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  1. #1

    Default "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    When I was in the store sampling immortelle de corse, there was a (female) sales assistant, and I commented that I liked the iris note. She asked me "have you got "the nose"?" I told her that I didn't have a very good nose but iris was one note i could usually pick out and that I enjoyed. She then went on to educate me...

    apparently "the nose" is something only men can have, women can't genetically have it, and you have to go to school for like three years and only one in one thousand people have it. I wondered aloud if she might be talking about "the nose" as in the perfumer, in which case women could certainly be perfumers and in fact the "nose" behind immortelle de corse was female. (I'm not big on remembereing perfumers but I read an article on her winning the competition etc.)

    The SA said. no she didn't mean the perfumer. But whatever it was, it was definitely only pertaining to men, and that many women think they can do anything, but in fact there are many things that they are not able to do.

    I reiterated to her I didn't think that was necessarily true and it wasn't the sort of thing she should probably say, but she started to get quite worked up, and told me that she had actually been to paris and had learnt that fact in a perfumery there.

    I asked her to clarify exactly what this thing "the nose" was, because I read about perfume everyday and I'm concerned at her assertion that women's sense of smell is somehow genetically inferior and she re-iterated that she didn't know, but she was definitely sure that it was something only men could have and I could not convince her otherwise.

    The whole thing kind of disturbed me... first, that she was accepting uncritically that there was something men had in their noses that women didn't have as incontrovertible truth, without evidence. ANd secondly, that she was using it as sales patter.

    But it did get me thinking - I have never encountered this prejudice before. Has anyone else heard of such a thing? Where do you think she got it from? Is it just some sexist claptrap cooked up by some chauvinistic french ladies in a fancy perfumery? Or does it have some other basis?

    As far as I know the exact mechanics of how we perceive smell is still not completely explained, so it would be impossible at this stage to quantify whether males or females have better olfactory skills, right?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Very good question, pawful!
    Your very last sentence sums up my thoughts on this; how can we possibly know, when there is still so much we don't know about the olfactory system? l would love to hear Luca Turin's thoughts on this.
    On the face of it, it does sound like sexist claptrap, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. And as you say, there are & have been many great female perfumers.
    l will be watching with interest to read others' thoughts on this.
    "What is this secret connection between the soul, and sea, clouds and perfumes? The soul itself appears to be sea, cloud and perfume..." - from Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    The whole thing makes me laugh. But I shall google it for some sort of scientific evidence.

    My first impression is that the sales girl was pushy and inapt at selling. Second, she should have backed it up with some facts. Third, I suspect that the whole idea is BS ... there are many great women perfumers with splendid noses.

  4. #4

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    I suspect it's plain BS from a smartass SA who desperately wanted to sell you something and fell in her own trap when asked to backup her 'theory'...

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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    If more members recognize this as plain BS, I shall save myself the trouble of virtual browsing with Google.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    And then these two articles/studies seem indicate it is women who have the best nose:

    http://zebra.sc.edu/smell/ann/myth1.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1796447.stm
    'Those who grow too big for their pants will be exposed in the end'--anon

  7. #7

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    *cringe*

    That sounded like total BS (and whether it's some very poor training or this particular sales assistant's own fiction is another matter).

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pawful View Post
    ...she was accepting uncritically that there was something men had in their noses that women didn't have...
    That bit is true, but it isn't the olfactory mucosa

  9. #9
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Now you all know me... I rarely swear ( ) but that SA was talking absolute Horse Manure ! Really ! Nonsense.
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Pure nonsense IMO.

  11. #11

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Oh, I'd swear, too, except that I always feel so sorry for poorly educated SAs. But she learned it in Paris, so it must be true. Would be funny if it weren't so sad.

    No, there's never been any doubt in my mind that in general, women's noses are far more sensitive than men's. Just in my own experience.
    Last edited by PerfumedLady; 24th March 2012 at 05:59 PM.
    The nose wants what it wants!

  12. #12

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    There is some evidence that women smell things differently from men, but whether it is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ isn’t something that makes sense in this context.

    What we do know though is that there are about 1000 different olfactory receptors in the human nose and we each tend to use about 300-450 of them, but we don’t all use the same 300-450. Furthermore we also know that there isn’t a 1:1 relationship between smelling a particular molecule and the activation of one of those receptors. So you could reasonably deduce from this that each individual is going to experience the smell of a particular fragrance quite differently from other people.

    It is possible that with further work in the field we might be able to establish that there are a different subset of those receptors that are used by men from those used by women, or even that some receptors are gender dependant (i.e. are only active in persons of one gender). So far as I know, that work hasn’t been done, but it is plausible something like that could be true. Now if there were such genetically determined receptors and if they were coded for on the Y chromosome then those would only occur in men and might mean that men could smell certain things that women would be anosmic to.

    However what empirical evidence we have suggests that if anything women’s sense of smell is slightly more sensitive than men’s on average.

    Speaking personally, if that SA worked for me, she wouldn’t be working for me for long.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    I can't help but think, what a bunch of crap. It doesn't seem like this SA really had any good reasoning or logic or anything. Is it possible she means some kind of enhanced scent memory, kind of like perfect pitch or eidetic memory but for the sense of smell?

  14. #14

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1796447.stm

    "There is a wealth of scientific data showing women's superiority at identifying and detecting odours at even very small concentrations.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    I suspect that this is an urban legend, derived from the fact that such a high proportion of trained industry perfumers are, and have historically been, men, in contrast to the prevalence of women perfumers outside of the "big boys". Somebody was probably trying to rationalize it, and those thoughts congealed into a simplistic legend. If anything, this disproportion reflects more on the diversity issues of science as a practice, than anything biological. Start asking for chemistry degrees, and things are going to turn into a boy's club. Science is still working on its issues.

    Luca Turin has, in fact, commented on residual sexist attitudes within the industry, here. I tend to think positively about the beauty industry's attitudes, so my rationalization for what Luca observes is that it's a carry-over from the diversity problems in science as a whole.

    More specifically, I would state fairly confidently that the off-kilter sex ratio in old-school trained perfumery was simply a reflection of the female-unfriendly nature of chemistry, science, and academia in general, during the formative years of modern perfumery. Even when I entered graduate school, in the late 1970's, the undergraduate population of my school was roughly 20% female, and our department had no women professors. Thankfully, a lot of that has changed. When I left school in the early 1980's, it was slightly over 50% undergrad women, and the department was reaching out earnestly to find women to fill faculty slots.

    Here are some useful links - one on the struggle of science and industry to deal with these problems, and the other showing the change in the proportion of awarded chemistry degrees over time.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK36322/

    http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11316/pdf/tab37.pdf

    I just had an interesting thought about using perfumery as a "career attractant" to bring more women into both chemistry and industry perfumery. Kill two birds with one stone. I do think that perfumery is not always used as effectively as possible as a chemistry recruiting tool, for both men and women who find it interesting.
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    That sales girl blew herself up that she stated that she knows something the customer does not know. That makes the customer "feel small" instead of making the customer "feel good". If I were the boss, I would say the famous Trump words, "You're fired."

    Now, just to make you feel better, how about turning this conversation around: Ask her whether she, herself, has that "nose"? Assuming the answer is yes, "Have you always had that nose?" "Really, explain to me more ..." Hold her up, waste her time, and buy NOTHING.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  17. #17

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    One in a thousand

    Great line, ya gotta hand it to her.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by mr. reasonable View Post
    One in a thousand

    Great line, ya gotta hand it to her.
    LOL.

    Yup. Sure beats "Let's ask that lady clerk in the next store. I'll bet she likes 'Thallium' on your skin better than that old Hermes stuff!"

    I was wondering why anybody would want to keep such a goofy idea alive. I think you just found it!

    Basenoters. We're the ones who argue with your fake compliments on technical grounds!
    Last edited by Redneck Perfumisto; 24th March 2012 at 06:08 PM. Reason: couldn't resist...
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  19. #19

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Silly SA... If any, I'd have had the opposite prior. I did read once that professional tasters at food companies (ie the ones who taste
    a batch of a product to ensure quality and consistency) are typically female, though whether by choice or what wasn't really clear.

    cacio

  20. #20

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    I remember reading a few years back, sorry cannot remember who it was?

    It was considered that women could not be noses as:

    They had periods and they at that time of the month smelt things differently. So unreliable!

    Also our hormones made us unsuitable for being a nose!


    No seriously.
    DONNA

  21. #21

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by pawful View Post
    ...she was accepting uncritically that there was something men had in their pants that women didn't have...
    Fixed it for her... (sorry, couldn't resist)

    Sounds like a bunch of BS made up by grumpy old men who were pissed off a woman had a better sense of smell then they did.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by Dorje123 View Post
    Fixed it for her... (sorry, couldn't resist)
    LOL

    I'm definitely slow today. That took me about a minute and two readings to get.
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    You could have told her while you might have some difficulties identifying certain notes, you're a real pro at sniffing out BULLCRAP. Even from so-called Paris perfumery-educated SAs... Anyway what happened to her perfumery studies in Paris? She flunked out?

  24. #24
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    "that she had actually been to paris and had learnt that fact in a perfumery there.".....

    I have a family member that lives that way- asks all the wrong people for information, believes everything they say because she's too lazy to do her own research. But I digress. .... I believe my fellow BNers have amply demonstrated that this gal is full of you know what.
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  25. #25

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by pawful View Post
    apparently "the nose" is something only men can have, women can't genetically have it
    She's right, with the exception of Lord Voldemort who's possibly one of the very few to not have one...



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  26. #26

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by alfarom View Post
    She's right, with the exception of Lord Voldemort who's possibly one of the very few to not have one...

    LOL! What is that make-up all about?

  27. #27
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    It seems that not nearly enough scientific research has been done on this, and I doubt the SA or the people she heard this from had scientific data to back their opinions. However, it is plausible that while women may have more sensitive noses on average (a bell curve), perhaps there is a more even distribution (flatter curve centered at a less sensitive point) among men for instance. That would mean there are a higher number of men with extraordinary (and terrible) sense of smell than women, partly accounting for the predominance of men as perfumers. Such things happen in the animal kingdom all the time . . . pure speculation on my part of course.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by MonkeyBars View Post
    It seems that not nearly enough scientific research has been done on this, and I doubt the SA or the people she heard this from had scientific data to back their opinions. However, it is plausible that while women may have more sensitive noses on average (a bell curve), perhaps there is a more even distribution (flatter curve centered at a less sensitive point) among men for instance. That would mean there are a higher number of men with extraordinary (and terrible) sense of smell than women, partly accounting for the predominance of men as perfumers. Such things happen in the animal kingdom all the time . . . pure speculation on my part of course.
    Fascinating idea, nonetheless! This could even account for the relatively greater interest of women in fragrance, should they generally be more perceptive, although I'm not sure how much of that is cultural in the West. Some huge questions here. I wonder how much of this is known.

    In any case, science should never be scared of the truth, no matter how politically incorrect. It just needs to be sensitive to people, and not allow itself to be abused.

    *red gets off soapbox and stashes it behind shrubbery in case BN politics police are nearby, walks away whistling, and pretends he wasn't doing anything*
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  29. #29
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by Foustie View Post
    LOL! What is that make-up all about?
    Foustie, did you actually skip the entire Harry Potter phenomenon? You clever gal
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  30. #30

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Pure rubbish. I wonder what Olivia Giacobetti and Patricia Nicolai would have to say about this.
    "No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this." Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami, Album 1999.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by Primrose View Post
    Pure rubbish. I wonder what Olivia Giacobetti and Patricia Nicolai would have to say about this.
    They don't have to say a word. Their creations have already settled the matter rather nicely.
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  32. #32
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Listen, you are going to encounter psychotics at many different places as you go through life. It is best not to engage them in conversation.
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  33. #33
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    ...
    Last edited by Guest05; 26th March 2012 at 06:13 PM.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by Asaskian View Post
    pawful:
    You were just too polite... that's all.
    I would have taught her a lesson for blathering gibberish without evidence... talk about "reverse bias".

    Anyone interested in olfaction per se, please look up the amazing work (landmark paper, 1991~archives/can't post a link) done by Prof. Richard Axel and Linda Buck. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC521562/
    Anyone further interested:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK55985/

    And Monkeybars: Instead of citing Pubmed articles, here's a simple summary. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1796447.stm
    Neurobiology dept at Vienna and Monell's Chemosensory Clinical Research Center are further working on these projects. More information will be coming out in a year or two.
    Youre being sarcastic right? Making an SA cry in a LOccitane store at the mall? I think it would be better to laugh as loud as possible every time she tried to talk?
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  35. #35

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Many people often don't think critically about, or attach unnecessary emotion or pride to, things they "know".

    pawful, you were clearly polite and thoughtful - good for you.

    SA's are often pumped full of marketing BS by the company they sell for and they don't even know it. Hearing an SA sprout nonsense irritates me as much as anyone but I also recognize that fragrances are my hobby not theirs.
    They're just doing a job and probably passing on information the that's provided.

  36. #36

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    thanks for the replies everyone! If I end up going back to the store to buy the perfume (which I really like, btw!) and I hear her talking sexist nonsense again, I can set her straight with confidence.

  37. #37

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Other than putting the hours in, I'd guess that working memory may play a role, but that's not a gender issue.

  38. #38

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Quote Originally Posted by knit at nite View Post
    Foustie, did you actually skip the entire Harry Potter phenomenon? You clever gal
    Nope, read em, watched em at the movies, watched them at home, but imaging doing that to Ralph Fiennes! It shouldn't have been allowed.

    Back to topic. I am pretty sure that unless the SA had access to some cutting edge scientific research, then it was a case of sales technique training in action. "Faux" science seems to be fashionable. Women are subjected to this all the time, for example, a new facial cream/serum, the SA will demonstrate it on the back of one of your hands then ask if you can see the immediate difference that it makes to your skin, of course you can because it has silicon and light reflecting pigments in it, so the treated hand looks smooth. It is all smoke and mirrors. Your skin will look better while you are wearing the product, but the intention is to have you believe that your skin has ACTUALLY transformed. It' not the SA's fault. It is the Company assuming that their customers are not as smart as them.

    Enjoy the Immortelle De Corse pawful, and thanks for the intersting thread!

  39. #39

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    I think it's very funny. Poor SA must have been horrified to be directly challenged. She either really believed it herself or amuses herself in a boring job by making up stories. Maybe if you go and get the perfume, you can hand her a dossier on female perfumers and tell her to go and have a little read. Better still, get her to join basenotes....lol

  40. #40

    Default Re: "the nose" - an education from a young female l'occitane sales assistant

    Sexist women... Love it!

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