I've been reading fragrance reviews on Basenotes and other perfume websites for a while now, but I am still relatively new to exploring fragrances and haven't tried a lot of them yet. For the past few years I lived in an area of the U.S. where I did not have good access to perfume stores, so I started sampling fragrances primarily through ordering samples online. This gave me an idea of some types of fragrances I like, and I've been able to build up a small collection of affordable fragrances (or slightly pricier fragrances that I was able to find for a reasonable price online by purchasing a tester or lightly used bottle).
However, a few weeks ago I arrived in a small city in France where I will be located for the next several months. Even though I'm not in Paris with all its exclusive boutiques, there is still much better access to perfume stores with harder-to-find brands here. Even the Sephora here seems to have a much wider selection than the Sephora that was in the nearest city to me back in the States (like a much larger selection of Guerlains, the Serge Lutens export line, etc.). Naturally, while I'm here I'd like to take advantage of this availability and try out some of the fragrances I've read about, and hopefully invest in a couple bottles once I find something I really like. This might seem like a silly question, but I thought I might ask the advice of some of you who have more experience sampling perfumes that are available in higher-end stores and boutiques. I don't really buy expensive clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc. and therefore don't generally shop in these types of places. In a more crowded/popular store like Sephora where the testers are out on the shelves, I can easily meander in, add a spritz of whatever I want to test to my wrists, and walk out. However, in some other stores, I feel like I'm not sure exactly what the sampling etiquette is. For example, yesterday I went into a small shop (I think it was actually primarily a jewelry store) that I'd noticed had a L'Artisan advertisement on the window because I wanted to sample Séville à l'Aube, which I'd been reading about. They had all their perfumes behind the counter, so I asked to sample it, and the sales assistant sprayed some on a tester strip and then on my wrist. She then proceeded to tell me some of the notes and things about the fragrance, which I already knew from some of the reviews I'd read, but I just sort of nodded because I thought it might seem arrogant if I said something about already reading about the fragrance on X, Y, and Z website, already owning another fragrance by Duchaufour, etc. And then I wasn't really sure what to do, because in a situation like that where I can return to the store later, I don't want to buy a fragrance immediately after spraying it because I want to wear it around to see how it evolves, test the longevity, etc. So I smiled, said I just wanted to try it, thanked her for her help, and left. She seemed nice, and I was trying to be very polite and was speaking to her in French, since I am fairly proficient in French. Still, after I left, I felt a little awkward, as if maybe I hadn't said something I should have said or had missed something I was supposed to do.
Do you have any advice for sampling perfumes in settings like this in a way that is respectful and doesn't seem like you are just trying to mooch samples from the store? It is odd for a customer to walk in knowing exactly what she wants to sample without browsing around much at all and then to leave shortly after spraying the sample on? Does it help if you mention things like you are interested in fragrance, you have already read about this fragrance, you have already sampled a few fragrances from the same line, etc., or does that come across as over-the-top or rude, like you're trying to prove you know more than the sales assistant? Would the sales assistants start getting irritated if they realized the same person was coming into the store multiple times and testing the fragrances without having purchased anything? I've gotten more deliberate in what I choose to sample, so it's not like I'd be coming in and sampling everything in these stores, but still, I don't want to seem like I'm abusing their samples or wasting their time.
Thanks so much for your advice!