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  1. #1

    Post advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    Hi everyone,

    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!

  2. #2
    Basenotes Institution 30 Roses's Avatar
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    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    You could ask to have the fragrance sprayed on your skin, then mention that you wish to see how it develops.

    More later....

    - - - Updated - - -

    Okay, back for a bit. Had to feed my family supper.

    Most upscale stores around here have the tester bottles accessible to the public for testing. It is quite proper to test for yourself, on paper and/or on skin. I've never been told not to test the fragrances, or to limit myself to any given number. The assumption seems to be that customers will be sensible.

    If the bottle is behind the counter, by all means request it so that you can spray it on yourself. If the sales associate sprays it on paper, it may just be that they were trained to do that. I would accept the paper strip, smell it; then, if I liked it, would ask to try it on skin.

    Depending on the sales associate, I might have a conversation with them about the scent, my impressions etc. Or even about what fragrances they like. If they seem to like fragrances (as opposed to its just being a job for them) I might even tell them about Basenotes, invite them to visit the website.

    I never feel pressured to buy anything on the spot. It isn't really expected. My usual statement is that I would like to see how it develops on my skin. I might ask for a sample to take with me for further testing the next day. Some stores make up samples for customers on request-- Nordstrom and Sephora do this. I don't generally ask for more than 3 or so.


  3. #3

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    As 30 roses, I don't see anything strange with what happened. One should not be expected to buy something right away. As long as one is polite and doesn't exaggerate, there's no problem. Since I have smelled many things already, I often enter stores just to smell a single thing-after all, for them it's better than me smelling dozens of things. Just tell them it smells good and you want to wait to see how it develops on your skin before deciding.

    Of course, if it's a store where you plan to return over and over again, then it really pays to buy something sooner or later, and better sooner. After all, there will be something you like. And after you've purchased, everything becomes easier, you get more samples etc. If there's another sales assistant, make sure you let them know you purchased, something like: "I want to try something else. Last week I bought this and that here, and I like it."

    As for whether to discuss with the SA, I usually don't do simply because most SA know little, so it's wasted time. Do express your likes and dislikes. If a SA tries to push a marine dreck, I just say that it's interesting but the marine is just not my style.

    By the way, enjoy your stay in France! And yes, do buy a lot - even if the thing is available here somewhere, it's so much better to buy when you have big variety available everywhere. And do go to Paris to try the various Lutens exclusives, JARs and what else.

    cacio

  4. #4
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    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    I think you were totally appropriate in the way you handled yourself.

  5. #5

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    Thanks everyone for your responses! And yes, I will try to make it to Paris sometime.

  6. #6

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    Quote Originally Posted by hednic View Post
    I think you were totally appropriate in the way you handled yourself.
    agreed...usually just simply being polite, having good manners & explaining what you want and are looking for is more than adequate.

  7. #7

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    The best way to sample is to be polite to the SA(which you did). But don't be ashamed to aggressively test and mooch samples because that is why they make samples. You don't have to prove your credibility as a buyer because that should be implicitly evident and if you are not treated as a credible buyer by the SA don't give them the sale if and when you decide to buy. Reward good service with repeat business and bad service by going elsewhere.
    "If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears."
    -Isaac Hayes

  8. #8

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    When we went into the Nicolaï and L'Artisan stores in Paris, the ladies couldn't have been nicer. In shops along the Champs Elysees, they were also very nice. Tell them nicely that you always test for several hours before buying.

    But when going into lesser boutiques - like those that sold Chanel 5, and other shops including Sephora outside Champs Elysees, well, the ladies liked looking down their noses at us - since we were only dressed as tourists (smart casual). They only want high class people in their shops. Treat them with the same near contempt that they will otherwise treat you with.

    Cheers,
    Renato

  9. #9

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    Quote Originally Posted by gilesjp View Post
    The best way to sample is to be polite to the SA(which you did). But don't be ashamed to aggressively test and mooch samples because that is why they make samples. You don't have to prove your credibility as a buyer because that should be implicitly evident and if you are not treated as a credible buyer by the SA don't give them the sale if and when you decide to buy. Reward good service with repeat business and bad service by going elsewhere.
    Exactamundo.

  10. #10

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    I usually avoid going to these small shops too often because I usually feel like I should buy something, especially if they took time for me. Well if it is just one or two scents quickly sprayed on, I think it is no problem. It is not a big effort for them and if you say you want to wait and see how the scent evolves most SA will understand. They know that if you really find that scent not just nice but addictive, you will come back quickly to buy it. If you don't fall in love with it nobody can expect you to buy. I think it is different if you plan extensive testing. If I spend an hour or more testing a lot of stuff and the having the SA's attention I feel like I can't go without buying something. So, in these cases I make up my mind about what bottle to buy before going there; so I don't have the pressure of finding something spontaneously without thoroughly testing. So you guess that doesn't happen too often. But it is a good reason to buy bottles in such shops and not online. True, you may pay 10 bucks more but it gives you lot if testing opportunity.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    Quote Originally Posted by 30 Roses View Post
    You could ask to have the fragrance sprayed on your skin, then mention that you wish to see how it develops.

    More later....

    - - - Updated - - -

    Okay, back for a bit. Had to feed my family supper.

    Most upscale stores around here have the tester bottles accessible to the public for testing. It is quite proper to test for yourself, on paper and/or on skin. I've never been told not to test the fragrances, or to limit myself to any given number. The assumption seems to be that customers will be sensible.

    If the bottle is behind the counter, by all means request it so that you can spray it on yourself. If the sales associate sprays it on paper, it may just be that they were trained to do that. I would accept the paper strip, smell it; then, if I liked it, would ask to try it on skin.

    Depending on the sales associate, I might have a conversation with them about the scent, my impressions etc. Or even about what fragrances they like. If they seem to like fragrances (as opposed to its just being a job for them) I might even tell them about Basenotes, invite them to visit the website.

    I never feel pressured to buy anything on the spot. It isn't really expected. My usual statement is that I would like to see how it develops on my skin. I might ask for a sample to take with me for further testing the next day. Some stores make up samples for customers on request-- Nordstrom and Sephora do this. I don't generally ask for more than 3 or so.
    Quote Originally Posted by hednic View Post
    I think you were totally appropriate in the way you handled yourself.
    I agree with them ^^^^^^^^^^^.

    &


  12. #12
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    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    Absolutely. I will never allow a SA to pressure me into buying a fragrance on the spot. Be polite and ask for a sample. SA's know that an informed fragrance consumer will hardly ever purchase on the spot. He or she will want to test the fragrance, on the skin, for a few days. If I like the scent, I return to the store and try to locate the same SA. I again thank him or her for their assistance and tell them that I would now like to purchase the fragrance. Doing this, the SA will always be happy to provide you with testers to try one and samples to take home.

  13. #13

    Default Re: advice for sampling etiquette at perfume stores

    If you feel an obligation not to get the salesperson's hopes up, you can always over-explain a little: "Hi! I've been reading reviews about X and I'd like to try it on skin and see how it develops for a few hours."

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