Saturday, November 26, 2011

Men's Cologne and Other Disasters

One of many fragrance counters at Nordstrom.
Last Christmas, I was at Nordstrom, standing in line to purchase a pair of driving gloves (I admit, they were for me.  Charity starts at home.) and while I waited my turn, I watched as a casual inquiry at the men's fragrance counter degenerated into a desperate transaction between buyer and salesperson.  From the look of it, an IRS audit would have been a more pleasant and beneficial experience.

From what I could infer, and I love to infer, a woman had stopped in to pick up something for her brother/father/grandfather (I'm assuming it was for a family member.  Usually, if it's for a boyfriend or husband, the decision on just how they should smell is rarely put to debate.) and things were not going well.  The woman was dumbstruck by variety and the salesman was being less than helpful by squirting strips of paper and passing them off to her like some sideshow card trick.  If he pulled a rabbit out of his pants I wouldn't have been surprised.  He did have a ponytail, after all. You know how ponytailed men are. 

Joan Crawford hawks 'Summer Rain' perfume to
Rosalind Russell in MGM's 1939 hit  The Woman.
The mushroom cloud of Dolce & Gabbana, Lacoste and Armani generated by the eager man with the trigger finger soon made its way to me and I found myself somewhere between a contact high and a migraine.  The pile of scented paper grew as he wove between the displays and I assume he had sptrized every sample they had on the floor, and possibly dipped into the bathroom air freshener, yet still our young heroine had made no headway in whether to buy Ralph Lauren Black or Guilty by Gucci.  I yearned to intervene, and tell her to just buy something by Burberry because you can't go wrong with Burberry, but I was unwilling to sacrifice my spot in line and I didn't want to interrupt.  Out of desperation, she eventually purchased a gift set the salesman was pushing and left. 

This is just here for Reference.  This is the
Perfume Hall at the old Bullock's Wilshire.
Look at all that floor space!  You can actually
walk in a straight line!
As a general rule, I never buy fragrance for others.  Scent is one of the most personal aspects of our identity, so unless I have a direct request to drag home a 5 piece gift set of Viva La Juicy, I'm not going to consider buying anyone anything that smells.  My primary reason for this is body chemistry; everyone is different, so just because it smells good in the bottle or on the salesgirl, it doesn't mean it will smell good on your loved one.  There's also allergies to consider, as well as personal taste; I have a good friend who just flat out doesn't like perfume, and on the flip side of the coin, I have a box on my Bathroom vanity that is crammed with cologne, because I love scent and how it can shape or reflect you mood.  So, maybe save yourself a headache and heartbreak and opt for a nice gift card.

Should you opt to go against my advice and insist on buying fragrance even though i told you not to, here's how to avoid the pitfalls.  Don't go in blind; know what your giftee already wears.  Steal the bottle or spray some on a card and bring it in with you.  Either buy more of the same (they can always return it or add it to the stockpile) or if you're feeling frisky, ask the salesperson what is similar to it and they should be able to find something along the same lines.  If even that fails you, then just ask the salesperson what is popular and safe and buy what smells the most conservative.  Gift giving should be a pleasure, not a terrifying experience or a Sisyphean task that will make you take up smoking again.

-Ian

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