Sample before you buy - Perfume

Some of my biggest expenditures are made in the fragrance department of Seattle’s downtown Nordstrom. I have a very powerful sense of smell, and I get a real kick out of finding a great perfume that can lift my mood. Large department stores will often provide free samples of their perfume if you request, so you can try them out over the course of a few days and see how they age on your skin, how quickly the top notes wear off, etc.

However, I’m really in olfactory heaven when I happen upon true boutiques that carry hard-to-find perfume and perfume oils from all over the world. I love independent perfumers, and I will go out of my way to find them when I travel.

But I don’t have the time or money to travel as much as I’d like. And even with a large selection at Nordstrom, sometimes I get a little tired of Victor & Rolf or Lancome’s latest offering. So, sometimes, I buy online.

Now, of all the things to buy online, perfume might be among the riskiest. It’s generally pretty expensive, and you can’t return it if you don’t like it.

That’s why I was so delighted to stumble upon Lucky Scent. Lucky Scent is an online store that not only carries the best and most exotic scents available (and describes said scents with such imaginative wording that they make reading a sexy experience), but they also sell samples of almost all of the offered scents.

For as little as $3 (or sometimes, as much as $8), you can get a little vial of a stunning scent mailed right to your home. Peruse through the site to find the perfect scent, then select the "Try a Sample" option. Or you can just go straight to the samples page and pick them out at random – I don’t recommend this method.

Now, it’s easy to go crazy and order 20 different samples — but even $80 spent sampling, and finding a great perfume or two, is better than wasting $130 on a perfume that smells awful with your body’s chemistry. When it comes time to buy, I will sometimes make my purchase at Lucky Scent, or I will occasionally look on eBay or even Craigslist to see if anyone is selling the scent. Since I buy so many perfumes, it can be hard to finish a bottle, and so it can even be worth it to find someone who has a half-used bottle of a good perfume, as long as it's not too old.

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Guest's picture

I'm a guy and therefore completely clueless.  Would a girl enjoy a gift like this for Valentine's day?  Like maybe a sample basket or something?

Guest's picture

I would love to get something like that for valentines day. 

Andrea Karim's picture

I saw this pack of samples the other day at my favorite day spa:

I was excited - I'm particularly fond of the Geisha line of perfumes, and thought that this was a lovely way to try them all out. Of course, they are back-ordered, but I believe that they can be found elsewhere.


Jessica Okon's picture

I toiled away at a fragrance counter, and Yoris I can safely say that your girlfriend would be pissed off. You are better off buying her a nice 1.Oz bottle of a nice perfume she likes versus a bunch of samples.  (BTW the 3.4 oz bottles are always a better deal). If you are thinking of fragrance as a gift, this is one area I suggest not being cheap, but if you are savvy you can find a few good deals.

Keep in mind that like most cosmetics, fragrance in department stores does not "go on sale." The prices are set by the vendor. You can find deals online, but I highly recommend not buying on Ebay or from "bargain" site.  Perfume does get old. You might be buying old stock.  What I would do is Google coupon codes for Sephora or Ulta.

If you choose to go the brick & mortar route, this is a great time for you to find not only a nice fragrance for your girlfriend, but probably a bonus gift.  If you are charming enough, and the salesperson wants a good sale, you might be able to trade up in a gift. If you are confused as to what to get her, be prepared to let the sales person know what she currently wears, her fashion style, and age. One thing to keep in mind fellas is much like buying a diamond, something small but quality is better than large and crappy. As a decade long veteran of retail, I saw many a gift returned because it was bought without any care or in haste.  This is your amour, not your grandma. 

As for the samples in department stores, no one loves a "sample whore." The best time to score some nice samples is after you purchase something. I won't say where I worked, but we had samples for the beggars and samples for the buyers. Let's just say Chanel vs. Liz Claiborne. It really wasn't a matter of snobbery, but of not having anything nice left to give paying customers. If you are truly trolling for samples, I highly suggest you at least feign being interested in a fragrance. None of this "Hey, you got any samples" bs.

Oh yeah, trust me on this one--never, ever, ever sniff the bottle of perfume directly, spray it on a card or your hand, because I've seen many a bottle up the noses of some nasty people!

Guest's picture

Hey thanks Jessica for saving me from making a big mistake.  I do have a Sephora around my work place so I will definitely check out your advice about coupons.  It sounds like you have a lot of funny stories to tell about retail.  I can't wait to hear more.  lol

Jessica Okon's picture

You can only use them online. They do a nice job of wrapping, etc.

Guest's picture

have a very powerful sense of smell, and I get a real kick out of finding a great perfumes
that can lift my mood. I get a little tired of Victor & Rolf or Lancome’s latest offering. So, sometimes, I buy online.Keep in mind that like most href="">cosmetics, fragrance
in department stores does not "go on sale." The prices are set by the vendor

Guest's picture

Hi could you please post more about perfume?

Guest's picture

Sampling for a small cost is a good idea, I was able to send a request at luxury perfume and they sent me free perfume samples. not a bad deal.