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How to Master the Walk-By at the Food Court for a FREE Lunch

Updated: Apr 24, 2013 23:25
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Things can generally be divided into two categories: things you want, and things you don’t want. I know it’s vague, but this article isn’t about anything you want or don’t want. It’s about something that sits on that fine tightrope between them – that category of things you wouldn’t intentionally seek out or spend your hard-earned money on, but wouldn’t turn away if offered to you for FREE. I’m talking about food from the food court in the mall. It isn’t good. But it really isn’t bad, either. At least not vomit-inducing bad. And when when it’s FREE, that’s good enough.

You’ll take it if it’s offered, but you wouldn’t pay for it. And when you’re hungry at the mall, your best bet is to get it offered through a little trick called the Walk-by. Remember going to BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club or any other wholesale club when you were a kid? There’d always be little old ladies giving out samples at the endcaps of the aisles. If you had a thrifty parent, you’d go there for lunch. Lunch at one of these stores was a progressive affair – you’d go from aisle to aisle, taking a sample from each, like trick or treating but for chicken nuggets and tortellini alfredo. By the time you reached the end, you were full. And if you weren’t, you waited around a little, then walked the cycle again. The Walk-by is basically the grown-up version of the BJ’s progressive lunch.

Most mall food courts are laid out in a horseshoe shape. They were practically invented for the Walk-by.

Start at one end of the food court. Walk slowly, but not creepily slowly. Just slowly enough for the employee at the first food stall to notice you. Make eye contact but don’t stare. Acknowledge, look down at your phone, look back over, let them know that you know they’re there, but you’re not looking for attention. At the second look-back, he or she should have a piece of chicken on a toothpick for you. It’s always chicken.

“Oh, me?” you gesture, hustling over to the counter.

“Two meat and rice, $7.95,” or some variation of this, the employee says.

Eat your chicken and look up at the menu, nodding.

“Thanks! I’ll think about it, and maybe I’ll come back,” you say, or some variation on that sentiment. Then you move along. Keep walking slowly, slowly enough to be noticed but not lingeringly slowly, and the employee in the next stall will have another wad of chicken on a toothpick for you. They want your money and the best way to get it is to entice you with FREE samples. Take them. Take anything that’s offered.

By the time you reach the end of the food court, you should be pretty full. After all, you’ve had a piece of barbeque chicken, a piece of sesame chicken, a piece of general tso’s chicken, a piece of dry California roll and maybe a slice of a wrap. All from little toothpicks. And they all tasted remarkably similar. But the point is, you’re full. Whoever said there’s no such thing as a FREE lunch clearly never heard of the Walk-by.

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Lindsay Kramer - Bridge and Tunnel Budget Stretcher

Lindsay Kramer - Bridge and Tunnel Budget Stretcher

Lindsay Krämer lives in New Jersey with a couple of rats. They're like dogs, but smaller and cheaper. Believe it or not, there's enough to be said about New Jersey that Lindsay writes about it at Aside from that, she spends her days window shopping, trolling various forums and coming up with exciting new ramen recipes.

1 Comment

  1. Brandon
    July 21, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I misread the social links as “Shame this story”. And yet I do this occasionally. Sigh…