Fingers, Flavors, and the FDA
Taste Testing under the new FDA regulations.
So, when you head to your local vape shop to find a new juice, you might be met with several ways of sampling that e-liquid. Today, we’re going to talk about the most common ways shops let their customers try juice, as well as some of the regulations at play. Hopefully, this will explain why we now have to pay for samples, as well as why different shops might use different ways to present sampling.
So, for starters, let’s get the quick FDA part out of the way. There are still shops around who are not charging for flavor samples. This is primarily due to a lack of enforcement by the FDA. However, inspections are now underway, and the FDA has made it clear that free samples are NOT going to fly. It’s clearly outlined in the deeming regulations and has been re-enforced many times by FDA. So, while these shops may appease their customers temporarily, they may not be in business long, or at least have to suffer through a large fine. This could be easily avoided by charging a small fee that lets customers sample as much as they want per that visit.
For example, here at our shop, we charge fifty cents to sample flavors; but that fifty cents means you can sample all the flavors in the shop if you would like. This meets the FDA requirement and doesn’t encumber the customer too much. Eventually, all shops will charge for samples. Unfortunately, some might come to that decision too little too late.
How to Sample
Now let’s talk about the different ways of sampling e-liquid flavors. When we first opened, there was really only one way to sample. We all used cheap Ce4 tanks that were simply tossed after they ran their life cycle. This worked during a time of thin 50/50 juice, and when the flavors really weren’t all that complicated anyway. As the plot, I mean juice thickened, and the recipes became more complex, the search for a better way to sample commenced. After several tanks and mods were tried, a lot of shops including ours decided to use RDA’s. Indeed, this did provide great flavor! However, the time and cost of constantly re-wicking, replacing coils, and in some cases teaching people how to inhale something much harsher than they had previously been using, we decided this was not the best method.
So, that brings us to the current day. Some shops use tanks, some RDA/RTA’s, and some simply have you try the juice on your finger. We fall into the finger fresh category. Although tanks and coils are much better than they were even a year ago, it’s hard to make sure the customers are getting the best experience, when the coils may be flooded, or burnt from a previous customer. An additional concern is that when e-liquid is placed in a tank, it begins to “steep” very quickly, and after only a week in a tank could change dramatically in flavor. If the e-liquid in all of the sample tanks was not changed very frequently, then you may like (or not like) a flavor that you sampled because it was steeped. This adds a potential failure point in our service, and goal of providing the best experience possible. RDA’s & RTA’s run into some of the same issues, and on top require initial building, then re-build with use. Again, this is a burden on staff, and a potential failure point, if we miss anything. Nothing is worse than a burnt coil!
Finger tasting method.
Thus, the last method, finger tasting, is where we landed. It’s not uncommon to get a weird look from folks who may not have seen this before. Like I said, a lot of shops still use tanks. However, a lot of shops samples probably taste a lot blander, or even burnt, when customers try them. It should not have any nicotine in it (our samples are all 0mg), only consist of the food flavoring, VG, and PG. So, it’s really a pretty good representation. Once vaporized, I would concede that flavors do lose a bit of punch to be sure. There are also some flavors that can change more dramatically. However, that’s where a vape stores staff should be able to let you know about that in advance. We are generally pretty familiar with which brands do what in tanks, or on RDA’s. We all try a lot of flavors, and we love it when you ask us what our thoughts are on any particular juice or brand. Chances are, even if we haven’t tried it, someone in the store has.