Long story short: I talked to head of PR for the DOT in Washington. Told him I was a fragrance blogger, and that he was on the record (actually, I told that to multiple Post Office employees until I got sent to him). If we couldn't send fragrance by mail, it was a BIG story, and I was ready to take it all the way to Fox News.
Bottom line - no story. We *CAN* ship fragrance without a license. BUT you have to follow some rules. Here is the full story, from another place where I posted it. Please forgive the grandstanding. But I was royally p.o.'ed when this happened, and I got p.o.'ed just thinking about it.
I was refused service at my post office when I gave the honest answer that my package contained fragrance samples in atomizers. In a fit of anger, I left, and called Washington. I raised hell with USPS and DOT (Department of Transportation), and got some action by playing my "journalist" card every step of the way. (I have learned a LOT from a dear lady friend about how to make sure people know I mean business!) I also spent the time reading the nearly incomprehensible regulations.
I got a nice email back - in just a few hours - from the head of PR for DOT. I will translate. The answer was sufficiently placating that I decided there was no real need to post an article. Also, the rules will be changing in 2014, to bring them in line with the rest of the world. ORM-D will disappear. The following applies to NOW.
And - BTW - I went back to the Post Office that same day. They made me de-box my fragrances from the Priority Mail boxes they were in (see below) - they would not let me just cross out Priority Mail. So I did my repackaging right there in front of everybody, like a complete asshole. Fortunately, I had brought my complete set of packing supplies with me, because I expected a lot of passive-aggressiveness on the part of the
GestapoPost Office, and I got it. I will note, however, that we've gotten along fine since then.
Resistance breeds respect.
YES - you can mail reasonable quantities of alcohol-based fragrance in the lower 48, such as samples and normal bottles (I forgot the amount - something like 1 or 2 liters - I'll have to check - but more than I've ever sent). The fragrances have to travel by ground, and they have to be packaged in such a way that they are not fragile, and can soak up the juice if the container breaks. The following packaging is acceptable:
- Reasonably hard and leak-proof bottle. Includes plastic atomizers, glass sample vials, glass/plastic/metal bottles.
- Padded sufficiently to not be fragile (bubble wrap, cardboard, etc.). I, personally, make sure it can be thrown across a room.
- Surrounded with enough porous material (wrapping paper, etc.) that any spill will be completely absorbed.
- Surrounded with plastic that will contain the wet paper - can be a plastic bag, or the plastic bubble-liner of a USPS envelope.
- Packed so that contents will not shift or suffer damage when dropped, crushed, or battered.
- Front of package needs ORM-D in block letters. This may be HAND-DRAWN, but must be neat and legible.
- Front of package needs SURFACE MAIL ONLY on it. Post office has stickers, but not always. Hand lettering fine.
- They CANNOT go by Priority Mail, which always travels by air. First Class Parcel is best. Parcel Post (3rd class) is slower.
You will notice that most big stores ship fragrances using bottle / maker's box / absorbent padding / plastic bag / shipping box (although the plastic bag is sometimes inside the padding). They also have ORM-D labels. You can use those as models of the proper size and appearance of your hand-drawn ORM-D. I use a black permanent marker to make my ORM-D marking.
There are actually minor wordings in the regulations, which tend to indicate where the ORM-D and SURFACE MAIL ONLY should go on the label, but it is not 100% clear. I tend to put the ORM-D to the left of the recipient name, and SURFACE MAIL ONLY below it.
Hope this is helpful!