134 COMMENTS

Ayo, can you hook a brotha up?

That never worked for me before. Well, I never phrased it like that, either. It’d be more like “ayo, can I get a hook up?” Maybe I wasn’t saying it cool enough. Either way, I didn’t get free stuff growing up. BUT THOSE DAYS ARE GONE. In Korea, they give away free stuff all the time. It’s great. I don’t feel like an uncool guy anymore for not getting free stuff. Now, I’m the coolest guy in the world! Well, me, along with everyone else getting lots of free stuff.

One thing we’ve noticed about free samples in Korea: if you ever go to a supermarket, like Costco, and they’re giving out free food samples, I’m used to just getting one sample per station. Getting anything more than that would be rude. That’s some unwritten rule I was taught, somehow. I really don’t know how. Who said this to me, I don’t know. I just know that more than one isn’t right. In Korea, though, that rule doesn’t apply. I’ve seen moms walk up to the food sample stations and swipe five samples at once. Like, one for me, one for my kid, one for my husband, and another for me because I forgot what the first was like, and a last one for the road. I still can’t bring myself to take more than one at a time, but I’d love to build up the courage to do so.

Anyhow, back to free stuff: there are other instances in which you can get service. We get it a lot at Noraebangs (good ones). Whenever we rent a singing room, it always comes with some free snacks. Good ones bring you juices and stuff like that. Great ones that we’ve come to know very well sometimes bring us some free beer. HELLS YEAH! But that’s just the starter: when you’re in the Noraebang, you’ll see a little timer in the corner of the TV telling you how much time you have left, because you usually rent the place for an hour or so. Most of the time, you’ll see a little sparkle pop up in the corner and it’ll say “Service!” in Korean, and more time will be added to your clock. That’s great and all, except if you’re in a room for too long. You know when it’s too long: when everyone’s tired as hell, and have already sung a lot of songs, and are ready to go home, and they’re just cheering you on out of politeness but they’re dead tired, except you got that one friend who loves singing and will never ever stop, and so you’re waiting for the timer to run out so you can leave, but the place keeps giving you more free time, and your friend keeps on getting excited but you want to just run away and never talk to them again? Yeah. It’s bad at those times. There are also some craptacular Noraebangs that won’t give you any extra service time. We never go there twice.

There’s also “After Care Service” in which, if you buy an expensive product, like a phone or a fridge or a car, you can get it serviced and fixed for free if anything goes wrong with it. Don’t quote me on this, though: it works for some things, and maybe not all. I know people who have bought cars who, from time to time, take it back to their dealer and get it all tuned up for free, and they even vacuum it for you for free. After care service! If anyone’s got more info on this, I’d love to hear it. I haven’t really used any after care service on any of my stuff yet, though I really need to take our robot vacuum back to the dealer for some after care service, because he’s acting a bit drunk lately. He humps everything in site, and gets stuck in places and just gives up. GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, LUCIFER! You’re embarrassing yourself!

Let us know what “service” culture is like where you’re from. Can you get more than one free sample at a time? Do you get free side dishes and drinks at the restaurants you go to? We’re curious.

And, lastly, there’s a service here as well. Click on the button below, and we’ll give you unlimited free videos! It’s so worth it!

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  1. I (living in the US, not Korean) work at a children’s museum in which most of our staff are Korean. Yesterday I didn’t pack a lunch and had to eat at our food court. When I picked up my grilled cheese combo, our cook (Korean) picked up my fries, put a chicken nugget on top, and said “service”. I knew I knew that expression, but couldn’t remember what it meant… Had to come back here to figure it out. Free chicken nugget!

  2. I’ve vacation in Vietnam and the market thing is the same! I bought toothpaste and it came with a spatula and a pair of chopsticks tape to it. The other brand of toothpaste has two children toothbrushes taped to it, but for the same price, I could get a spatula. At coffee shops, when I stayed there, if you go at night and ask for ramen, they’ll make it for you for free. Some places have hammock for you.

    I live in the SoCal, and free stuff are quite rare. Mostly, you go to events where there’s a lot of corporations handing out free stuff with their logos on it. You can get free perfume samples if you ask though. That’s what I always do, I go to like Nordstorm or Macy or any other stores and ask them for perfume samples, I would go in and leave with a bag of like 20 different samples bottles. Some family run restaurants offers free drinks. This one small boba place I go to is buy one get one free. At food courts at mall and such, just ask to try a piece and they more often then not will let you try some.

  3. That explains. My daughter and I were shopping at a mom and pop “cool korean stuff” store next to Super H Mart. She bought a cute little headband, cost maybe $2.00 and the owner gave each of us a really nice quality t-shirt, 2PM and BigBang!

    Other than that the only place you regularly expect service is the dive bars, they give away t-shirts, glasses and shots of Malort.

  4. My aunt and uncle take me out for my birthday every year, and one year I remember sharing the room we were in with a group of businessmen at another table. At the end of the meal, the waitress brought out coffee and Grand Marnier (I asked) in shot glasses for everyone. Come dessert, the waitress brings out a tray of those Grand Marnier shots for us, too. I don’t think the dessert was free, but those shots were.

    The only other time I remember getting free stuff was when I’d buy issues of Cosmo UK or the Dandy/Beano in England. Candy would often be attached to the comic books. Cosmo would have a makeup pouch, or something. I remember being in a charity shop and buying a book and on the back cover, it was marked as a Cosmopolitan Edition, which meant it came free with an issue of a magazine.

  5. From their previous videos when they talk about clothes in Korea it seems like Simon mostly has to shop in Canada and bring clothes in. However he did manage to find the awesome EYK uniform sweat pants in Korea and it seems like there is a growing population of taller Korean men so perhaps he know of some stores that cater to taller males.

  6. I live in Southern California and I’m currently in culinary school. Generally, I don’t get a lot of ‘service’ in SoCal, except on some occasions- when I’m out at quality restaurants (like a nice gastropub or a cafe or something), and I’m with other students and we’re in partial uniforms (the checkered pants, possibly chef coats), we sometimes will get service. Old and young chefs alike look out for their own kind. So, I guess you could call that an ‘industry service’? It’s kind of like I’m already part of the club :)

  7. As an American, the idea of stuff for “service” is an awesome yet unfortunately rare concept (at least where I’m at in Ohio). Free samples are pretty much the domain of Giant Eagle on Saturdays, where, as you mentioned, it’s rude to take more than one bit. However! At one of the Korean restaurants my roomies and I used to go to (Korea House in Cleveland), we would usually get a free surprise steamed-egg-souffle-thing of utter deliciousness, served before the banchan arrived. I don’t know that the word “service” was used but I guess it was the same idea.

    (P.S. You aren’t wrong, there are way less toys in cereal these days. Also, to Simon’s credit, I totally got a CD from a cereal box once in middle school and I’m only a few years younger than you two!)

  8. Possible future question: have you gotten any amusing stories about misunderstandings due to your Korean not being understood or misunderstanding someone else’s Korean?

  9. You could probably do this in a future TL;DR, I was watching the new Korean tv shows like 2ne1tv, strong heart, running man, roommate, etc. Anyway, they kept mentioning things like 4 dimensional personalities and then they would said, for example: Park Bom of 2ne1 has a 8 dimensional personality. I (and probably some people) would like to know what are “dimensional” personality? What’s the difference? Is it popular? Is it popular to a certain age group? Do people like it? Is it good or bad? Is related to aegyo? Thanks! -Miracle, a Texan Nasty y’all!

  10. I live in Houston Texas, and we don’t really have service like there is in Korea. What I noticed is that at the cosmetic section in Korean markets they kind of give you service. I once bought some face masks and this Korean lady gave me bunch of face cream samples that they were going to come out with soon.

  11. I can only think of one occasion on which I’ve gotten service food, and, funnily enough, it was at a Korean restaurant here in Canada. Probably not a coincidence!

  12. I’ve seen a lot of broke kpop idols(and I mean like college student broke) go buy food and they always try to negotiate the price or ask to get something for free because they’re celebrities. So I’m guessing that price tags in Korea are more of suggestions than actual prices and that negotiation isn’t something that’s rare. And I’m also guessing that this only works with things like food, not things like clothes, and that it helps to be good looking and famous.

  13. As much as we Dutch love our free stuff we don’t get a whole lot. When you order something online they might throw in a sticker, maybe a candy bar, or if you order a cd (dating myself here) the publisher might throw in a cd that contains songs from all their artists. And if you buy perfume you might get one or two samples you can use. But it isn’t a whole lot really.
    At restaurants they might give you a drink on the house at the end, or an appetizer on the house at the start. For free dessert you either need like coupons or to really know the people who own it.

  14. I’ve always wonderd how a school year looks like in South-Korea, here in Belgium school ends in june and then it’s summer vacation till august and in september school stars again, but in university school starts at the end of september. Also when I’m on a trip to Paris or that time I went London I hear lots of Korean tourist and I always wonder ‘don’t these kids have to go to school it’s like the middle of the school year?’ Since you guys have been teachers maybe you could explane to me how it goes because I’m quit confused!^^

  15. OH! So I remember my boyfriend and I always went to our friend’s family’s korean restaurant (because we like korean food and why not support people you know right?) and his mother would bring us out an extra little something and would tell us it was “service”. We always thought it was so sweet of them! and now like 4 years later we see it was a cultural thing too!
    Thanks for shedding some light on my past XD haha

  16. I also posted this comment on Youtube, but then I realized it would be better suited for the blog discussion.

    It’s funny that you mentioned Taco Bell. I live in the US and I worked in fast food for about two years, and I actually worked at Taco Bell for one of those two years. As you’ve pointed out with Taco Bell, major fast food chains don’t offer service like that and I’ve noticed that it’s the same for the US. Although here in the US at least, most fast food chains have service surveys that you can do ((service this time as in “how was our service today??”)), and a lot of the time you’ll get something for free just for doing the survey. At Taco Bell, you could get free desserts for doing their survey ((at least when I worked there two years ago)). I also worked at McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts, and usually you could get free desserts there for doing their surveys, like a free cookie or a free doughnut. I’ve noticed actual restaurants having more of these surveys recently, and sometimes you can get a free appetizer or a coupon for such-and-such amount off of your next entrée for doing their surveys. At the Red Robin near me, you can get a free appetizer for doing their survey. My friend and I also got free chips and guac for signing up for their email alert service.

    This is getting really off topic, but restaurants and fast food chains here in the US make a big deal out of these surveys because it’s how they find out how satisfied their customers are with their service. These surveys are also the place where you can easily complain about ((or praise)) a waiter, waitress, or cashier ((even a manager or store owner!)) that makes you angry, and restaurants and fast food joints make a big deal out of what people say in the surveys. If a worker’s ((or manager’s)) name is mentioned for positive reasons, that person will get praised in some way. Sometimes, they’ll get something for free ((at most fast food chains here, workers only get discounts on their meals. They used to get meals for at least half off, but usually workers only get a 10 to 20% discount now)) or they’ll get a prize if their name is brought up enough times. If a worker’s ((or manager’s)) name is mentioned for negative reasons, there are often very serious consequences. Depending on the fast food chain you work for, you could get fired if your name is mentioned in a complaint just once. When I worked at Taco Bell, this was so and I had multiple coworkers get fired because they received just a single complaint. And people definitely take advantage of this.

    Continuing with my original on-topic rant, here in the US even large drug store/pharmacy chains are hoping onto the service survey bandwagon. Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid all offer surveys, and I know at Walgreens and Rite Aid at least you can get some sort reward for doing theirs.

    I´m sorry for the long, slightly off-topic rant! Perhaps major fast food chains would make an interesting TL;DR? It would be interesting to know if Korean fast food chains work the same way as fast food chains do here in the West, or if it’s a completely different world.

  17. Omona South-Korea here I come, I love no I adoooore free stuff, really when I smell free stuff I’m like a beast:)! Here in Belgium you almost never get free stuff,maybe some free samples purfume or make-up (but much less than in S-K) or one free cookie at convenience stores but for the rest Belgians are really stingy! What they do a lot is you have to buy like 6 bottles of coca-cola and then you get 1 coca-cola glassfor free! But I must say this week I got a donut for free, like a REAL donut…for free… I f felt like….

  18. Some of the Korean restaurants and stores in in Southern California will give you service, especially if you got there a lot. Like Koreantown in Los Angeles has a couple of shopping centers where some of the stores will give you service. Do the Korean stores in Canada not give you service at all?

  19. In Sydney sometimes just at the entrance to central train station. There will be people giving out promotional stuff for new products

  20. In Croatia you ask for the free sample so you can try something before buying it and they give you a look like you’re crazy…I only got maybe 2 samples in my life -.- so annoying..they probably take them for themselves >< So yeah…I'm jelly ;A;

  21. This TLDR just makes me want to move to Korea more (Who doesn’t want a crap load of free stuff when you walk into the store, ESPECIALLY when you don’t have to buy anything!)

  22. I live in Texas, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows that free shit in North America is slim pickings. But there’s like a Chicken fast food chain here called “Chicken Express” (and their chicken is fried deliciously and their fries are so yummy – as long as you don’t mind increasing your chance for a heart attack) and when you ordered like a basic Chicken Tender dinner (because I still eat like a small child and prefer chicken strips) I would always get an extra one. I’m sure it’s probably the location and how lazy the employees were but I still like to think that maybe they were just cool people. OH, and they also are kind of famous their Sweet Tea and sell it by the gallon, and sometimes they would give you an extra gallon if you bought one. I don’t know if they do that anymore.

    Also, when I used to work at Subway, I would always give the customer more veggies than I was supposed too. I mean, you can take inventory on meat but you can’t really take any inventory on the vegetables. Also, I would give extra Tuna and Chicken salad because the scoops that we used were in my opinion not really enough for a whole sandwich.

    But there have been times when people would give you a little extra food without saying anything about it. I guess it was all under the table food dealings. Probably would’ve been fired if they were found out! (Lucky for me my mom was my boss!)

  23. We’ve got a pretty insane schedule coming up from now until the coffee shop opening. We’re gonna do our announcement video on our summer tour soon. After the coffee shop opens, though, our schedule is going to be a lot more open :D

    • wow, thanks so much for replying! *o* Good luck with all the work coming up!

      I know this is a super stretch, but if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know! I’m a biomedical engineering senior – which means I’m great at walking dogs, getting coffee, lifting mediocrely heavy objects, and comic relief :) You guys can definitely get my “service” if you’re feeling overwhelmed!

      wow that “service” sounds nastyyy.. ;)

  24. I went to a korean sushi place with a big group and we got a free roll of sushi and chocolate popsicles at the end!! It was the first time that i got anything free but it makes sense I guess if they do the same thing in south korea….either way, it totally makes me want to go back :D

  25. hey guys so I live in Alberta Canada and the amount of free stuff you get in Korea sounds awesome although the mom and pop stores here also if you get close to the owner will give you free stuff too. There was this Chinese place that me and my family have been going to all my life and it got to the point that we would get Christmas gifts from them and the 2 sons that work there as waiters use to always hit the no tip button before giving us the debit machine. They where awesome but the parents that ran the place retired but the one son open a new and popular Japanese place and when he sees us we get priority seating and stuff on the house. Also best way to get free stuff in Canada I find is to play up the I am a poor student card it gets me discounts on every thing form food to clothing :) and free stuff with purchase.

  26. My fiance and I ate at a place called the Cotton Patch Cafe (a chain in Texas, Oklahoma & New Mexico apparently) where the waitress asked us if we’d eaten their before. We hadn’t, and the manager brought us a sampler plate of their best selling dishes. The portions were generous. It was pretty sweeeet.

    Another time my dad and I were boarding a flight to Philadelphia and they bumped us up to first class for no particular reason.

    Freebies don’t really happen very often in the US, though :( Makeup samples sound awesome.

  27. Okay I live in Upstate NY and I have to say yeah you don’t really get a lot of free things. The best I can remember is that I used to go to a bookstore all the time, Like literally every weekend and we would stay there for a good 7 hours. And Because of that we sat and read in the coffee shop a lot and I got to know all of the baristas so one time my mom asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and we went there. I walked into the coffee chop with like 30 mangas and went to order a drink and they knew it was my birthday and gave it, a slice of chocolate cake, and an extra chocolate stick to me all for free.

    Also at like pizza places and Asian resturaunts if you buy a certain amount they will give you a 2-liter of soda for free or some chips.

  28. In Finland I only remember getting free bottles of coke at a pizzeria place because there was a small hole in the pizza dough…
    In Japan you also get service, maybe not that much at least at the grocery store. XD Though now that I think about it you sometimes get free things when you buy food in Finland. Like buy 4 coke bottles, get a coke glass. Or buy ice cream, get a cooler bag.
    Btw, for some reason I haven’t been able to read comments on your site for a few weeks now when using firefox. I don’t know if it’s only my problem… I decided to try IE and it worked.

  29. In Sydney there would be some free stuff given out on streets when there was a new brand or a new product of an existing brand. The company hires pretty girls and guys to hand out the free stuff. Often it’s the full size product as well. It works well especially with drinks. My friend used to work as one of those girls and said people could get downright aggressive trying to get as much free stuff as possible, especially when it was Lindor chocolate.

    In restaurants it is unlikely to get service in Australia, unless it’s a Korean restaurant or a Japanese restaurant run by Koreans. We had a lot of friends working at restaurants so we always got service. The best service was at a sushi train and being handed anything we wanted. We knew one of the chefs, so he would hand us huge plates of sushi, but we also knew the manager so he would give us a discount as well. One time we payed $11 for about $70 worth of sushi…. I really miss Sydney sushi now that I’m in Korea.

  30. i know is japan when people are trying to sell you something they’ll often tag on at the end of a sentence “i’ll give you service~~~” but i also blatantly ignore people trying to sell me things so i haven’t explored the realm of free service in japan. although the “buy hella hella hella food in restruant get bonus dish as service” definitely [i’m like 99& sure] exists

  31. I live in the US, so I don’t get any service. EXCEPT in one place: A Japanese restaurant in the building I work in. And guess what? The owners are Korean! =D
    I’m a frequent customer there and they like me a lot, so I get free food all the time. =3 And the awesome thing is that it’s almost never things on their menu. They actually give me a bit of something they made for themselves for lunch. In fact just the other day I got a bowl of some type of bibimbap with bean sprouts and meat and stuffs! And they actually used me as a taste-tester one time for a new item they were thinking of putting on the menu. :) I also got a dericious kimchi pancake one day.
    Needless to say, I love them. <3

  32. One of my best memories from childhood is going to McDonald’s (Canada) with my grandparents and getting a huge free Oreo McFlurry, just because they’d “made one too many”

  33. Now I just wanna go to SK to get free stuff. O A O

    I remember when I was younger and my mom would bring me to Jewel osco (grocery story in the midwest US) they’d always hand out free cookies fresh from their bakery.

    Also I miss cereal box toys!! Now all you get is things you have to cut out to mail in just to enter to win something lame.
    To me that just screams
    “YES MAIL US BACK PART OF OUR PRODUCT SO WE CAN CRUSH YOUR HOPES OF WINNING ANYTHING”

  34. Hi Simon, Martina, Suzy, Leigh, Spudgy, and Memmers! I’m from the U.S. and I don’t really think that there is a lot of free stuff. The most that I have seen is at like health fairs where you can get free pens or condoms (eww). At my university coffee mate came twice and handed out free coffee and humus (the humus was weird there weren’t even crackers to spread it on). At Cosco or BJ’s you can get a free weenie on a toothpick if you are lucky… that is about it…or at least I can’t think of anything else… Oh! Some pizza places have a slogan the say something like: get your pizza in 30min or its free. Its never free though those pizza delivery guy really book-it and make sure that it gets to your house on time. I heard its because the cost of the pizza gets taken out of their salary. Thanks, Cristy

  35. I used to get free stuff from store owners who were hitting on me, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. Plus that hasn’t happened in a long time. It was nice while it lasted though.

  36. My gosh, one of my most favourite service sample thingamajiggies EVER are the sample tins you get from Olive Young! I’ve only gone back to Korea in the winter toward the end of the year so I’m not sure if it’s just an end of the year thing but those things last me FOREVER. I’m still using the BB creams, cleansing oils, lotions, nail filers, hand warmers, tea and snacks I got from their FIVE MONTHS AGO.

    Oh, and how you can go to E-Mart on a weekend and basically eat a meal’s worth of samples? You know… the thing where you eat a few, get some annoyed looks from the ajuma until you go, “Wow. These are so good! I’m gonna tell my mum!” and she suddenly smiles at you and goes, “Sure”, to which you say, “I’ll just take a few for her to try! Thank you!” before running off with two-three more samples and never seeing/avoiding the ajuma. In fact, when I come back from Korea on my yearly-ish trips, at least half of one of my smaller suitcases are always full of samples. PRESENTS FOR FRIENDS SOLVED BOOM.

    Ok, yes. I’m a sample whore (that is actually what my friends call me everytime we go to a market with food samples) and this video tickled my fancy. What can I say. There’s no point denying it.

    I. LOVE. SAMPLES.

  37. I live in on the east coast of the US and it’s really hard to get free products. However, our Korean brand cosmetics places do give free samples of products. Also some smaller restaurants/stores may give free products sometimes just cause they want to or you go to their shop often.

  38. Here in Georgia, we’ve got a large Korea Town springing up, and if you are a Korean person, you’ll most likely get service in places like restaurants and noraebang. It is awesome!
    On another note, I notice that my mom LOVES free stuff. It doesn’t matter if the free stuff makes sense or not, but just having something like a free sample or free something seems to make what you are buying a better deal! And my mom is all about the best deal/best price/coupons! I KNOW that it is not just MY family. We are Chinese and we totally fit the stereotype that we like to “save money by getting the best deal.” LOL

  39. I have one word for you: college. It’s not as frequent as Korea, but at the beginning of each semester, tons of clubs try to get you to join them and lure you in with free stuff (like pens, cups, candy, lanyards, bags) and pizza. Just go one meeting and then never go again. Or give them your “e-mail.” Also, everyone once in a while, a free show will be put on for students, and they are decent shows.
    One other time I remember great “service” was when my family and I were visiting Beijing. We decided to eat at the hotel restaurant, and nobody was there. We ordered our food and later an appetizer came out. We were all hungry and ate it pretty quickly. Next thing we knew, another one came. We ate that and then ANOTHER came. So, we basically just had a meal out of appetizers. It was pretty great. The chef was a nice guy too. :D

  40. So I’m in the US and the closest thing to this that I’ve come across is at a Chinese place that we order from a lot and we always get a ton of food from them and more often than not, when they see my dad (who usually picks up the food) they will give us extra friend things because they know us and we eat a shit ton of their food XD

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