Saturday, November 19, 2011

May a potential customer taste food before purchase ?


According to the worldly law it may be a problem and seen as theft: A person is passing a market stand and grabs and olive, grape, or any fruit and eats it. He eats it because he is interested in purchasing the merchandise or he is simply hungry and needs a snack. If you go to an Israeli market you will see plenty of people stuffing fruit, olives or chips into their mouth and it is not always nice watching this. As soon as I see someone grabbing into a pile of buns, I am finished and don't buy there anymore. 

Olives at Jerusalem's Machane Yehudah Market. Many people passing by just grab an olive and stuff it into their mouth without even asking the salesperson.

Photo: Miriam Woelke

How does the Halacha consider a person taking some food from a market stand in order to taste it ? I don't remember the specific talmudic tractate but I think it may have been Bava Metziah. The Talmud teaches that a potential customer is allowed to take a grape, an olive or some cherries in order to taste whether he likes the products. But only if he comes with the honest intention to buy and not just grab something because he is hungry.


  1. B'H

    This is allowed by the Halacha, and some say that the food we're tasting shouldn't be swallowed but immediately taken out of the mouth after tasting, as swallowing the food can be considered "eating" and not "tasting".

    Now, there is another side to the issue at hand: it's not because the Halacha permits something that it is the appropriate conduct to adopt. As it says in the Talmud "Derech Eretz precedes the Torah". There are things permitted by the Torah and the Halacha, but that can, in certain circumstances, be innapropriate because of derech Eretz. Moreover, it's quite difficult to really know if the guy tasting your food really had the intention to buy it or if he is making fun of you pretending that he wants to taste before buying while the truth is that he has no intention to buy your product.

  2. B"H

    Before I buy a new sort of olives, I always take one in order to taste it.

    One olive or grape should be enough to get a taste. If someone doesn't stop taking, he definitely doesn't taste the merchandise.:-)