Perfume Shops: What to expect?

    Perfume Shops: What to expect?

    post #1 of 20
    Thread Starter 

    Through the years I've bought all my cologne at the Macys counters.  Since reading basenotes, I've bought a bunch of samples and decants online.  I'm about ready to start hitting up some of the perfume boutiques in San Francisco, to see if I can find some rarer colognes, to get some expert help, and to just plain talk shop live with someone who knows their stuff.  Ultimately, if they help me, I'll buy there.

     

    But now the questions.  A number of people on BN have written about going into these shops, and asking them to decant some cologne from their tester bottles.  Is this pretty much standard at these shops?  I assume you don't have to bring your own little sample-size bottles, they have some there already, and just spritz from the tester bottle into the little test tube thing? 

     

    What about buying decants?  Is it standard that if I don't want to spend (say) $200 on a full bottle of something, I can ask for (say) 5ml and pay for that? 

     

    Is all of this fairly common and standard in the biz?  Or is all of the above basically just hit or miss depending on store policy?

    post #2 of 20

    Shops don't sell decants. As for samples, some do give you one or two, and some don't. Sometimes, it's just the ones for which they have the sample from the manufacturers, sometimes, as you say, they spray into a vial (and they have their own of course). But sometimes, they don't do at all. Of course, there's no harm in asking.

     

    You can spray on yourself or on paper as much as you like, so a good way is to keep the paper strips and smell them at ease at home. While it's not the same as trying on skin, it gives a pretty good idea. Remember to write the name of the frag on paper, or you'll forget (with a pencil, to avoid smudging).

     

    It goes without saying, if you buy, you can expect much more generosity, also in future smelling trips. But there are a couple of store that do not do samples at all, by policy (eg Le Labo), though they let you smell and spray as much as you want.

     

    Incidentally, don't assume SA know a lot or more than you do. They are just there to sell, and often, they are not particularly knowledgeable.

     

    cacio

    post #3 of 20

    It depends -- normally big stores won't sell you a decant, but they may give you a few samples -- usually of fragrances they are trying to push or are a bit static, i.e. you can't really pick and choose. Cacio is right -- take lots of strips home with you and identify them with a pencil. In my experience, the staff at big stores are pretty clueless and I hardly ever ask their opinions on any fragrance.

     

    It's different at smaller outlets though, especially if you are a regular. I have some good banter with the staff and they are much more knowledgeable (usually than me) and I respect their views at least. They will also decant scents for me with no charge, maybe 5 or 6 at a time -- it's great! Have probably just spent a small fortune there though smiley.gif

    post #4 of 20

    If you are near a Sephora, they usually spray samples in decants. Usually I request two or three. I have a pretty good rapport with the employees in fragrances, so even when I don't purchase something it's no love loss with them.

    post #5 of 20

    It depend on the shop. Most shops I've been to do not.

    post #6 of 20

    Penny Lane Perfumes in Rehoboth have testers of everything they sell BUT they told me that some distributers have told them that they will refuse to sell wholesale to them anymore if they decant...I think L'Artisan was one, Mona di Orio another.  I know Neiman Marcus has sample vials you can spritz into to try what they sell, It is hit or miss as to how much the SA knows what they are talking about...

    post #7 of 20
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sjg3839 View Post

    If you are near a Sephora, they usually spray samples in decants. Usually I request two or three. I have a pretty good rapport with the employees in fragrances, so even when I don't purchase something it's no love loss with them.

    It seems like the OP is trying to move away from these kinds of scents though -- hence the move from Macy's counter to boutique. 

     

    At places such as Scent Bar, MiN, Aedes, there's little pretension, and they're great places to sniff out some of the more artisanal scents. But they don't really just dish out samples like you'd see at a Macy's counter. 

     

    The best approach is to go in with a list of things you're interested in testing, then try and narrow down. Leave some room for suggestion by the SAs, and, unless you fall in love with something, you could ask for a couple of samples of your final contenders. It's totally understandable that you should be able to try it on your skin before committing -- and they'll be prepared for that. Just don't expect to fill your pockets with them, and probably nothing more than a 1ml dabber. For a better sample, you can order them online fairly easily. But the first goal is to whittle down your choices.

    post #8 of 20

    One strategy might be to stick with sampling just one single line when you go in.  That way you can begin getting a sense for what that particular line offers, as things can get pretty confusing when trying to look at a whole bunch of lines at once.

     

    This will also give the impression that you are serious, and once the SA's sense that, they may be more willing to cough up some samples.

     

      I do some flower hybridizing, so I'll often bring in some flowers when I visit my favorite place. 

     

       If you are lucky enough to meet a good SA, it never hurts to ask for their card, and see if you can meet with them the next time you go in.

     

       The first time I was gifted some samples, I sent the person who gave them to me a nice card when I got home, thanking them for their generosity.

    post #9 of 20
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kaern View Post

    It depends -- normally big stores won't sell you a decant, but they may give you a few samples -- usually of fragrances they are trying to push or are a bit static, i.e. you can't really pick and choose. Cacio is right -- take lots of strips home with you and identify them with a pencil. In my experience, the staff at big stores are pretty clueless and I hardly ever ask their opinions on any fragrance.

     

    It's different at smaller outlets though, especially if you are a regular. I have some good banter with the staff and they are much more knowledgeable (usually than me) and I respect their views at least. They will also decant scents for me with no charge, maybe 5 or 6 at a time -- it's great! Have probably just spent a small fortune there though smiley.gif

    I know it'll depend heavily on the store and/or geography, but my limited experience has been the opposite. For instance, the Creed counter at Neiman's I was just at gave me quite a few samples and the guy in front of me was getting decants (no idea if he paid).

     

    In contrast, a smaller shop I was at sold both their samples and decants. I did get a free sample with a purchase, though. I really didn't mind paying as they're the only ones selling this particular brand locally.

     

    I feel like the larger stores might have more buying power. 

     

    I think what may have helped me is that I name dropped other niche fragrances that I liked. That way they know you're a serious potential customer.

    post #10 of 20

    You will never believe this but the owner of the high end boutique in Phoenix has placed a limit on how many fragrances a customer may try per visit.  

     

    She feels that after six, the nose start getting too fatigued.  Actually, this makes a lot of sense.  

    post #11 of 20

    Agree with Cacio above - shops won't give or sell decants, but may do you a couple of samples. I haven't been to a Le Labo shop, but at some of their counters they do give samples. 

     

    In most niche perfume shops I've been to, the sales people have been extremely knowledgeable and helpful. 

     

    Be careful not to go too crazy testing. Four fragrances on skin is about all I can handle before the olfactory fatigue sets in and my judgment can't be trusted anymore. Labeling your testing strips is a great idea, and to keep them separate, bring a paperback book and tuck them in like bookmarks. 

    post #12 of 20

    The Nordtroms here now has buckets of vials all over the place and you can make as many samples of as many frags as you want. The problem is figuring out which is which so bring an industrial sharpie to label them. If you go to Neimans and buy 1 or 2 bottles then usually they will load you up with tons of samples, especially at the Creed and Tom Ford counters. Actually if you spend some time hanging out at both of those counters and talking you can get quite a few samples without buying anything.

    post #13 of 20

    If you don't want to invest in full bottles, then participate in splits. There are always great splits on going. 

    post #14 of 20
    Thread Starter 

    Thanks guys for the all the advice, I think I have an idea of what to expect (including the unexpected ... muahahaha). Participating in the splits sounds interesting, will hunt those down

    post #15 of 20
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cacio View Post

    But there are a couple of store that do not do samples at all, by policy (eg Le Labo), though they let you smell and spray as much as you want.

    Le Labo has a much better policy here. Well had, they stopped dealings with the current dealer and are moving to a much much much more competent agent.

    But when they did have business here, they provided very generous retail samples. Little tubs that look like the Dior ones if you've seen them.

    Was searching the internet and coincidentally found my samples that I sent to volley2! laugh.gif

    LeLabo.jpg

    And I just remembered, when I order from the London Le Labo, they send me 1ml spray samples of stuff. They look like this:

    IMG_4397.jpg
    post #16 of 20
    Because those niche stores are conveniently located , I never try more than one perfume on myself. I may smell a few but I'll only spray myself with one.
    I'll give it a proper wearing.

    Dabbing from a vial and raising your wrist or elbow to your nose is not at all practical and more importantly not indicative of the experience when you actually spray it.
    post #17 of 20