Monday Question – Do You Reveal Your Expertise When Buying Perfume?

When buying perfume do you act like you have never seen, not to speak of smelled a bottle before?

Do you let the SA know you are way more informed than her/him?

Are you a closet Perfumista or are you a recognized expert in your stores of choice?

My Answer:

I am a closet Perfumista.

I don’t let on that I could recite The Guide or lists the notes of many classic perfumes if the need arose.

On the one hand I rather enjoy in a perverse manner the clueless iterations of many SA’s and just let them talk, on the other hand I am also too shy to let them know I actually can distinguish my Chanels from my Guerlains, because I have no real “right to be informed”. Who has that right, you ask? Luca Turin and Chandler Burr, the “Big” bloggers, the industry insiders.

I am none of those, so who am I to be and act informed?

What about you?

Do you let on or do you play the innocent and clueless?

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25 Responses to Monday Question – Do You Reveal Your Expertise When Buying Perfume?

  1. I let the SA talk a little bit and feel them out. If I have no interest in talking to them, I’ll usually give them verbal or non-verbal cues that I’d like to browse on my own. If I like the person right off the bat or feel like I’d like to reveal my true nature for conversation’s sake, I will absolutely do it. Identifying yourself as a perfumista (or beauty expert, etc.) can lead to making friends with SAs, and that can be a satisfying relationship. I am normally a very solitary shopper though. I don’t even like to go perfume shopping with friends. I need the focus of a sharpshooter. 🙂

  2. Marie says:

    I think it depends. If the SA is a very young girl who’s friendly and who means well I will not correct her or engage in a conversation that lets her know that I might know a bit about the subject. I remember an occasion when I asked for a couple of suggestions in a certain genre of perfume (I think I asked fore something “elegant and ladylike” or sth. like that) and the very young SA essentially showed me her own favorites, Lola, Juicy Couture etc. with a lot of enthusiasm. She meant well and I realized that the mistake was mine – assuming that she would know what I mean.

    If I’m dealing with a SA my appr. my own age or older, especially if they represent a particular brand I will indicate, if that’s the case, that I know the products from that brand, or let it shine through that perfume is something that I care about and have some experience with.

  3. angie Cox says:

    I am not that knowledgeable but sometimes I can’t help telling an S.A when this or that perfume came out and what a classic it is . I sometimes add some information about notes but never in a patronising way because the companies don’t train well .If you pay peanuts you know what you get and I don’t think they are spending money on training or recruiting anyone who costs money .

    • Olfactoria says:

      You are so right, Angie. The companies should be the ones taking an interest in training their employees, as long as this is no priority to them, they should not wonder about the amount of misinformation going around.
      I think you are quite knowledgeable btw! 🙂

  4. Gisela says:

    Mostly I play clueless because, truth be told, I’m not much better than clueless. 😉
    I read a lot and could be quite good in namedropping (and sometimes can’t resist to do that) but my nose is way behind my theoretical knowledge. And after all, it’s the nose that counts…

    • Olfactoria says:

      True, it is the nose that counts. I wish that was an idea many SA’s had too sometime in their careers. 😉 I recently had Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger recommended to me as a light summer cologne…

  5. Ines says:

    It all depends where I am. If I’m at a normal store, I try and look by myself without getting into a discussion about any of the perfumes because even if I say something, I’ll probably end up being looked down upon as trying to sound like I know something when it’s obvious I can’t know nearly as much as the SA trying to make me like a perfume. So I try and test alone.
    On the other hand, visiting one of the two niche stores in Zagreb I spend practically all my time talking to people there and sniffing stuff and generally exchanging opinions regarding what we’re testing (as most of the time people there test alongside myself ) so I generally have fun and a great talk where I can discuss perfume with SA who know about as much as I do (I don’t remember notes or what Luca said though). 🙂
    And they don’t make me feel self-conscious for knowing more than their average customer, they make me feel welcome.

  6. Tara says:

    I mainly stay in the closet because I don’t want to seem rude or embarrass SAs by interupting their spiel (if I know it already) or correcting them (if they get something wrong). I think a lot of the time SAs aren’t really passionate about what they’re selling which is fair enough, it’s just a job for them. Little excuse for poorly triained staff though. It would be nice once in a while to come across someone who is genuinely interested and informed by the perfumes they sell and to have a nice chat about it. However I do like to have space to test and think.

    As for you keeping quiet because you feel you don’t have the right to speak up, I say you have every right to act informed because you are!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Having space and time to smell and enjoy is the best shopping situation, I agree.

    • Marie says:

      I feel the same way, Tara, if the SA is nice and friendly I see no reason to reveal my nerdy side, so I try to respect that she’s just trying to do her job the best she can. However, I am surprised from time to time when I get the feeling that I know their range of products better than they do. Whether that says more about me than them, well….. 😉

  7. KathyT says:

    I prefer to stay quiet because I find that sometimes the sales assistants get defensive if I disagree. I have been told countless times that a particular fragrance doesn’t exist when I know for a fact that it does! I tend to make a strategic plan for the perfume counter so that I can try and/or get samples of particular fragrances without being steered around too much by the sales assistant.

  8. kjanicki says:

    In general I like to let the SA know I’m a collector of perfumes, because I think I may get more samples that way 😉 I don’t usually tell them I write a blog, because I don’t feel legitimate somehow, not like a Chandler Burr. But I like to chat about notes, or ask “do you have…” or “I’ve always wanted to try…”

  9. Alyssa says:

    Oy. A loaded question! I’ve done everything from bat my eyes and play dumb to give a short course in the history of the line. It depends upon the mood/knowledge/receptivity of the SA, and on my own mood of course. Sometimes I’ve been sussed out by the SA’s unintentionally (“Oh linden,” I exclaim, on smelling a scent strip. SA with narrowed eyes, “You have a good nose. Are you in the industry?” As if there could be not other reason for identifying a note!)

  10. annemariec says:

    Like Carrie (above) I like to be a lone shopper and I generally avoid conversations with perfume SAs. However, twice now I have tried to explain the principle of buying the smallest possible bottles. I already have enough perfumes for three lifetimes so why should I spend big bucks on 100 ml bottles? Both times the SAs just did not seem to get it. I left the issue alone because of course SAs need to push for the biggest sale possible, but I actually came away thinking that these SAs had trouble grasping the basic concept and they had never met an experienced perfumista before. And I was irriated, becuase surely a good sales person realises that in the end it is better to respect the customer’s stated needs, than to push sopmething they have said they don’t want? Grrr. Department stores seem to undertand that in their electical departments the SAs need to be trained. Not so on the fragrance floor. They think that anyone will do there. After all, you just trying to smell stuff that smells nice – how hard can that be? Grrr.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I am so with you, Anne Marie, I grind my teeth every time somebody tells me how much cheaper in relation the bigger bottle is! Yes, sure as if I ever could use up 100ml of anything!
      Sadly I find that trained sales personnel is hard to find even in the hardware store these days. Sigh.

  11. Undina says:

    After reading other commenters’ responses I should say that my choice would be: All of the above (but I cannot recite The Book).

    I just want to add that since I make the rounds of perfume counters in the same several stores every month there are at least a couple of SAs there who recognize me – because usually I’m the first one to inform them that – according to their/companies’ websites – they should already have such and such perfume (usually that happens after I ask to try that perfume and they tell me they do not carry it [at all]).

  12. Axum says:

    There are only a couple of perfume counters nearby, so I feel it is important to maintain cordial relationships with the staff. I don’t hide my interest in perfume, but then I can’t quote Turin or debate chemical formulae…! A couple of the older SAs are reasonably informed about their brands, know my tastes, and can be quite generous with samples. The rest just let me sniff on my own, which is fine. Buying something (even a small thing) once in a while certainly helps to keep things sweet 🙂

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