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  1. #1
    clementine's Avatar
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    Default Returning fragrances to stores

    Hi Basenoters. I'm Stephanie and I'm new. I really appreciate this community...I knew I wasn't alone in my obsession with the olfactory!

    I recently learned a disturbing fact. At Sephora, (and probably at other large beauty stores) when a customer returns a fragrance that's been opened, the store has no choice but to throw it away. I asked if there was any way to salvage the product, since it's likely to have been spritzed only once or twice, but the sales rep said they couldn't risk of taking back "contaminated" products, i.e. products tampered with in a way to deliberately harm other people. I understand this serious health concern, but at the same time, I'm wondering if the store could revise their return policy, or at least make it blatantly clear to customers that returned products go directly to the dumpster. I certainly had no idea before I asked. I felt shocked and incredibly sad after I learned about this. To me, it seems most likely that those fragrances are completely fine. It's almost as wasteful as when restaurants, and food vendors throw away their unsold food at the end of the day, even though it's perfectly safe for consumption. I always wondered why they couldn't donate some to local soup kitchens or homeless shelters. "It's a health regulation," said one vendor. Hmm...I really hate bureaucracy.

    Please, I'd love to hear your opinions on this issue. I'm sure some of you may be a lot more knowledgeable about this policy of waste.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    I think that most stores will allow their employees to take them, or at least pay a small amount for them. When I worked in the vitamin/body care department of an organic grocery in college, we had company reps come in all the time and give us freebies. If customers returned things and we couldn't send it back to the manufacturer for credit, the employees got to either take them outright, or else pay a very token charge for the item (usually twenty-five cents, sometimes a couple of dollars).

    I would imagine that high end places like Hermes probably just destroy things outright rather than mark anything down. But at places like Sephora, I bet that the employees get to take them.



  3. #3

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    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    I completely agree with your feelings. As far as the disposal of unused food, it's obscene to be so wasteful since there are people on the streets who are starving and literally digging through trash bins for food. Talk about health issues. I'm sure the shelters would gladly make the rounds to various restaurants to pick up leftover food with a method of preservation making it safe for human consumption. That has always been an issue with me where no explanation has been satisfactory.

    I had no idea that returned perfume was thrown away. I would think it would be quite difficult to tamper with spray perfumes. And who's to say it can't be contaminated before it leaves distribution. They could have a policy that the returner must spray it on themselves before getting a refund. If it doesn't fry their skin, then put it in a discount bin with a disclaimer - I'd gladly take the risk.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    Quote Originally Posted by JAG
    I completely agree with your feelings. As far as the disposal of unused food, it's obscene to be so wasteful since there are people on the streets who are starving and literally digging through trash bins for food. Talk about health issues. I'm sure the shelters would gladly make the rounds to various restaurants to pick up leftover food with a method of preservation making it safe for human consumption. That has always been an issue with me where no explanation has been satisfactory.
    At the place I mentioned in Colorado, we donated all the leftover food to a charity called "food not bombs". Waste is terrible, especially when there are so many in need.

    However, it's important to bear in mind that not everyone is grateful for reuse. Some people would rather go without than have to take what they perceive as someone else's "scraps". I remember being in school and we had a doctor come speak to us about the charity work he did overseas. He explained that as part of their work that he and his fellow physicians petitioned pharmaceutical companies for donations, and they received donated medicine since it was too close to the expiration date and could not be sold. The medicine was still perfectly good from a medical standpoint, but he said that many of the people were angry that they were getting "second-best" donations. Can't please everyone, I guess.



  5. #5

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    I have read several times here on the board about people returning an opened (and used!) fragrance. In complete amazament, I can tell you
    The customerservice at the other side of the Atlantic must be amazing. I can't imagine that any retailer over here would accept the return of a used scent, simply because they can't sell that anymore to another customer.

    Going back with a scent you used and did not like is unheard of, unless the fagrance has turned.

    I know that there are SA's (when in lack of a tester), who will open the blister carefully on the downside, take the bottle out and spray some. When you don't like the scent, the bottle goes back in its box and the seal at the top stays unbroken
    The next person who will actually buy this as 'unused', will wonder why the spray works at once, without pumping.

    It happened to me several times that I ended up with a bottle like that and I can't say I am happy with that. So I also would not be very happy with a scent that is returned by someone. You pay full retail price in a shop so you have the right to expect a bottle right from the manufacturer (and a clear production date is also something I miss sadly on perfumes)

    Having said that: when it is policy at your side of the ocean to simply return a fragrance because you don't like it, I think the shops are responsible for this practice (well, they could insist that you first try a sample, eh?).
    No doubt the price of perfume in general will be higher because they lose on returns.
    The thought of scents thrown away because they have been used is also appalling to me, but simply selling them to unknowing other customers is also not an option, I think.

    We have a 'shop' over here where people without much money can go when they have a job interview. They will get the right (used) clothes and shoes for free, so they will have a better chance to get a job.
    Some time ago I brought several of my perfumes there with a bag of empty sample vials so everybody could try first. A good scent can give an immense boost to your confidence and is as important as the right clothes.
    I suppose you will have similar 'shops'.

    Would it not be a wonderful idea to get Sephora and the likes of it in contact with these people?
    No more waste of probably good scents and happy people who could otherwise not afford the beauty of fragrance.
    The bird of paradise alights only upon the hand that does not grasp

  6. #6
    Lean in closer, dear
    Quarry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    Excellent topic for discussion, Clementine. Welcome to basenotes!

    I am hoping some managers recycle returned frags as extra testers in the store. I have a foggy memory of someone on ebay who sold lightly used bottles of 'fumes because she was a sales associate--maybe "returns" were her source?
    In a world where 6 million people are added each month, every landscape matters.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    Welcome, Stephanie

    Glad to have you on the forum.

  8. #8

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    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    Quote Originally Posted by linnea
    However, it's important to bear in mind that not everyone is grateful for reuse. Some people would rather go without than have to take what they perceive as someone else's "scraps". I remember being in school and we had a doctor come speak to us about the charity work he did overseas. He explained that as part of their work that he and his fellow physicians petitioned pharmaceutical companies for donations, and they received donated medicine since it was too close to the expiration date and could not be sold. The medicine was still perfectly good from a medical standpoint, but he said that many of the people were angry that they were getting "second-best" donations. Can't please everyone, I guess.
    What is it they say, "pride goeth before a fall." Many meds are still effective even after the expiration date as long as they are still tightly sealed. Jeez, with the cost of meds these days, I'd have no problem begging for "second best." In regards to the food issue, I grew up in a family where the kitchen was the gathering place. My mom loved to cook and she never threw anything away. A leftover the size of a quarter was sealed and placed in the frig. I always fix enough pasta and sauce to get me through at least four meals. And who doesn't eat leftover pizza! If I go to a restaurant and don't eat everything I ordered (very rare occurrence), I ask for a box and bring it home. That being said, the food that is offered to those less fortunate is not scraped from some stranger's plate but taken from the containers in the kitchen (I hope!).

    I have, thankfully, never been in a situation where I had to depend on the good will of others for necessities. And you never know how being in that situation can affect one's spirit. When I'm a bit astounded by the actions of some people, I always try to remember the saying, "never judge your neighbor until you have walked a mile in his moccasins."

  9. #9

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    This is precisely why i dont like returning fragrances. I have the chance to try the fragrance before i purchase it. If i decide after i buy it that i dont like it then its my tough luck. I dont think the store should be made to suffer due to my lack of decisiveness on whether or not i like the scent. I can remember returning a fragrance was when i had purchased a bottle from Saks and when i got home to open the box i found the scent had leaked out almost half from the bottle and completely stained the inside of the box. I think the return policy that is on "riannons" side of the atlantic ocean the most sensible and reasonable.
    Awesomeguy

  10. #10

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    In both the department stores that I have worked at, the policy is that you cannot return or exchange used fragrances at all..if you want to return/exchange a fragrance, it has to be in its box, still sealed.

    None of the 3 gals in my family have ever had to return or exchange a fragrance (we wouldn't be able to anyway, with the rules of the stores out here)...simply, if one of us doesn't like it, no doubt one of the other 2 will!! (sorry if I'm a bit off topic!! lol)

  11. #11

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    There is no way the employees at Sephora get to keep the returned frags. I work at a comparable chain and we must destroy anything that has been returned used. It would be considered internal theft to take any returned used product; however, where I work, our frags are only in boxes (no cellophane). If someone returns something and it APPEARS unused (or the person tells us they never used it and it is obviously true), we put it back on the sales floor. It is a judgment call for the person processing the return. If something being returned is obviously used, we destroy it immediately.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    Tiff, sweetie, you know you have been missed! Where have you been hiding?

  13. #13

    Shycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    My whole family enjoyed "mistake" pizzas when I was a highschool waitress at Pizza Hut. I imagine it varies with the the managers of individual stores. I worked at, oh what's the name! One of those mall buffet places, it was Morrison's cafeteria, one college summer, and one of my fellow waitresses would eat bites of people's unfinished deserts or shrimp and things. I have to say, it was pretty gross. I'd make a face, she'd just laugh. Maybe she was stoned.

    I've never tried to take back a used fragrance to the store. It seems they shouldn't be expected to give a refund.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    I've missed everyone here too, Twolf! I've just taken a little break from Basenotes, but still check in every once in a while.

    Shy, I used to work in restaurants too and I always ate "mistake" food--I think that is a given in that industry! I only wish it were the same in retail!

  15. #15

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    I returned an open bottle to Barney's because the stuff gave me a rash. They took it back without a quibble. I felt bad about it, though, and since then when I buy a bottle at a retail store I ask them to give me a sample of the same stuff so I can wear it for a few days and see if I really like it and if it agrees with my skin. This way if I decide the juice isn't right for me I can return the unopened box and everyone's happy.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    It's quite a shame that they have to destroy it, and I doubt you would find someone willing to go around company policy and risk their job. I for one think returning fragrances should not be allowed, though I would be pissed myself if I got something bad or purchased the wrong thing.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Returning fragrances to stores

    I know that in the store that I used to work at they would resell merch that was obviously new, sometimes if the box was uncelloed we'd try the pump to see if it sprayed right away and if it didn't we resold it. Also any used product wouldn't be destroyed but sent back to vendor as an allergic reaction (or at least that's what they said, the bottles would be sent to the main distribution warehouse so what happened to them there I don't know).

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