-off for “expensive” is depends on the prestige of your target publication), you should always engage with the journalist in advance. An honest one will say whether or not they are relevant. And beware sending things that don’t need to be tasted. I know what Alba truffles or beluga caviar are like, so your offer to send them to promote your new truffle and caviar delivery business feels not so much like a sample as a bribe.

Equally, at this time of year, I get a lot of offers of hampers “for any Christmas features and round-ups you might be writing”. I’m glad to have the opportunity to turn them down because no number of jars of cranberry sauce or bottles of own-label champagne will change my mind about them.

Unless they come with a pretty ribbon and thank-you note, that is.


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