How many .25 oz servings of Mint Chip can I get for free?
April 3, 2012 3:43 PM   Subscribe

How many ice cream samples is too many?

Mefites, please help settle a question that's come up between me and my girlfriend: How many samples is it socially acceptable to ask for at an ice cream or froyo shop?

I usually sample two flavors before placing my order. I never go for three and only get one or zero if the line behind me is long or I'm in a hurry.

She will only ever get one, and is lightly mortified when I ask for a second. Furthermore, she frequently asks that we each get different samples (one each) and share them. I think it is a bit silly to share something as small as an ice cream sample.

So, Mefites, please settle this vitally important issue for us, as you have so many others. If you have experience as an ice cream server and can cite that in your answer, that would be awesome.
posted by Aizkolari to Religion & Philosophy (57 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
One is fine. Two is okay. Three is only okay if the store is empty and the people who work there like you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:46 PM on April 3, 2012 [12 favorites]

Three is okay if you have a dollar for the tip jar.
posted by timpanogos at 3:47 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

(People in line behind you) - 3 = acceptable number of tastes
Be sure to include people with you as "behind you."
posted by Etrigan at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2012

Personally I couldn't do three without feeling bad, but two is perfectly fine.
posted by aimedwander at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two is fine in any circumstance. More than that can be frustrating when we're busy, but fine and maybe entertaining if there's no one waiting. Sharing ice cream samples could be fine, but it could also not work. At my place, we sometimes have flavors that have large chunks. If you share a sample, you may not get any of the chunk that is the main flavor. Also yes, please tip if you're going to be tasting a lot.
posted by Night_owl at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think two is fine. I also think tasting her sample is fine. The goal of the sample is to see if you'd like to buy that flavor, so I don't think it's silly that you are sharing such a small amount. If I had a particularly delicious sample I'd definitely hold it out for my boyfriend to taste. I wouldn't, however, make it a rule that we each only get to pick one flavor and then share the samples.
posted by Sal and Richard at 3:54 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Try as much as you want as long as you 1. Leave a tip 2. Actually get a flavor you try ( I once had a woman try five and then get VANILLA) and 3. Don't try to hand back your nasty used spoon to the counter people.
posted by raccoon409 at 3:54 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think a lot of this comes down to motivation. If you're really indecisive and need samples to make a decision, then two (or even three, if no one's queued up behind you) samples is reasonable. On the other hand, if you're just trying to extract the maximum value out of your ice cream excursion, then I'd say the girlfriend has cause to be mortified.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:56 PM on April 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

raccoon, I'm a very adventurous taster, but sometimes just a mildly adventurous buyer. What if I want to try some of your crazy flavors (cucumber dill, I'm looking at you. Blech!) but go back to my standard crazy flavor (cayenne lime butter, you're my only friend) when none of those measure up?
posted by Night_owl at 3:57 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I refuse to feel guilty about trying 2-3 (3 if no one is there, usually no more than 2) and deciding I don't like them and going to something I like. I also think that sharing flavours is totally normal.
posted by jeather at 3:58 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

If it helps, at the self-serve froyo place I went to on Sunday, the employee handed each of us two of those little paper cups you find near ketchup pumps, in which we could presumably put two different kinds of froyo. So, according to that place at least, two is the correct answer.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:59 PM on April 3, 2012

The title of the thread might suggest something about the OP's motivation.

Even at boutique-y places, it's not like Mint Chip (or whatever) varies a lot from batch to batch. If you already know what it tastes like, I don't know if 'sample' is the right word.
posted by box at 4:01 PM on April 3, 2012

@Night owl- no worries, we counter people understand but then your tasting number is lower. You get ... tops, two samples. Whereas I never minded getting someone three or four if they actually got one of the flavors. And if there is a weirdo flavor then I assume everyone is just trying it for kicks anyway.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:02 PM on April 3, 2012

Two or three unless they're busy, then limit it to one or two.
posted by deborah at 4:02 PM on April 3, 2012

Assuming you and your girl go for ice cream fairly regularly, at some point you have had all the different flavors, no? Then the answer is zero.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:09 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The title of the thread was intended purely as snark. My motivation is usually in line with Night_owl's, wanting to try out the weird stuff on the menu in case I like it but with good old Mint Chip or Coffee Oreo there as backups.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2012

Golly, it's never ever occurred to me that it would be okay to ask for more than one. You all are blowing my mind.
posted by ambrosia at 4:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [17 favorites]

It's okay to try two and then order a safe bet. If you try three and then order something else, anyone within range is allowed to stab you in the eye.
posted by mullacc at 4:19 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

To me, getting one sample to share seems a lot weirder than asking for a second. You're not really making the process more efficient, and if you're both licking the same cup or spoon, some of the people in line behind you might find that gross.

Two each is a good guideline. Three if the place is quiet, one or none if there are more than five people in line behind you. For extra politeness, ask for both samples at the same time to save your scooper a trip, and decide quickly, with a backup flavor in mind if neither sample works.

Some ice cream places will let you do half-and-half even with the one-scoop bowls. If you're sample-shy but want to try multiple flavors, you can do that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:21 PM on April 3, 2012

(Worked at ice cream parlour in early teens) If shop not busy: ask away, so long as you are nice. I don't want to watch you and your partner lick off the same tiny spoon (and 2nd "don't hand it back to me"); please ask for two of it in that situation. If there are some other customers: stop at 3. If busy: 2 max, quickly decided upon.

Do ask for recommendations -- I ate possibly an entire tub of lemon sorbet because it wasn't dyed yellow; it was this translucent, nearly white stuff, and it just didn't stand out to people as something that would be good. But it was delicious. I never served it to anybody and it seemed to be the same size it had been whenever I returned to work, so I'm pretty sure it... Yeah. Your local ice cream girl who is not a too too recent hire will know what the surprise awesome flavour is, and what fruit combos work well in the frozen yoghourt machine, etc.
posted by kmennie at 4:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

One. If literally no one is in line behind you, and you must try two or you will die, you may have two if you leave a significant tip. You may not order more than two under any circumstances unless you like people making fun of you behind your back. Sorry.
posted by a_girl_irl at 4:24 PM on April 3, 2012

Since I get chocolate every time, yes plain chocolate, I never taste more than one. If I am waiting in line, I start to get pissed at more than two maybe three if I have the munchies and relate to the taster.

It maybe be a little late, but today is free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry's!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:25 PM on April 3, 2012

Yesterday, this guy at the ice cream shop tried 5 different samples, tried to get the ice cream person to get in on their decision making process, and then went with VANILLA. She was SO nice, and the store was packed (it was military appreciation day at a Baskin and Robbins near the base: tons of kids, tons of couples, everyone with a coupon).

I think that guy was a jerk not for trying a bunch of flavors, but for not having the situational awareness to get that the way you act when the shop is empty isn't the way you act when the shop is full.

Hilariously, a set of three year old triplets LITERALLY ordered faster than him. As in, had a plan for maximum taste excellence, had their money ready, and already knew what cones they want. They ALSO thanked the server for their assistance, which the jerky guy did not do, and put in a combined, appropriately sized tip. When you've been out-polited by a toddler at an ice cream shoppe, you need to rethink some life decisions.

Conclusion: Get as many samples as you want when it's just you and someone else, but if it's causing a hold up/making someone else's day suck, stop it because you're being a jerk.
posted by spunweb at 4:29 PM on April 3, 2012 [31 favorites]

I worked in a gelato shop for a while, next to a major state university. I think it depends a little on context. One or two samples is usually ok. Sharing samples never struck me as weird. Lots of samples (or a large party where EVERYONE wants two samples each, just because) will get you bitched about by the staff and considered douchey, unless (a) the store is empty, (b) the counter person is in a good mood and (c) you are exceedingly nice/friendly/personable.

And if there's a line behind you and you already know what you want, don't ask for samples just so you can satisfy your curiosy on the weirdo flavor. Do it another time.
posted by celtalitha at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2012

Whatever happened to actually ordering the weirdo flavor to sample it? The risk is half the fun! (And occasionally you get lucky - mmm, Tosci's ginger ice cream.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

One each is fine - share your sample with your girlfriend - she's your girlfriend. You might just get more sex out of it.

I never get samples because I like living dangerously.
posted by mleigh at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2012

I guess it depends on how much they are charging too. If this is a $5 ice cream cone, some sampling might be in order. But I personally would never ask for samples and usually refuse them when they are thrust at me. If I didn't know what I wanted, I wouldn't be in line.
posted by gjc at 4:42 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I vote for one sample and then just fucking order already. I was with my boyfriend's oddball preteen nephew once and he ordered at least five samples, INCLUDING A SAMPLE OF VANILLA. Justifiable homicide y/n?
posted by jabes at 4:52 PM on April 3, 2012

I would never personally sample vanilla, nor would I order it, but man. Vanilla can really differ from place to place. My shop has a really deep vanilla flavor, while a lot of vanillas are just... Plain.
posted by Night_owl at 4:58 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: If price is relevant to your answers, we're frequently going to pricey places in Boston.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:59 PM on April 3, 2012

It also depends how long you take. If you are that customer who expects the counter person to watch your face subtly change expressions as you masticate the ice cream twenty times, and then wants to discuss it, you are taking too long unless there are zero people behind you. If you think you're being really cute you are probably taking too long, too. But sadly, you will probably never realize it.

I love my local ice cream parlor because they offer "flights:" four baby scoops in a long dish. You can ask for a risky flavor to be put on the end (to contaminate as little as possible of the other ice cream if nasty.) Failing that, I often ask for half a scoop of known and half a scoop of unknown
posted by BibiRose at 5:00 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I say zero.
posted by spilon at 5:51 PM on April 3, 2012

One and only if it is weird. You know what mint chip tastes like by now.
posted by dame at 6:07 PM on April 3, 2012

To my logic: two seems normal, three would be acceptable if no one's in line, you apologize awkwardly, and you're really deliberatin'. Four might be passable if there's no one in line, you're got a real rapport going with the person behind the counter, and it's gelato shop.

But wow. Today I learned people are borderline fascist re: ice cream samples.
posted by aintthattheway at 6:32 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's never occurred to me to ask for a sample. I can't imagine any ice cream actually being bad or something I wouldn't buy.

Said another way -- how far from how I imagine it would taste could it be?
posted by vitabellosi at 7:01 PM on April 3, 2012

The answer is one. That is all.
posted by Justinian at 7:18 PM on April 3, 2012

Two as long as you then get one of those flavors. That is to say, you get one random taste and then one for real choice. If you just want a taste, stick to one.

BTW - some places in Boston (JPLicks, Tosci's) will let you get *two flavors* in a single serving and not charge extra. This has transformed my ice cream chosing experience.
posted by maryr at 7:57 PM on April 3, 2012

PS: You are missing Christina's on your list of links. If you haven't been, go. But definitely don't ask for too too many samples there, they get a bit testy.
posted by maryr at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

See, there is a quality issue. There are some flavors that can be either heavenly or downright nasty. For me, banana is one of these flavors. Pistachio is another. If a shop has banana gelato, I will ALWAYS sample it. It's very rarely done well and often has a taste of artificial banana flavoring, but when done correctly it's worth traveling for. The same holds true with pistachio, although most places tend to overload on the almond extract to give the pistachio flavor a boost.
If i find a shop that does either of these well, they will have me as a have a customer forever. If I sample either, or both, and they are not up to par, I will go with one of their more mundane flavors.
There is a reason ice cream shops give out samples, and that is to get customers hooked on their product.
I oblige them by attempting to get myself hooked.
posted by newpotato at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're not in Larry David's sample abuser range. Therefore, you're good.

Incidentally, she also goes for vanilla. How bout that.
posted by quiet coyote at 8:41 PM on April 3, 2012

I was going to say, this depends on why you are getting the samples. The point of the samples is so you can see if you like the flavor or not, and I think getting them just to get extra free ice cream is kind of tacky. It just smacks of like not operating in good faith and kind of taking advantage of goodwill, and over something so small and petty at that.

So I didn't know why you were getting the samples, and I was going to ask how it is possible that with only 20-30 flavors, and you getting 2 samples every time, how you have not run out of samples to try at this point in your life. But then I saw the title: How many .25 oz servings of Mint Chip can I get for free?

In my personal opinion I would say none, when it comes to flavors you have already tried. Not to make a mountain out of a molehill and it may be my personal quirk, but if I were the gf I would just find this behavior slightly embarrassing.
posted by cairdeas at 9:11 PM on April 3, 2012

It's just something that I kind of associate with deadbeats, going so far out of your way to get something so small for free rather than just shelling out the dollar or whatever.
posted by cairdeas at 9:12 PM on April 3, 2012

I'd say 1-2. I do cringe at the waste of plastic spoons.

I watched a show once...Almost Live from Seattle, circa 1990, maybe or else some sort of early Rick Mercer?...where a guy went into a Baskin-Robbins and asked for a sample of each of 31 flavours. He put each little bit on a small cone he brought with him. It was pretty funny and the clerks went along with it. But, unless you have a camera, I'd say 1-2.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:50 PM on April 3, 2012

I only take a sample if I'm asked. I feel like anything more than 1 is inconsiderate to the people waiting behind you.
Rarely is ice cream so bad that you won't eat it so I'm all about getting a cup of a new flavor every time I go in.

I had an infuriating experience today: a woman asked for 4 samples, finally chose her flavor, was handed her cone and then asked for ANOTHER sample!

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there's this ice cream shop outside of Chicago where the employees bombard you with samples and then hold out their hands to collect your dirty spoons! It's a pretty awesome experience--but trying 10+ flavors of ice cream actually made settling on one harder and by the time I got through all of them I was pretty full.
posted by simplethings at 10:08 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd try one unusual flavour if it was offered to me. Maybe two, if no one else was waiting and the employee was really excited about it. I wouldn't ask, otherwise. It's nearly impossible to do any standard flavour poorly, and if I'm feeling bold enough to try something unusual, I'm bold enough to try a full scoop.
posted by 0127661 at 11:24 PM on April 3, 2012

I've been to those pricey places you frequent, and they have some interesting flavors that could be awesome or downright disastrous. Assuming the line isn't out the door and you are sampling in good faith (i.e. genuinely trying to decide what to order) I think 2, possibly 3, is reasonable. Personally, I don't think I have actually ever sampled more than one flavor, but I wouldn't feel guilty about sampling 2 if I was really trying to make a decision. As for sharing samples, seriously? It's usually just a bite. I guess you can, but I wouldn't make an issue of it. Also, I wouldn't be mortified by my partner unless he was obviously try to scarf down free ice cream just because he could, which doesn't sound like the issue in this case.
posted by katemcd at 12:01 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

popping in just to say I love La Casa Gelato who always smiled when I asked for just one more sample, no matter the line (and there is always a line!).

The website suggests you have 'a few', which says to me, 3+.

I have enjoyed basil pernod, garlic ginger, curry, and rosemary cranberry. Yum! When I took Mr. Chapps, however, he got vanilla and said 218 flavours is "the illusion of choice in capitalism". Boooo! Damn economists.

When my friend got Durian, though, we had to go to the other side of the street from him. Peeeeuuuuuuw
posted by chapps at 12:11 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

you get *two flavors* in a single serving and not charge extra.

Only, please pick flavors that have a chance of going well together, or we might judge you. I'm looking at you, cafe au lait and lemon sorbet guy.
posted by Night_owl at 1:10 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

My teenage daughter works at one of the places you mention and she says cut it out, already, people like you make her want to scream.

Seriously, she said that the consensus amongst ice-cream jerks (as they love to call themselves) is that it depends a little on the line length but more importantly, whether or not you buy anything. Ice cream is supposed to be pleasurable and fun; go nuts.

She said the bane of their existence are customers who try more than 4 flavors and then leave, so it's clear they came in for a free snack, never to return with cash.

They take a lot of pride in their homemade ice cream and think it's completely normal for someone to want to sample 4 or 5 flavors.

Just buy something after you've tasted stuff and you're good.

She said don't forget the tip jar, either, please. She has college bills and a nervous mother.
posted by kinetic at 2:37 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, don't EVER ask the ice cream jerks for a second (or even third, according to my kid) sample of a flavor.

Then they hate you.
posted by kinetic at 2:40 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I sympathize even with the people sampling vanilla. Like Newpotato says about banana gelato, vanilla is easy to screw up. Have you never had a factory-made rice krispies treat? THAT is low-quality vanilla that leaves a chemical taste. Put that in ice cream and you will instantly regret the purchase. Granted I would never actually order vanilla, so would never bother to sample it, but yeah, I hear you.
posted by whatzit at 3:21 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also want to add that when I was working at an ice cream shop it was greatly preferred for people to ask for their 2-3 samples at once so that the ice cream scooper has to do less opening of the freezer doors, bending, and spooning.

"Can I get a sample of the coffee and one of the sweet cream please?" is much more efficient than "Can I please get a sample of the coffee .... (scoop, taste, pause) .... now can I try the sweet cream?"
posted by EmilyFlew at 7:43 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my local places had a vanilla project going on last summer. Every week they made a different vanilla; Mexican, Tahitian, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and there may have been others. We took home pints and had a tasting of most of them. They were really distinguishable.
posted by BibiRose at 7:43 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm with kinetic's daughter on this one. One taste ONLY.
More than that, and you're a pig. It's that simple.
posted by Rash at 8:49 AM on April 4, 2012

I think 2-3. I think those that who stop it at 1 are stingy. 2 is reasonable because you might be trying to choose between them. I also think its perfectly fine to try some on order vanilla or another more classic flavor.

If you try 2 flavors and their not great its reasonable to pick something a little more standard.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:40 AM on April 4, 2012

One is always acceptable except on Free Cone Day. Two is OK if there's not many people waiting behind you. Three is only permissible if there is no one behind you.

Honestly, it's like three bucks: pick something and roll the dice!

I speak here as an ice cream junkie and former ice cream shop employee (Haagen-Dazs in St. Anthony Main, MPLS) who takes our herd of kids out for ice cream weekly in the summer and who makes ice cream at home year-round.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:27 PM on April 4, 2012

Some of these answers are pretty harsh. I've never been given any grief for trying as many samples as I wanted, but that could be because I'm nice to the workers and other customers and do my best not to waste their time. I generally don't bother with many samples, though there are times they're called for.

There have been times I've tried four different flavors and then gone with something known and safe because even the best of those flavors wasn't something I could imagine still liking at the end of the smallest size available. And it seems the staff understand and are fine with it. Or maybe I'm just clueless.

I usually get gelato, though, not ice cream.
posted by cardioid at 3:06 PM on April 4, 2012

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