It occurred to me recently that during these long weekends spent sampling that my success (and survival) depend much more on being an excellent actress than they do on my sampling technique.

No matter how authentic basic sentiments sound at the beginning of the day (“Thank You”, “Have a Great Day”, “What do you think of the Vanilla Espresso?”) they often feel so hollow by the hundredth time they are said. I truly do mean “Thank You!” when a customer buys a jar – but I can’t feel it in my soul every time.

 When the authenticity starts to fade, I switch over to imitating Best Self Keeley – because acting like that self is ultimately so much more sustainable in the long term than being that self.

Best Self Keeley happily responds to every passing Shark Tank fan, each who asks urgently and excitedly how the show went for us, I can’t believe we missed that episode, we love that show, it’s our very favorite, what was it like to be on the show, which Shark did you make a deal with? They are interested in the company and super supportive. Best Self Keeley notices and appreciates this.

 As always when free food is being given out, there are crowds of well meaning shoppers (whose pantries are already over-stocked with nut butter). They try our samples, chit-chat with us and depart without a jar — though usually after offering their very best wishes for our success.

Each of these customers receives a departing smile from Best Self Keeley, as my inner self collects energy to talk to the next approaching customer — hoping for a sale this time so I can make a little tally on the “Jars Sold” board. (Best Self Keeley knows that a sale is not the only end-goal of a conversation).

Occasionally I’ll mix it up by doing my favorite impression (even better than Best Self Keeley): Best Self Erika.

Best Self Erika is ten times nicer and more gracious than Best Self Keeley. She greets people with a jaunty, “How’s it going?!”, and waits eagerly for the response before diving into making a sale. While I am playing Best Self Erika, I entertain myself with the challenge of how friendly I can be. Sometimes my “Erika” can out-friendly the real thing!

When described, this actress game can sound cold and inauthentic – but I promise you it’s not. My hours behind a sampling table being Best Self Keeley have taught me to tap into a stronger side of myself – “acting” authentic is the best way for me to give the best service to our customers.

Sampling has also made me a much more empathetic person day-to-day. I can relate so much more with the customer service personnel I interact with outside of Costco – from the gas station, to a grocery store, to a representative on a help desk phone call.

Instead of asking my grocery store clerk how they’re doing (“Great!” is probably pre-programmed answer) — I instead just tell them their hair looks great, or they’re doing a good job today. All these people, out in the world being their Best Selves. It’s so amazing, and it’s so hard. Costco is a reminder to be my best self, even (especially) when I am on the other side of the sampling table.