The big leap (by Ann)

Hope all of you lovely Posse people are having a great Labor Day, or if you’re not in the U.S., a wonderful Monday wherever you are.

I’ve been thinking about something for a while so thought I’d ask you all for your opinion.

I’ve been out of work for some time now, so samples and small decants have been sustaining me, save for a few full bottles I had B.U. (before unemployment) and those I got from perfume pals, our lovely Posse swaps or great buys on eBay.

With fragrances I’m really crazy about, often I’ll buy a very small decant or get an extra sample or two and dump them into a little sprayer, just to test how the scent does sprayed, as well as dabbed. Now I can’t afford to buy much more, but money aside, what’s the next step?

If you get a sample and love it, how do you proceed? Another sample? Two? A decant of some size? One more decant, just to be sure? When do you take the plunge and go for the full bottle?


photo: Flickr, some rights reserved

  • Parfymerad says:

    Consistency is not my forte, but my main rules are *never* to buy a FB unsniffed unless it’s available at a rock-bottom price; secondly, to avoid buying FBs at retail unless they’re in the drug-store/low-end designer price range, even if I’ve tested thoroughly.

    I’m also generally wary of new releases, since the hype tends to make it difficult to assess properly…so with those I get a sample (if I can’t test in-store), then a (spray) sample or a small decant, and then I start to look around for reasonable decants, splits, or used bottles. The time involved in this process really helps me think things through, and sometimes by the time I’ve decided on the best ‘source’ I no longer feel the need for a FB.

    My real downfall is major bargains, especially with perfumes that have been discontinued or reformulated…although I’ve rarely regretted such purchases and some have become favourites (Guerlain Terracotta, unsniffed, Songes edt, unsniffed) it’s not good for my finances.

    Sounds like you’ll have a hard time deciding on yr wishlist tho – you’ve certainly got expensive tastes ;)

  • dleep says:

    I hope you find something soon in the way of employment. If the description sounds like something I would like I will order two samples, wear them for a while and then decide if I want to buy a full bottle.

  • Teri says:

    A great big virtual hug for all of you looking for work….been there, done that, and suffered accordingly. I was fortunate in 2009, but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2001-02, I lost my husband and then my job within an 18 month period. It was unbelievably devastating. I was out of work for 8 months, which seemed like an eternity back before this latest recession, and I’ve never felt more frightened and vulnerable in my life. When I did find a new job, it involved relocation to Denver, so I had that stressor to add on to all the others. On balance, I’m happy to be here. I think my former home had become too full of bad memories and I’m not sure I’d have truly thrived had I stayed there.

    While I didn’t lose my employment in 2009, I did have to accept a different position, which involves a ton of traveling. Part of me enjoys the variety, but business travel carries with it a lot of hidden expenses for which you don’t get reimbursed – dog sitting, house sitting, yard care, and other things I have to pay someone to do because I’m not there to do it myself. As a result, the money I have to spend on my hobbies has varied greatly over the last decade. I’ve slowed waaaay down on my art glass collecting – the small house I’m in now can’t hold much more without looking like a hoarding situation. But fragrances are small, so the collecting continues. I seldom buy anything unsniffed. That’s simply good sense (scents? :) ), so samples are a must. Like many of you, I don’t dab my fragrances, so I have to obtain a large sample or a couple of them which I load into a sprayer to test. If I’m certain I like a scent both dabbed and sprayed, then I’ll look for a bottle. If I’m uncertain, I wait six months and then try one more round of samples. If I’m still not on the bandwagon, I don’t buy.

    I know a lot of folks have had less-than-salutory experiences with ebay, but for me it’s been a real asset. I scour ebay while I’m stuck in airports. Ebay can be a real time suck, but airport downtime isn’t time when I can do anything much else, and ebay keeps me out of the airport bar (j/k there). If I can pick up a slightly used bottle of something I’ve sampled and liked for a per ml price less than what I’d pay for a full bottle, I’m thrilled. I’ve been far more lucky than you’d think, but it does require diligence and more time than most folks like to devote to site searching. I can go a couple of months and not find anything, then find a half dozen bargains in a three-day stretch. Good things come to those who wait.

    I admit that it irks my thrifty soul to know that fragrance has one of the highest markups in retail. If I can get a bit of a bargain here or there, it’s kind of like putting one over on the ‘man’. Not to mention that if I can manage to get two $150 bottles of fragrance for $99 each, that fully justifies buying another bargain bottle.

    • AnnieA says:

      Yes, it’s true perfume doesn’t take up much room! A friend recently brought to my attention that I was no longer buying, or forcing myself not to buy, stemware. Part of it was that I really had no more room to put new purchases. Perfume has taken over as my new, compact collecting mania.

  • mirandajane says:

    A little late to the party but here goes–the rule is 1 ml. decant; then 5 ml. decant; then (& only then) FB.

  • dissed says:

    Sample, small decant, larger decant, then save for a bottle. A decant can last a long time. Unless I fall for something relatively inexpensive and readily available on the bay or discount sites (Hiris, I love you), I have to be sure.

    Think I’ll try to get in on the next swap.

    • Ann says:

      Dissed, I think that’s an excellent progression. And I like your idea of saving for a bottle. Too often we get a mindset of “must have it NOW” and end up with too many impulse buys.

  • nozknoz says:

    If I’m pretty sure that I will like something, for example, e.g., if it’s by a perfumer or house that I really like and has gotten good reviews or raves from scent twins, I’ll usually try to get a 2.5- or 5-ml decant from TPC. Then I can spritz away and give it a good test and see if I really need more, or not.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Nozknoz, that sounds like a good strategy. If your scent twins liked it, that’s nearly a seal of approval. And you’ve got enough to generously play with in that size decant. Thanks!

  • Mrs.Honey says:

    I try things on paper, if possible, then on skin.

    If it is a niche product that I can’t get in Tampa Bay, I buy a little sample. If I like it, I purchase a spray sample. Then I consider a full bottle.

    I like planning and considering and occasionally saving for my future purchases. I have a long list of full bottles to purchase. I buy smaller sizes of full bottles because I have other perfumes.

    • Ann says:

      Mrs. Honey, I’ve been doing the same, trying the dab sample and then getting a little spray decant. That’s about as far as I’ve progressed though. Once I’m gainfully employed again, then I need to start planning and saving like you do.

  • Olfacta says:

    I haven’t bought a full bottle of anything in quite awhile. The first two years I spent collecting the classics, mostly off fleabay and some private sales, filling in things I didn’t have, especially after I became of aware of all the reformulating going on. All the while, I was buying decants and swapping samples, too. I built a large (relatively speaking) collection.

    Now, niche fragrances cost at least twice as much as then, with 50 mls going for much more than 100 mls used to. Even the decants have doubled or tripled. I’m still buying occasional splits when I really have to have something, and samples of things I think I should know about. And swapping with generous friends, buying samples of essential oils and absolutes to blend with. My city has lousy perfume shopping, so I don’t go to dept. stores much; also it takes too much time.

    We got hit by the economy but not as much as some. I’m just inherently cheap. It would be impossible for me to pay $300 for 50 mls of anything. I’d never use all I have already if I live to 100! So I use what’s in the full bottles freely, and use the niche stuff (decants) sparingly.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, lady, good to hear from you. You were smart to start out amassing the classics early on — wish I had done that. Thank goodness for swapping and splits, though, as that really helps.

  • AnnieA says:

    My last FB purchase was DelRae Bois de Paradis, after trying a couple of non-spritzy sample vials. Since I keep hearing about the spritz factor I was a little apprehensive, but I think it’ll work out fine as a cold-weather, Rich Lady scent.

    Usually I pop into the Perfume Shoppe and try a perfume a couple of times/get a sample and then buy there. Evidently, chatting about perfume is part of the buying process.

    • Ann says:

      You lucky, lucky girl to be able to visit the Perfume Shoppe often!! And easier on the budget, too, I would think, as you can spray X every time you go in and decide what you like without having to buy samples/decants. BTW,congrats on the DelRae purchase!

  • Lavanya says:

    I am a grad student – so survived on samples and decants for the loooongest time..I had a bottle a year philosophy (either Birthday or anniversary) but come to think of it, I don’t own a full bottle of my most favorite scents (except Carnal flower which I got a travel set for my Birthday this year)..This year has been relatively great for perfume- I blew all my birthday money on perfume and got some for my anniversary as well..:). I think samples, splits, decants and ebay are great resources.. I usually take a while to decide if I want a full bottle of something and many times my perfume purchases in the past have been dictated by sales etc in addition to which perfume I want..

    I go through several samples/small decants of my loves before deciding I want a full bottle. I’ve had full bottle purchases kill/reduce the love for some perfumes (like Tam Dao and Hypnotic Poison), so I am always wary about going FB. Again, many of my favorite like Tuberose Criminelle just weren’t available, or were too expensive (like Caron Poivre)..Now, when I can finally afford Caron Poivre, I hear it has been reformulated..*curses* Black Aoud is one perfume which I love, but have only ever dabbed from a sample vial, so I am almost scared of buying the bottle..:D

    • tammy says:

      Poivre has been butchered,for sure; it is lacking in depth and richness.

      I still enjoy it, but it is nowhere near as good!

      • Lavanya says:

        I got a sample of the newest version recently from the generous Daisy and it *is* recognizably Poivre but thinner and not as rich as I remember it..:(

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, Lavanya, nice birthday and anniversary gifts! Wish I could do that, but DH would give me “that look” and say, “Don’t you have enough perfume?” And he’s right, really, but I can’t help it. :)
      Sorry to hear the FB buys dampened the love for some perfumes. Did you just get tired of them or decide that you weren’t all that crazy about them after all?

      • Lavanya says:

        With hypnotic poison- I was a teenager when I fell in love with it. My uncle bought me (actually, I think it was for my mom) a dior set of minis. The one that seemed most unusual to me was HP and I used to layer it with Dune sometimes..When I finally bought a FB, I think the spray from the huge bottle was overwhelming after the tiny dabs from my mini. Also at that stage (I’d just started grad school), I was terrified people would be able to smell
        With Tam Dao- when I bought it, I didn’t have too many other perfumes, and Tam Dao as one of many samples is lovely, but Tam Dao as an everyday scent turned me off..:(..Nowadays, I wear it occasionally and am able to enjoy it. It is just too linear/simple to be a ‘main’ scent.

        Yeah- any money-gift from my mom is prefaced with “don’t use it to buy perfume” though she turned out to be quite the perfumista..

  • maggiecat says:

    With prices the way they are, and the economy having hit our household hard, I’ve learned to follow my beloved sample up with a decant to make sure it really is love. I’m more patient than I used to be waiting for scentw to hit the discounters too.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Maggiecat. I agree; I, too, have found patience to be the name of the game. We can get by for a long time on samples and decants.

  • Heather M B says:

    I do multiple samples then small decants too, unless bottles are found online for a bargain. I’ve been lucky to fall for many affordable perfumes: Bvlgari Black, Gres Cabaret,Secret Obsession,Sira des Indes,multiple Demeters, Vireo oils on etsy- all to be had for less than $40 online. But then again there are some pricy ones I have been wanting so badly for upward of a year but have not bought yet, like Costume National 21, or Carnal Flower. I have to do with decants of the pricier ones.

    • Ann says:

      Yes, Heather, let’s hear it for more affordable fragrances! I, too, love Carnal Flower but am eking out my adoration for it with a couple of small sample sprays. Here’s to one day being able to buy whatever you like, no matter the cost.

  • Lisa D says:

    I wish I could say that I have a system, but I am completely random in my purchasing. Some days, I can talk myself into any full bottom, others, I’ll be the soul of restraint. Akin to the old adage about change being the only constant, I can always count on my lack of consistency.:”>

    • Lisa D says:

      Full bottom? Did I say full bottom? I wonder what I meant by that? Hopefully, it was full bottle.

      • Ann says:

        Too funny, Lisa! You’re right, though, about change. And hopefully, the FBs you do buy (or have bought) are scents that you can’t live without.

  • Joanna says:

    Keep your chin up Ann. My husband and I are finally seeing the light after a long 3+ yrs of struggle…I hope.
    Sometimes I get FBs because I find an awesome deal on Ebay but otherwise it’s a luxury reserved for those scents that I form an emotional attatchment with. I usually have to order several samples and/or decants of it first just to be sure my feelings don’t waver.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Joanna, glad to hear that things are looking up for you guys. I’m so thankful that my DH has a very good job, but it does put a crimp in the budget when you lose one income. Plus I’ve always worked (baby-sitting from age 12-15, then part-time or full-time jobs nonstop from then on out) so it’s hard to be thrust out of the work world through no fault of your own (company downsizing). So samples and small decants are a blessing for us!

  • Ann says:

    Sherri, I’m reading your post and nodding vigorously to everything you wrote. There are so many variables that it can be a bit frustrating. It’s funny you said that about the Vitriol; I just got a sample vial of it and liked it, but it seemed softer than I imagined and also disappeared fairly quickly. It left me wondering “where are the angry petals?” So now I know that I’ll need to spray it big time to get it to show its “teeth.” Too funny!

  • Sherri M. says:

    I do try to get a spray sample before ordering now, although sometimes even that does not prepare me for the full bottle spray: case in point: the latest SL Vitriol d’Oiellet. The big spray must let out a whole lot more perfume than the TPC 1.5 ml sprays. I was fine with the sample but the bottle was just wicked (definitely got the carnation with teeth and not in a good way!)–set off a very bad allergic reaction.

    And, concerning my purchase of Fiore di Riso several months ago, the sample I had seemed to be much more vanillic, whereas the full bottle was much more floral, and also a touch medicinal coming from the big bottle (that did calm after an hour or so); maybe perfumes vary bottle to bottle?

    Still another quirky thing: I have had one other mini spray(Poopoo Pidoo) last all day, smelled great and dh loved it. Purchased and though it smells pretty much the same has zero lasting power. Go figure..they seem to make only one concentration of that one so I’m at a loss there.

    Other times I have been pleasantly surprised: Patricia de Nicolai’s bottles have always been much better than the sample vials! Annick Goutals, also, although I try to be careful now where I purchase them as some of them go “off” quickly.

    • Ann says:

      Whoops — my comment was supposed to be a reply to you, Sherri!

    • Musette says:

      that happened to me with Drama Nuui! :(( Fell madly in love with the sample. Got the FB…and whoa, Nelly! 😮 Not quite so much love.

      xo >-)

      • Ann says:

        Very frustrating, indeed. Another bottle for the next Posse swap, perhaps. Speaking of, any idea when the next one might be? Someone else on here wanted to know as well. Thanks!

  • Alnysie says:

    It’s really hard. I started (only a few months ago) by trying to be very careful and patient, ordering decants after liking/emptying a sample vial. But since I had no bottles at all, I got tired after a few months and ordered a few FBs. I don’t usually like collecting things, but I realize I like having the bottles!

    But before buying a bottle, I’ve always emptied the vial and worn the sample for many many days. I’ve always waited a few weeks or months between sampling and buying. It seems to have worked, since I don’t regret my purchases yet. (There’s one exception, and it’s because I didn’t follow that process, I wanted it *now*. I’ll remember that!)

    My next purchases will probably be AG Eau de Camille and Jacomo #08, and I’ve been wanting them and wearing the samples sparingly for months now.

    The biggest problem for me is when you’re not 100% sure you want a full bottle (maybe a decant would be enough), but you found a great deal on it that might pass soon… I’m very tempted to go for it then.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Alnysie. I like your plan; it’s always good to put some time in between sampling and buying, to help ensure that you really, really love the scent. But I know what you mean about passing up the great deal — it’s so tempting and puts additional pressure on you. Our Perfume Posse swaps, though, are perfect for getting rid of that bottle that has “regret” written all over it, and you usually end up with something that you do love. BTW, I, too, adore AG’s Camille, have for years and years but with the slew of new releases, sometimes forget about it. A friend is sending me a small decant of it and I can’t wait.

      • Alnysie says:

        Yes, the swap! I’m ready for it! Has a date been decided yet? :)

        Lucky you, a decant of Eau de Camille! I can see how an old love can be put aside because of the excitement of new releases. Everything to me is new right now, since I started so recently, but having old favorites must be special by itself. :)

        • Ann says:

          Not sure when the next swap will be, but I’m guessing/hoping it will be before the end of the year.

    • Lisa D says:

      Alnysie, I bought the Jacomo #08 FB and like it very much. It could last longer on my skin after spraying liberally, but I can never really tell if a lack of longevity is real, or if it’s just my nose becoming accustomed to the scent. Anyhoo, the point here is, if you’ve been hoarding your sample of #08, and aren’t quite ready for a FB purchase, post your email and we can arrange for me to send you another sample from my bottle.

      • Alnysie says:

        That’s so nice of you, Lisa! My email’s alnysie at gmail dot com. I’d be happy to swap some samples with you!

        I often don’t know either whether the scent is gone or it’s just me who can’t smell it anymore. And since I’m quite afraid of too much sillage, I prefer to play safe, but this means that sometimes I spend the rest of the day not smelling any perfume! :(

  • Ann says:

    Thanks, Catherine, I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. You may love a fragrance to death, but given time, something new may come along that you love just as much or more. So waiting on a FB is wise.

  • Catherine says:

    I have employment, but even then, it’s hard to purchase a FB these days. It really is shockingly expensive a lot of the time, and I have a long list of shockingly expensive things to get (a mere handful of gallery frames, for instance, was the equivalent of 2 expensive FB; my first order of film for Paris will set me back even more, etc., etc.), so FBs are not high on the priority list. I think this is good, because I think for a very long time before getting something. I’m usually fine with a big sample or two (Les Senteurs size), and that will last months and months given the rest of what I’ve got. Most of the time, something else comes along to take the place of Most Desired Fragrance. When it doesn’t, I make a note for a later purchase. So far, I have two on that list (after no FB for a year and a half); I figure they will come when the stars align.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    Hi Ann!
    I too do the vial to spray trick and am always surprised at how different some fragrances are. I will try a few samples, then decant if I find myself ekeing out the final sample and finally full bottle if it’s love with a capital L. With 2 daughters in private school and a move which is going to significantly increase our mortgage, fb’s will go the way of the dodo I think and decants will be the way forward. Thanks be for decants as my latest love is by Killian A Taste of Heaven the bottle price makes my eyes water and would no doubt elevate my husbands blood pressure to unhealthy levels!

    • Ann says:

      Hi, sweet M! I agree, decants are a blessing. I always try to get the easily refillable ones, so if it’s empty, I can just dump a sample vial in there and don’t have to spend more money on another decant bottle. I hear you on the hubby — best not to do anything to get him upset.

  • Meg says:

    I am right there with you Ann. Because of unemployment my perfume purchasing (and, by some extent, interest of) has fallen completely off. I haven’t really gotten into decants yet and I should because time has shown that I do not go through FB’s of anything, no matter how much I love it, pretty much ever. The impulse to go fb for something you love is so intense though! I milk my samples over a looooong time, so I have a good idea about how I feel about a scent by the time I am finished one. I haven’t purchased a second sample of anything yet.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Meg. Hope you find something very soon. I’m hoping this fall that the job market will open up a bit. I feel like you do about FBs, not sure I could get through a full one with so many other things out there to try and love.

  • I try the first sample sparingly, the second one I dump on all at once. I think the spraying sample is genius, as fragrances change completely when sprayed. I try for a decant, then, particularly if the bottle comes only in 50 ml or more. Perfumes have become so expensive, they really exclude the middle class from wearing them.

    • Ann says:

      Quinn, it really has gotten out of control, hasn’t it? And this is another topic, but over the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve seen a similar jump in price and exclusivity of designer handbags. Even the names I’ve barely heard of are going for $600 and up a bag.
      Anyway, back on track: I kind of do the same thing as you, but have had to stop short of the FB purchase because of the job situation. But there are so many great scents out there that it’s kind of like a buffet, I’m able to pick a bit of this and a bit of that without feeling too deprived (yet).

  • Marle says:

    I really try to sample 3X on different occasions, and really allow 6+ hours to experience fragrances. Finances have made me so much more discriminating. I am quite dubious about brand name releases- they have been so disappointing on extended examination. One tends to blend into another.

    I usually re-test old, familiar favorites that sound similar in notes to the new releasse before going FB. I really have to resist those easy impulses to buy. I find there are really oldies but goodies and that keeps the lemming under control.

    I always try to sample the perfume houses I really appreciate: Serge Lutens, L’Artisan. Parfums de Nicolai, Parfumerie Generale. I have found that I often don’t like some lines- Tauer, MPG, so I often don;t sample them.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Marle, that sounds like an excellent plan. Stick with lines you know you like and give a pass on those that don’t agree with you as much.

  • tammy says:

    Ooooh, can’t wait to hear the answers, as I am in much the same position. Been out on a medical leave for over a year now, with no more disability coming in, so my perfume purchases, even samples, have stopped dead.

    Prior to catching This Virus, I would generally go one more sample before I got a FB. I’ll try and get a spray sample if the first sample of it was a dauber, since I tend to not like most perfumes near as well when sprayed, and I want to be sure I won’t be disappointed in it.

    What perfumes are you really crazy about?

    • Ann says:

      Tammy, sorry to hear about your situation. Hope you are doing better and can soon return to work (and perfume buying). I think I almost dread falling in love with something because I can’t buy much of it. Right now I’m loving MDCI’s La Belle Helene, Roja Dove’s Unspoken, Byredo’s Gypsy Water (for the fall) and my newest addiction, Michael Storer’s Stephanie (thanks, M!) as it has the truest-to-life gardenia I’ve ever smelled.