How Many Ice Cream Samples Is Acceptable to Ask for? Experts Give Us the Scoop

Ice cream brands — including Baskin-Robbins, Carvel and Ample Hills Creamery — share their stance on the divisive topic

<p>Getty Images/iStockphoto</p>

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Customers at ice cream shops often fall into two camps: those who come ready to order and those who need to try a few samples before committing to a flavor.

The etiquette of sampling has long been a hot topic. In a 2007 Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, Larry David famously argued with a “sample abuser,” calling out the audacity of holding up a line just to try familiar flavors such as banana and chocolate.

So, how many samples is it appropriate to request? PEOPLE reached out to several popular ice cream brands to get the scoop on their official stance.

Not surprisingly, shops that offer a wide assortment of creative flavors tend to have generous policies.

Ample Hills Creamery co-founder Brian Smith says the company’s motto has always been “no limit on samples!”

“It’s part of our culture that we want people to sample as many flavors as possible,” Smith tells PEOPLE, adding that customers are welcome to try all 24 flavors Ample Hills serves. “We are proud of our ice cream and want people to experience it.”



A representative for Baskin-Robbins tells PEOPLE that "sampling is at the core" of their brand and patrons are welcome to sample as many flavors as they’d like. They did note that Baskin-Robbins shops are individually owned and operated, so sampling procedures are determined by each shop owner.

"We do encourage our guests to be considerate of others, should there be a line or wait at one of our shops," they also added.

Van Leeuwen is another ice cream purveyor that welcomes unlimited sample requests.

“We especially encourage them to try our seasonal flavors since they’re out for a limited time!” says a rep for the brand, noting that Van Leeuwen gives reusable spoons for sampling, making it eco-friendly to try out as many as you want.

Related: Experts Weigh in on Restaurant Etiquette — from Tipping to Stacking Dirty Plates

“Our team is super quick and can serve another guest who knows what they want while another guest is still sampling,” they added.

Carvel also has no limit on samples. VP of marketing, Jessica Osborne, says, “Giving guests this option helps make sure everyone leaves with a flavor they truly love and makes for a great experience.”

“We want to make sure that everyone, from the most adventurous to the most classic, enjoys their scoop,” Osborne added.

They encourage customers to “treat others as you would like to be treated” when there’s a long line. “If it’s busy and you’d like to sample some flavors, we recommend being ready with your sample requests when you step up to the counter so you can tell the crew member all of them at once,” says Osborne.

OddFellows, a company known for concocting "wacky and weird flavors" along with the classics, doesn't technically have a limit, but they "highly suggest" no more than three samples per visit during busier hours.

"If it's a slow day and you have the shop to yourself, let's sample a bunch together and talk about our favorites! However, on a normal day, we'd say three," the brand's director of operations & branding, Chris DiVito, tells PEOPLE.

<p>Getty Images/iStockphoto</p>

Getty Images/iStockphoto

“There are some flavors that we'd definitely encourage a guest to try before commiting to a full scoop,” DiVito adds. “The Wasabi Chocolate Chip or the baconeggncheese flavors being some of them. I'm personally more of a ‘just commit’ person when I visit other ice cream shops, especially after some of the wild flavors I've tasted during my ten years at OddFellows. Some people are not so adventurous and that is okay!"

Arpy Ranyal, the owner of Brooklyn shop Amai Bā, says the ideal number of samples is two, while noting that three is acceptable for really out-of-the-box flavors.

"Sometimes you just want to make sure two flavors go together or you're stuck between two different flavors and want to make sure what you want more of at that moment," she says.

Despite these sample-friendly policies, customers should still use their judgment when a shop is especially busy or short-staffed.

“I always tell people to read the room,” professional etiquette coach Maryanne Parker tells PEOPLE. “Sometimes we expect that common sense is a common practice. However, it's not.”

Related: Martha Stewart Shares Her Etiquette Tips for Eating Out and Traveling: 'I Never Leave Messes' (Exclusive)

“I know that some people can take more than five,” she adds. “I think that is a little intrusive. So usually when we sampling anything, especially ice cream, we already know what we like. If I like vanilla, probably I won't go for the chocolate. However, if I'm offered from the shop owner and he says, ‘You really need to try that,’ and it's a local store, I think the three samples could be ideal. If you go to over five or seven or nine, this can be a little bit too much.”

And if you’re a frustrated non-sampler getting impatient with the samplers ahead of you, is it ever okay to speak up?

“I perhaps can say, ‘I do apologize, I have to go,” Parker says. “I think that even the owner and the person who presents the samples, he's going to notice the body language. So it's based very much on body language and you can say it gently. You don't need to argue. You don't need to fight. You can say just, ‘If you don't mind, can I just grab my ice cream and perhaps you can continue with the sampling, and I don't want to be intrusive as well.’”

“So it depends how you direct the conversation,” she adds. “If you're angry, because sometimes we are not very patient — we have things to do and if somebody decides in front of us to have seven to 10 ice creams, of course I won't be very happy — this has to be very much controlled by the person who sells and offers the samples."

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