Last week, I offered some very silly suggestions as to how to avoid perfume salespeople. Many of the comments said something along the lines of “This is funny and all, but I’ve never seen perfume salespeople like that.” There are a few possible explanations for the discrepancy between our experiences. I am five feet tall and look about 15 years old, which is generally not a combination that screams “buying power”. Because of this, perfume salespeople might be less eager to cater to me than to a woman who is more obviously in a position to buy perfume.
But I stand by my point that in general, American perfume salespeople know very little about their products and are bewildered and/or annoyed by anyone who knows more. As support for my argument, I offer up my recent experience at Sephora. I welcome any comments agreeing with this point, disagreeing with this point, or making fun of me for being five feet tall.
First, allow me to introduce my boyfriend Drew, pictured here with our kitten Zelda Weinberg-Rosenberg.
He is a rugged Iowa man about to graduate from Johns Hopkins University. He has also been incredibly supportive of my interest in perfume, going so far as to travel with me to Grasse to tour the Fragonard and Molinard factories. Drew is relevant to this story because, despite having dated a perfume blogger for over a year, he does not wear any cologne. He owns one iPod-shaped bottle of Givenchy Play, which was given to him by his mother after she accidentally bought an extra one for her husband. When I received a coupon for 20% off at Sephora, I decided that it was time to buy him his very first scent.
You have to understand that I did not want to ask the Sephora saleswoman for help. We were desperate. We had gone through the entire selection of men’s fragrances at least twice. Drew found the generic aquatic men’s colognes boring (good boy!), which ruled out at least 3/4 of Sephora’s offerings. He was not quite ready for more untraditional offerings like Bvlgari Black or the Thierry Muglers. We both liked Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte, but it quickly became too sweet on his skin. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male was both too sweet and too homoerotic for his tastes.
Eventually I decided that he should just try my fallback men’s fragrance, the delicious coffee-scented Rochas Man. But that phallic pine-cone bottle was nowhere to be found. I had seen Rochas Man at that very same Sephora only a few weeks earlier. It had to be there. Clearly it was just hiding in some cabinet or back room. (Recounting this story is like watching a horror movie: “THERE IS NO BACK ROOM! GET OUT OF THERE WHILE YOU’RE STILL ALIVE!”) So I stupidly broke my own rule and called a Sephora saleswoman over.
“Hi, we’re looking for Rochas Man.”
The saleswoman stared at us. She tilted her head slightly to the right to indicate her puzzlement. Drew has asked me to note that she was wearing copious amounts of purple eyeshadow.
“Yes. It’s the one in the bottle that looks like an upside-down pine cone. You know, Rochas Man.”
The saleswoman narrowed her purple eyeshadow-coated eyes. Rochas Man? What kind of nonsense was that? Why were these bothersome vagrants trying to waste her time?
“I see. And how do you spell that?”
Although it was already laughably clear that Rochas Man was a lost cause, I spelled it for her and continued to peruse the pitiful men’s section as we waited for her to check the computer. She returned in a few minutes with the bad news.
“I’m sorry, we’ve never carried that fragrance.”
“But I saw it here just a few weeks ago.”
“Hmm. Yeah, no, we don’t carry that. Maybe you were thinking of something else?”
The annoyance in her voice had been replaced by pity. We were obviously delusional. No wonder we were such vagrants.
We walked out of Sephora empty-handed, except for our renewed resolve to never ask a perfume salesperson for help again.