In the Before Times, my idea of a perfect day was popping into Sephora, sniffing as many scents as humanly possible, and walking out with a fistful of samples. Such laissez-faire pleasures are, alas, a thing of the past, but my habit of sample hoarding is not. In fact, since the pandemic started, my collection has grown exponentially, because I simply cannot stop buying perfume sample sets.
Seattle is a smallish city; comparable to San Francisco in population. We have lots of perfume shops but New York puts us to shame when it comes to variety of product in those shops. And many stores in Seattle are stingy with perfume samples; they won’t even sell me a sample when I ask or beg. Years back, most perfume companies abruptly stopped sending me samples of their wares. Was it because I sometimes gave negative reviews — so it was risky to put a new perfume in nose-shot of me? Was it because I ignored samples that didn’t interest me instead of promoting them?
I didn’t worry about it; I had always re-gifted not only full bottle/full-size products I received from perfume companies, but samples, too. I did this happily! Well, there was the time Amouage sent me a beautiful little bottle of Gold Man. After I pried the bottle from my clenched fist, I gave Gold to a friend at work who said she liked it. I still laugh when I remember the day I took a drive in her truck and smelled Gold; she excitedly admitted she sprayed the mats in her car with Gold…
As is true for many perfume lovers, I have too many fragrance samples. They line my purse, spill out of bowls on my dresser, and sometimes accidentally end up as cat toys. As I’m looking for paper clips, I find them rolling in my desk drawer at work. Oh, I know it’s a good problem to have, but surely there must be something better to do with the samples I don’t intend to keep for reference.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a few uses for perfume samples. I hope you’ll add your own to the list.
In the dryer: You can make your own dryer sheets by moistening a handkerchief and dumping the contents of a perfume sample on it. Toss it in the dryer with your wet laundry. It really works…
By definition, I should think, the true perfumista wants to try everything, or at least, very nearly everything. If you’re lucky (much luckier than I) you can afford to just buy all the latest perfumes unsniffed, but the rest of us have to make do with samples. Here are a few tips for getting your hands on samples of the latest fragrances:
Beg at brick ‘n mortar stores
For many fragrances, especially new mainstream releases, about the only way to get a sample is to go to a store in-person and ask for one. Nordstrom and Sephora top my list of the absolute best foraging grounds: both stores will happily give you a carded sample (i.e., a sample from the manufacturer, usually attached to a card or folded enclosure) if they have one; if they don’t, they will happily decant a sample for you. Nordstrom uses little glass vials; Sephora uses plastic atomizers. Being given a sample on demand makes me inordinately happy; if I was the sort of person willing to pay full price for a bottle of fragrance, I would do all my perfume-buying at Nordstrom and Sephora. As I am most emphatically not the sort of person willing to pay full price for perfume when I don’t have to, I try to buy all my other makeup and beauty things at those stores.
Unfortunately, the “free samples on demand” policy is pretty much limited to those two stores; nobody else comes even close to that level of customer service…