I Want, I Need, I Have To Have – The Trouble With Impulse Buys

Do you recognize the following scenario?

You innocently walk into a store (one of the perfume carrying variety of course), intending to browse a little, checking what is in stock, maybe sniffing two or three perfumes on your list, but wholeheartedly convinced that you are not buying anything today. This is the mindset that almost guarantees a big bill and a heavy bag when you leave again. Why is that? Why can’t we resist?

Impulse buys seldom turn out great. Most of the time they get us into trouble. Yet we persist. The hope of finding that one perfect perfume is a strong motivator.

This is not supposed to be a lecture about the consumerism that befalls us all, or a finger-wagging at our culture of disposability. There are experts out there, I will leave that to them. I just want to explore why I do it.

The “I want” impulse is an insidious thing. It comes at you unexpectedly, from behind, you never see it coming until it is too late.

With me it starts with a craving for one particular item, for example, a Serge Lutens perfume strikes my fancy. I want it. So I start discussing with myself the need for another perfume and ending up somehow (I have that amazing gift of persuasion apparently) to talk myself into it. I come to the conclusion that life is no longer imaginable without this particular perfume in my collection. Having secured this inner permission, I rejoice and start planning my shopping tour. The “I want” has quietly morphed into an “I need to pick up”. Once in the shop, I quickly ask for this first Serge I gave myself permission for, that is already incorporated in my collection, even if only in my head, so it doesn’t really count any longer, it’s “in the bag”, before it is actually in the bag. This peculiar development, unfortunately frees me up to the possibilites of other purchases, right then and there. What I came for, is already old news.

What about the other Serges standing prettily in rows, one after another, all looking so delectable and matching. Wouldn’t it look nice in my perfume cupboard to have a matching bottle? Wouldn’t it be cruel to just have the one? It might be lonely. This one is absolutely necessary, because it could be my winter Serge, the other one being only good for summer. Or I could layer this one with that one, hmm…
I think it is imperative that these two be not separated, they are clearly made for each other, as well as for me…

Pseudo-justifications race each other in my fragrance-addled brain. And I am very good, I have years of training after all, at this kind of thing. I can justify the most stupid and senseless purchase with scary conviction. I don’t stand a chance against myself.

So what are the problems that such a “talent” brings?

The most obvious one is the spending issue of course. Money down the drain, that could be used for more sensible purchases, or at least for a well thought through perfume aquisition.

Another problem is not giving enough attention to the mood I am currently in, when making snap decisions. I tend to like very different things depending on my mood. When I am happy, I go for bolder scents, than when I am contemplative. If sad, I crave comfort scents, that scream sugar overload to me on other days.

The unsurprising conclusion: impulse buying perfume is not the best of ideas. One tends to end up with lots of unwearables. Restraint in buying ultimately leads to a better collection. The perfumes I have thought about for some time, that I tested over days and weeks, those are the ones that stay with me, that suit me and complement me. Infatuation fades quickly, real love stands the test of time. Particularly true for perfume.

Why, oh why is it so hard to stick to what is best, instead of what is best RIGHT NOW?

Picture sources: thedigeratilife.com, icansmellyourbrains.com, farnoosh.tv
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51 Responses to I Want, I Need, I Have To Have – The Trouble With Impulse Buys

  1. Sandra says:

    I understand the dilema all too well. I can be restrained for a while and then all of a sudden I walk in, like you with the intention of sniffing one perfume, and walk out with two and sometimes three perfumes! Yikes. Then I am in a shopping bulemia mode and chastise myself for having gone overboard. I have regretted several impulse buys and loved others. Oh well! Thank you for a good laugh this morning.

  2. Dubaiscents says:

    You could be perfectly describing my own rationale here. I use so many of those same excuses for getting something that was not at the top of my list (my personal favorite is the bottle will be lonely :-) ). The other day I went to Saks to specifically buy a bottle of Histories 1740 and when I found out they had discontinued carrying the line just 2 weeks earlier I had to console myself with some other things I didn’t really intend on purchasing (not that I regret a bottle of Mona’s Vanille and Shalimar ode de Vanille) but, now I still really want 1740 but my budget is blown and I really should hold off but will I? My other problem is trying to restrain myself when the bottle is sitting right there on the shelf but I know if I just order online or wait until I go back to the States I can get it for so much cheaper; instant gratification sucks :-).

  3. I suffer from exactly this too! Then I get home and think, “Vetiver!?”

  4. Thanks for the laugh, sounds like me. I don’t often buy fragrances in shops here in Sweden because the fragrances prices are too high, so I do a lot of blind buys online instead! And the shipping is often discounted if I buy two… or maybe three… that would make it even cheaper! and there I go again convinsing myself that the second or third bottle costs almost nothing because the shipping discount was a dollar or so and I would be stupid to buy just one bottle now that it’s so cheap ;-)

  5. Lady Jane Grey says:

    I was “lucky” with my first ever impulse buy being such a mistake : it made me much more restrictive for the future impulses ! Nevertheless, very rarely I still succumb : the result is then a beauty like Danger from Roja Dove… :-)
    The perfume wardrobe is just like any other one : needs a new piece here and there, and very rarely even a “well considered impulse buy” is allowed …

  6. Thank you for exploring the dilemma that is impulse perfume buying! It’s an affliction that effects us all!

    Funnily enough I really don’t impulse buy any more. Partly because I have Nigel to stop me, and I mean that in a nice way, his potential reaction stops me from doing lots of stupid things lol. But the main deterrent, like you mentioned, is that it always leads to having lots of bottles that go unworn, and nowadays I make sure I follow my rule of not buying it unless I KNOW that it will be worn. Much pre-testing is involved! (unless it’s a £10 blind buy or something).

    Funnily enough though, I did feel the impulse only yesterday when trying Hermès’ L’Ambre des Merveilles (which I think you’ll love BTW), and really had to stop myself from buying it!

  7. lucasai says:

    I know how it is with “I want to, I need to” but my budget is really limited because I’m a student, so no, no impulsive purchases for me. Only planned actions.

  8. Isabeau says:

    This is so me, so recognizable…..buying one bottle is impossile..just imagine that other bottle getting lonely in the bag (what is wrong with me) but thanks for the laughs!!

  9. Alexandra says:

    I have two types of impulse buys:

    The first is for ‘classic’ perfumes: I am in a shop, I am sniffing perfumes, I come across a perfume that I know is considered a great, I sniff it, I quite like it, I reckon it will definitely grow on me, it’s a classic and therefore an investment, it seems affordable – et voila! This is how I have ended up with bottles such as Rochas Femme that I never ever wear. On the plus side I may be getting slightly better as I made it out of a shop yesterday without buying Fracas (I smelt it and didn’t run screaming – an improvement. In fact I may be coming round to it…)

    The second is for those lunchtime moments at work when you fancy buying a little something just to cheer the day up. I am really bad for doing this, but keeping a track of the samples I really want to try seem to be the way forward with this. My last lunch time unplanned purchase was the Olfactive Studio sample set, which was affordable and impressive!

    • Olfactoria says:

      The classic perfume trap – ah, that one is truly insidious. I have quite a few such finds as well. The justification comes so easy if it is a true classic…

      I can relate with your second scenario as well, emotions of any kind can lead to dangerous perfume buying. ;)

  10. Tara says:

    B, have you been reading my mind again?

    I confess that when I went to the talk at L’Artisan Parfumeur I bought Seville a L’Aube which I thought I probably would, but I also impluse bought a bottle of Nuit de Tubereuse which isn’t even on my wish list! I just got caught up in the excitement of the evening. At least I know I am in good company… :)

  11. arline says:

    At the moment, I don’t have the luxury to impulse buy anything, but that does not stop me from having the wants. Believe me, I have made fragrance mistakes, clothing mistakes, shoe mistakes, for one reason or another, because I wanted it NOW NOW NOW!!!! I can justify about anything.

    Sometimes I have to get things out of my system, before I can tap into my true wanting. What I mean, is that we are never going to stop wanting, especially the things that we are passionate about.

    We as humans are always trying to fill ourselves with something. Here lately, I am wanting to fill myself up with joyful experiences. Sometimes the impulsive actions that create instant gratification, but create the opposite of joy, for reasons that you mentioned. Sometimes the impulse buy is in sync with what is joyful, but for me, that is rare.

    Sitting with something for a for even a little while, takes patience. Since we are talking about fragrance here, it is actually very important to sit with a perfume for a while (not forever), to know if it is a keeper or not.

    I live in an unfortunate fragrance and fashion part of the world!!! Memphis TN, so there are not a lot of on the spot temptations that I have to contend with. This could be a blessing in disguise, as I think about it. There are actually a couple of really nice clothing boutiques that I love, but there are really no great perfume options. One of the boutiques has some fragrances, but nothing to write home about. I have to mostly rely on reviews, to have my interest piqued, and now I am learning, that I must buy samples, because there is no other way for me to test certain perfumes. Again time and patience (as well as funds) are keeping my impulsiveness at bay. Luckily, I hate clutter, and purchasing errors, create unwanted clutter.

    When I travel, which has been scanty this year, I often REALLY REALLY REALLY want to find something AMAZING to to buy, to have NOW!!!! Usually, I am met with disappointment in those situations, because my mind is not clear, it is focused on the wanting, rather than, what would I really love and enjoy for a long long time . In essence, I want to love what I purchase, no mater the cost, and have no regrets.

    Most of the time, I find that I do best when I take a moment, and a few deep breaths. Being a yoga teacher is a good thing, when I utilize the tools that I have learned from it. and I am working to practice the work in all my encounters, no matter what my wntings may be.

  12. Warum says:

    Oh, I love it when you write about our lives and perfume (or our lives in perfume, as it were!).

    Like Birgit Lindgren I am more likely to overindulge in online buys, and I am most likely to go hog-wold with decants or used bottles from someone’s sale. There I am, I came out! I almost picked up two bottles from someone’s sale for which I already had an unfinished decant and a sample (and a question whether I need a decant of it or not). Had anyone ever done it? I decided to restrain after all and pick up just one bottle which was on my wish list forever and a day.

    On the other hand, sometimes it is so hard to go my “preferred” route — a sample, a decant and then maybe a bottle. Like right now. I really want more of Peoneve. I have just drained the sample, have none left and WANT MORE! A decant is the preferred route. But if a bottle comes my way before a decant does… hummm, well, I don’t know.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Great point, Olga! Private sales are very dangerous territory, a good deal is even harder to resist.
      I haven’t tried Peoneve yet, you make it sound very interesting…

  13. Philipp says:

    Ugh… how well I know this feeling. Every time I enter a perfumery I could buy a bottle of something, for there is always a scent that calls out my name. However, I try my best not to act on my impulses and to carefully think about each purchase. Plus I have an Excel spreadsheet that categorises/ranks my lemmings giving me the perfect tool to make the best possible choice.

    • Olfactoria says:

      That spreadsheet sounds good, I’ve been wanting to do that for the longest time, but there is always something more pressing that wants to be done first. :(

  14. Undina says:

    I loved reading this post and all the comments though it’s so not me. I don’t remember ever leaving a store with a bottle of anything I didn’t plan on buying (maybe not on that particular visit but in general). With me it’s sometimes the opposite: I start doubting my previous decision to buy once I am at a store.

    It’s slightly different with online purchases: I can go from “I want” to “I have to have” in 60 seconds. The way it happens: I test something for the first time, I like it and plan to test more but meanwhile I start looking at where I’d buy it if I decide to buy… and suddenly I see a good price/deal on it or a split… You see how it might work ;)

    • Olfactoria says:

      I don’t doubt for a moment that you are not a person to be tempted to buy something on a whim.
      It’s interesting to hear that this does not go for online purchases though… it’s so easy hitting that “Buy now!” button. :)

  15. annemariec says:

    And the other side of the coin is buyer’s remorse, a feeling I’m sure we all know well.

    I bought a half-used bottle of Goutal’s Heure Exquise EDP on eBay earlier this week, and the twang of buyer’s remorse made itself apparent, but only briefly. I have emptied samples of the EDP and EDT to see which one I like (the EDP). I have lurked literally for years online looking for a good deal. I noticed recently that HE is only available in 100 ml bottles, the 50 mls apparently having been phased out. HE is the only Goutal I really love. My bottle is costing less than $50, including shipping, although I risk it having been exposed to light for too long … blah blah blah …

    Sound familiar? We all have these conversations with ourselves, no?

  16. Eva S says:

    Oh, I do recognize this problem! Perhaps fortunately, the opportunities for perfume-shopping in my hometown is very limited, the very mainstream offerings and celeb-perfumes seldom tempt me anymore. Unfortunately that makes the problem twice as bad when I’m travelling. I shudder to think what would happen if I were to visit Paris or London!

    • Olfactoria says:

      It’s a good thing when you can’t buy everything right under your nose, and travelling makes perfume buying even more special (somehow I cherish that bottle from xyz so much more), but I can see how it can get out of hand easily. :)

  17. Natalie says:

    Sometimes an impulse buy leaves you with something REALLY beautyful though; I went to Düsseldorf last week, absolutely sure about the Iris Ganache I was going to pick up (Living in the Netherlands, you have to go abroad for the really good stuff). However, I ended up buying Angelique Noir instead and love love love it to bits. I will get the IG, but this impulse buy was a good one!

  18. jamesdennard says:

    I don’t have much shopping I can do in physical stores here. Most shops carry the newest mainstream fragrances, most of which I am not interested in. When shopping online I fall into the temptation of adding several things into the cart I didn’t intend to get (since I’m already shopping ;) ). Those free shipping offers make it tempting to keep adding to the cart, too. :)

  19. jamesdennard says:

    I’m glad I have that reputation in your mind, Birgit. :) I will say that I have added things to a virtual cart many times but didn’t purchase given time to think about it.

  20. sugandaraja says:

    I have a rule: I never buy something I haven’t worn at least twice. This worked really well in my early years of perfume addiction, but sadly it becomes less and less effective as time goes on: by now, I know a ton of perfumes that smell great AND I’ve worn them at least twice!

    I suffer your failing for Serge’s too. It’s almost comical. I’ve been to The Perfume Shoppe three times over this summer, checking to see if Tubereuse Criminelle is in, and each time walking out with a different Serge Lutens! I mean, I do love them, but…

    • Olfactoria says:

      That is a good rule for new Perfumistas, but as you say, once you have tried a lot, wearing it twice goes for many perfumes.

      Which Lutens’s did you get on your quest for TC?

      • sugandaraja says:

        First Fille En Aiguilles, then Arabie, then Sarrasins ( by some small miracle a bell jar was on sale outside of France – I couldn’t pass that up! )

  21. Dionne says:

    I’m feeling a bit the odd man out right now, because impulse buys are not my style, either in-store or online. Partly for financial reasons – I consider myself to have a simple, comfortable lifestyle but there’s not a lot for extras, and these days my rush comes from no-debt-but-mortgage and decent savings – and partly because it’s just my personality. It’s in my nature to research, examine all the options, and make sure this is REALLY what I want. Been there, done that for buyer’s regret and hate it.

    Gah! I sound so smug. Sorry about that. Would it help to know that I’m chronically underslept and am still trying to master the simple act of putting myself to bed?

    • Olfactoria says:

      No, you don’t sound smug at all! I admire and envy your way of life, I truly do!
      We are complete opposites, Dionne. I’m a closet hedonist, but I’m excellent at sleeping whenever, wherever (if only my children would let me, that is! ;) )

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