Friday, March 10, 2006

ASK MARLEN: Try before you buy - but HOW?


I'm newly discovering the fact that I will become a fragrance junkie. After reading, I've found more colognes I want to try than I can find available in sample vials online.

What is the best way to get cologne samples to try before you buy? I previously used a site called, but they just limited their quantity you can order (and upset me to the point where they've lost my business now) Other sites have a few, but nothing comprehensive like scentmonkey...

Any advice you have for a newb would be great. I don't live near any stores with a decent collection, and even when I go they don't carry many of the scents I want to sample (I'd have to travel 3 hours to even buy a bottle of Bulgari PH if it wasn't for the internet) I'm discouraged because I NEED to indulge in this addiction, but I can't find a reasonable way to sample
the endless list of scents I find intriguing...

Dear PH,

Take heart my friend, there are a number of great ways to try before you buy! First, let me direct you to a thread on Basenotes that should help: Internet Sites That Offer Samples. This is pretty thorough and many of the entries address free samples, so this would be a great place to start. My next recommendation would be to browse the decants for swap and sale at Basenotes: Sell and Swap Your Stuff. This is another great way to only spend smaller amounts of money on a variety of scents that interest you, helping you to better choose when buying larger bottles.

Hope this helps, but a warning: Decants and samples can be dangerous...Sure, it starts with just a few, but then slowly, as if having the ability to freakily reproduce, they begin to spread out and take over your life, showing up in drawers, pockets and backpacks, sometimes even invading washing machines and car trunks. Not to mention the brainwashing ability they posess, as if crying out some subliminal mantra - "Just one more! Just one more!" - until you can no longer control your impulses...

But as long as you can keep that in check, you'll be fine.

Oh, and one last thought: Never leave a department store without asking for samples! I don't care how scary the old biddies behind the counters are...I know they've got them, secretly stashed away in those formica-covered drawers...

One more thought: Never be afraid to play the shame game: "Oh well, it's a shame you don't have any samples, I was really hoping to wear this to a party this weekend to make sure I liked it before coming back and buying the large EDT...and the Aftershave...and the deodorant and bath soap...Oh well, I guess I'll just see if [insert name of department store here] has any..."



Cyrano said...

I appreciate the help! This is especially important for me because I seem to have a very unique skin chemistry. Some of the most well loved scents smell like rat poison on me. Some of the scents that are often complained about for being short lived, like Bulgari, last and last and last on me. Weird, huh? Welcome to the jungle. It's awesome to find a group of fellow scent addicts!

marlen said...

cyrano - good luck with the sample quest! thanks so much for reading and posting!

Flora said...

Marlen, your response to Cyrano, directing him to the Basenotes list of Internet companies that sell samples, was a great "help" to me as well. I have discovered some on my own, of course, but it's always good to find more ways to feed my addiction. Thanks - I think!

Mark said...

Wow, it's like you were watching me or something in Neiman Marcus today Marlen b/c I TOTALLY played the shame game today for a sample of Eau de Campagne. So much so that not only did she miraculously find her sample vials, she found the moisturizing cream and the body wash as well, along with a whole handful of tinted moisturizers and a 2ml sample of Eau du Soir! We love Sisley now.

Today I was on a serious sample mission. I came home with close to 30. It's such a joy but you're absolutely right. Every coat I own, every pair of pants, every messenger bag - they all now come with their own samples. In the very unlikely event that I should leave the house not smelling like a cheap french whore, all I need do is reach my hand in my pocket, root through my car's ashtray/coin holder or glove compartment and I will turn up something. It could be CREED, it could be Nautica, but it will definitely soothe the withdrawal symptoms.

I suggest stashing one in your first aid kit as well.

Raise your hand if you wake up in the morning thinking "What store haven't I hit in the last week for samples."


"It's tuesday, I wonder if that girl who knows me as the sample-boy is working, do you think it's safe to try it? Will she give them to me this time? Even if I ask her for the same thing over and over and over again because I'm too cheap to buy a full bottle?!"

Kim said...

Mark, just once, buy a full bottle of your favorite sample from that girl. It may be the best purchase you make.

Just a suggestion.

Also, with samples you think friends might like, give it to them.

I don't know, this is my sample philosophy.

marlen said...

FLORA - It would be great if you could share some additional sites not mentioned at Basenotes!

marlen said...

Mark - Ah....Mark, you remind me of...ME! LOL!

marlen said...

Kim - I do give away a lot of samples, and have my "to try" bag near my bed...I would bet that Mark probably gives a lot of his smaples to all those college co-eds he, ahem, fraternizes with!

Mark said...

This is still a numbers game to me, so when I feel like I may possibly have enough samples, then maybe I'll start giving them away.

My trick, to make it look like I bought a full bottle is that I tell them I came back for the one they gave me a sample of - just on a day when she wasn't there.

"Oh yeah, I finally bought that ______ last week. Wow, thats the shit." something like that.

So that makes it looks like I'm a spender.And of course I act devastated that I wasn't able to give her the sale, as one does.

hehe, fraternizes. Oh Marlen....

God it's like you're watching me.

Oh my, well kids - it's 8:40 am and I need to pick out a "paint a backdrop for a set" fragrance as that is what I'll be doing this afternoon - desert vistas interspersed with random cacti and hidden phallic symbols. Something that easily mixes well with the smell of paint...

I know what you're all thinking -

"24 Faubourg, Mark, 24 Faubourg."

But I'm partial to my new bottle of Marc Jacobs Grass at the moment, and it's a 10 ounce bottle. Egads!

What's with my comments turning into emails, lately? I just keep getting longer. I seem to have lost the ability to edit along the way, somewhere between oakmoss and petitgrain.

I know what you're all thinking -

".......24 Faubourg, Mark."

Kim said...

I had a good sample experience yesterday. I got a sample from a place I have only seen give out a sample on like two occasions to someone else. AND the sales associate (most likely floor manager) MADE me a sample into a glass decant.

Thanks to Mark, I asked for one from the place I thought would surely say, "Not possible."

(I was purchasing something else, but it was under 3 euro, but I am really happy. The decanted samples are my favorite)

Flora said...

Hi Marlen,

Here are a few sites that have samples that I found even before I started reading perfume blogs: - some of these are a little weird but others are great. $3 each, 6 for $16, generous 1/32 oz. vials. Huge selection changes all the time. Also sends you a boatload of samples if you place an order for the full size products. - a subsidiary of Pefume Bay but has a huge selection of men's and women's samples. Also sells testers, including my personal favorite for when I get rich - $200 for a LITER bottle of Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion, for refilling department store testers, usually goes for $600. I would seriously buy this if I could either afford or justify it. - carries all niche and boutique lines, no mass market. 8 samples for $15 U.S. only. Villoresi, Keiko Mecheri, Pilar & Lucy, etc., and Abinoam has just been added. is Canada's answer to Luscious Cargo, with niche lines like Serge Lutens, MPG and Laura Tonatto. 7 samples for $15 Canadian except for Yosh Han - those are $5 each sample. Also has a great selection of hard-to-find perfumes from houses like Caron and Rochas.

Happy Hunting!

marlen said...

Mark - 2 Words: 24 Faubourg!

LOL! I love this stuff, and recently ordered a bottle for myself.

marlen said...

Kim - that's enough to make my day! Samples are generally non-existent here in Japan...I made sure to become friendly with the CDG linesperson!

marlen said...

Wow Flora! Thanks so much for sharing these! Especially the Perfume Shoppe - great for our Canadian readers!

Flora said...

Hey, anytime! I am always in pursuit of something new (or old) in the way of fragrance - sometimes looking for something specific leads me down the rabbit-hole and I find something entirely unexpected. (Though I should probably stop thinking about that liter bottle of Annick Goutal one of these days.... and pretend I never saw it.)