Monday, November 29, 2010

This Week at the Perfume Counter

Here's a tip. While I totally understand wanting to avoid the mall altogether, I encourage you to check out the free floating kiosks some of them host. In the past, I've found very good things at a number of these places. They don't have Lutens, L'Artisan or anything remotely niche, let alone indie. But they often have things you can only get online otherwise, and frequently they have the older formulas in stock. It's true, you can get Tresor at the Lancome counter. And the sales associate there will tell you the formula hasn't been changed. You might even like the newer formula; sometimes, I prefer them. Regardless, the kiosks can increase your options.

Here in town, there are two, at two separate malls. I haven't been so lucky at the one. I did find Lalique eau de parfum and Lalique Encre Noire, which are otherwise hard to come by in these parts. I've come across a few other things, as well. The other kiosk has been a lot more fruitful. There I've seen everything from Paloma Picasso Tentations to the original Lagerfeld, and many things in between. Fendi, Tocade, Givenchy III, Creed Bois du Portugal, and many new releases which don't make it to the local department store shelf.

This week I took a trip for Thanksgiving, two hours outside of town. Another kiosk. Pre-reformulation Organza Indecence, the original Perry Ellis for women, Tendre Poison, Tiffany for Men, and more. The problem I ran into with the proprietor there is one I've experienced with all of them. A few problems, actually. I'll call them challenges.

Typically, the owner only puts out front what most people will recognize, and he or she tends to be very aggressive. One has to be, with the kind of thru-traffic they get. If you don't grab them quick and forcibly, you've lost the sale, maybe. These kiosks are small, with limited shelf space, so everything is stacked precariously. The owner knows what he or she has but not necessarily much about perfume, nor does he or she want to do a lot of digging around for nothing. That would mean a lot of rearranging. And for what?

Their attitude--rushing you, bombarding you with questions (what are you looking for, what do you like, who is this for)--can make browsing a challenge, especially if you're trying to get close enough to view through the glass to see the stacks beyond their featured items. I've learned to make my questions as specific as possible. I ask for specific perfumes, though this is kind of a catch 22. Most of the goodies will come as surprises. What they have isn't necessarily anything you can think off the top of your head to look for. They've stocked it because they know sooner or later an elderly lady will wander by asking for it. It isn't something which will fly off the shelves, so they don't display it. The rarer it is, the more deeply buried in their inventory. How are they to know you're the elderly lady in question?

Communicating with the kiosk owner can be a pain, too, because they're in the business of hard sell. They could easily walk down to the department store, mere yards away, to see that it still stocks Organza Indecence, albeit a new formula, but they don't really need to be informed. They'll simply tell you it's very rare. Likewise, when you make the general comment that you like older, discontinued fragrances, they will start presenting you with items you can find upstairs at Perfumania, or things you know very well can be had from an e-tailer at a fraction of the price they're charging. All of this aside, once you get to know them, if you have that kind of time to invest, they start to understand what you're looking for, and even loo out for it themselves.

Another tip. Look at the local drugstore. I've found the following on these shelves: Fendi EDP and EDT, Samsara EDP, Poison, Fahrenheit. All pre-reformulation. The other day, I found an older bottle of Amarige and a one ounce bottle of Poison Eau de Cologne, at drugstore prices. I've also seen early Oscar bottles, Dune, Poeme, and many others. Don't assume that a newer drugstore won't have older bottles. I suspect that the newer stores are stocked with some other closing location's inventory at times. Additionally, that new Rite Aid you pass might be a renovated local pharmacy. You never know.


Tamara*J said...

"How are they to know you're the elderly lady in question?"


lol Brian! ;)

pitbull friend said...

Thanks, Brian! I'd never thought of this, but Tentations & Fendi get my attention right quick!

Brian said...

Pitbull, you've smelled Tentations?

Miss Conduct said...

How do you know it's an older version--from the packaging? I guess not knowing this marks me out as a perfume rube. I'm not against studying up to familiarize myself with the old packaging of, say, J'Adore, which I've heard rocked originally ... but I don't have at my immediate mental disposal a visual catalog of the packaging of each reformulation. If you do, I am in serious awe.

Brian said...

Actually, it's pretty basic. The more recent the fragrance, the more extensive the list of ingredients. Older stuff lists simply aqua, parfum, and alcohol. After that, aqua, parfum, alcohol, and a few other things like I think FC yellow 5 or some such color number combos. Recent stuff has a long laundry list of things with chemical sounding names. If you see short, it's likely older. Other signs of age: beaten up box, worn cellophane wrapping.