eBay — Lick My Boots

UPDATE MONDAY A.M.: we had the mother of all windstorms last night, 60 mph winds, power down all around D.C., my area (north) is gridlock due to downed trees.  I, your faithful Scent Slut, drove, parked, and hoofed it the rest of the way to my local WiFi hotspot, where I fought for a seat and am blogging until the power goes out again or the signal goes down (which seems to be happening.)  I’ll get on here today as I can, hoping in the next 24 – 48 hrs they can get the power back on in our neighborhood… okay, here’s the post:

I need to get this off my chest. If you come back on Thursday, I’ll have a really friendly post on a lovely fragrance I’ve been wearing.

Q. How is eBay like a whorehouse?

A. There are so very many, many ways to get screwed.

I´ve been reading threads and following theories and pondering for days, ever since eBay started booting some of its fragrance decanters and Basenotes followed suit because they figured maybe they were next. There´s talk of the pressure, the intense pressure, manufacturers must be exerting on eBay – the teams of rabid lawyers crawling up their nether parts, threatening them with expensive lawsuits pressure pressure pressure

Yo – you cowboys running eBay – show me. Show me the letter threatening legal action. Because I would LOVE to know who´s leaning on you.

Let´s PRETEND … for one second … that it´s Chanel’s lawyers who’ve been nosing around in the Whorehouse. Riddle me this, Batman: why isn´t Chanel demanding that they end the sale of all the truckloads of counterfeit Chanel goods on eBay? The poorly quilted logo purses, the faux scarves, the bogus jewelry, the fake bottles of perfume (there are 148 bottles of Chanel Allure on there right now, and how much of it is counterfeit?), manufactured in Taiwan or Pyongyang or wherever – how did Chanel´s crack legal team fail to notice all that stuff?

My guess is the general response from the eBay cowboys is – hey — they have no control over the vast, unending sea of counterfeit Chanel goods on their website. I mean, they can´t be checking every label on every (obviously fake) $90 quilted handbag to see if it´s obviously fake, right? They´d have to get up from the poker game to do that, and somebody might steal some of their chips! Hey, you´re in the Whorehouse! You decided to come in, sucker! Anyway, they´ve graciously allowed people to set up loooong photo-filled articles giving hot tips on how to avoid fakes, but beyond that they can’t have done much, so far as I can tell, to try to stem that particular tide.

Because think of the money they´d lose!!! Balenciaga Le Dix handbags by the dozen – fake! Enough David Yurman necklaces for every ladies´ bridge club in the entire state of Connecticut – bogus! Knockoff Kate Spade! Chanel and Armani and Gucci and Louis Vuitton this and that and the other, below a certain price point and being sold by a volume seller, and you have two options: it´s stolen, or it´s fake. And the owners of the Whorehouse know that. And Chanel and Gucci and Balenciaga and Armani and everyone else knows it too.

Somebody complains, and the owners of the Whorehouse put down their cards and whiskey for a minute, reach down, grab a big ol´ handful of their cojones, and … ban decanting? Thank God. Protecting the Iowa housewives from themselves! Their poor purchasing decisions! Saving them the pain of smelling Black Orchid!

Who threatened eBay? I did get a lame email back from the Whorehouse, in response to my question as to why they´re booting the decanters. It was totally vague, didn´t mention VeRO, and directed me (via a link) to their list of banned items – a list that covers explosives, kidneys and rattlesnakes, but does not reference fragrance samples. My guess is it´s a freestanding fragrance manufacturer (why the big guns at places like Chanel aren´t raising hell with eBay baffles me, but that´s another topic.) Let’s be hypothetical – let´s say it´s… oh … to pluck two names completely from the air – let´s say it´s Bond and Philosophy, both outfits that have reputations for protecting their perceived rights fairly aggressively. Well, if they threatened eBay, I think eBay should have done what it did with the people selling Bare Escentuals – it should have sent out an email to the decanters and named the threatening outfit, saying they were demanding sales discontinue for that particular brand. Then everybody wins. The folks at eBay cover their asses; the complaining company is happy; the decanters are still in business; and … we know exactly which lines are complaining. Heh heh. And that is a piece of information I would really, really love to have. Because I would be more than happy to never, ever buy from whoever is complaining, if I could manage it, because I wouldn´t want to bump my sweet-smelling rumpus up against their property rights.

This post was supposed to be funnier – I wanted it to be funny – but instead it´s mostly angry and sad, just like me. Some of the most beautiful things I have ever smelled, and I will never own a bottle of, came from eBay decants. Unless you’re a hardcore collector willing to shell out some serious money, how else do you get a taste of the vintages, like Guerlain Djedi or Coty Chypre? Rare Shiseidos? Patou Ma Collection? There´s only so many vintage Baccarat flacons to go around, and eBay hooked you up. And how about the current stuff you can´t get here except maybe in New York or L.A.? The Caron urns? The non-export Serge scents? Taking access to that kind of beauty away from people isn´t just wrong. It´s criminal.

When I was a newbie, before I had Patty, my fragrance angel and total enabler, I got almost everything from eBay decanters. I´d been lurking the blogs for awhile, and one of my most joy-filled fragrant moments was when I realized – hey! I can buy samples of all this crazy stuff on eBay! I bought samples by the fistful from Diane (Dragonfly) because I liked the way her store was organized. Buying a sample of Etro Messe de Minuit on eBay was how I met Patty. Even now I buy (sorry, bought) the occasional decant from eBay because, impossible as it seems, there are still one or two bottles of fragrance that Patty doesn´t personally own.

Have I mentioned how much it chafes me that decanters — the people who are, with a couple of exceptions, actually selling genuine samples of the fragrances instead of counterfeit bottles — are the ones being booted under some sort of bullshit “counterfeit” claim? And, of course, booting them won´t cut down on eBay´s cashflow in any noticeable way. Don´t worry, shareholders – it´s not like they decided to do anything about the massive bogus-product business in the Whorehouse! I don´t know who pointed a pistol in their direction, although I´d love to. What is it that made their ninny legal department nervous? I guess I should be grateful I still can´t buy dynamite and kiddie porn on there.

I love the Whorehouse, don´t get me wrong. I´ve had some fun times there, even when I´ve gotten screwed. I´ve always respected, in some weird way, the combination of ad hoc democracy and lawlessness that exists there. Decanters on eBay have been part of that ride; today, in their honor, I´m going to wear something a little sad – maybe Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande, from their non-export line. It´s a really beautiful scent. And unless you live in Paris, good luck finding that from anyone other than a decanter.

Clint Eastwood: cyber-cinema.com

  • gailpearl says:

    I was worried about the loss of the ebay seller decants too.

    While searching ebay for some explanation (couldn’t find one) I noticed a number of posts in the ebay Community section discussing the ebay policy prohibiting the sale of used cosmetics, and debating whether perfume counts as a cosmetic.

    You can get details from the ebay “Help”, A-Z section, under “U” for Used Cosmetics, click on Additional Info. This will lead you to the US FDA web site, where the FDA says perfumes are considered to be in the cosmetics category. So I wonder why ebay hasn’t cited their policy prohibiting used cosmetics sales, re: all sales of opened perfume containers?
    Gailpearl

    Looking through these old ebay posts, I found several complaints from people who had purchased decants, not understanding they weren’t getting the full bottle of perfume (!) as well as several complaining about the authenticity of perfumes they’d purchased. Makes me wonder if consumer complaints, rather than manufacturer complaints, might have led to Ebay’s recent interest in this category.

    • Cheri says:

      I agree that a few sellers have not been up-front about decants but most are *extremely* honest! The buyers fail to read to auction details are angry at the wrong person.

  • Jitterbug says:

    I usually read quietly, but felt compelled to write today– your post captured my thoughts and frustrations perfectly and eloquently, thank you. I sold decants on ebay for various reasons, but all positive, I thought– to make money to spend on other decants and bottles and to share my beloved perfumes with people I knew would love them, treasure them, wear them, perhaps share them, too. I am not sure what I will do now, without an easy vehicle to try new scents, but want to thank everyone in this lovely perfume community for talking with such passion about perfume that I learned what to try and what to buy– my own little cupboard is now overflowing, and I am officially the Best Smelling Lady at Work.

    • Jayne says:

      I’m brand new to the perfumista world – I’m just racking up my first few batches of samples and want to give a few words of comfort. I have bought from eBay, but feel like I’m taking a big risk every time I do it. I’ve actually been hunting around for a site like this and for decanters who have attached themselves around these sites – like Fragrant Fripperies. It seems a much trustworthy arrangement and a safer recommendation. When I am allowed use of my credit card again, I will be visiting Ms Fragrant in earnest. So eBay might be doing every one a favour in the long run. All you lovely decanters, re-organise, do it by yourselves and keep any well-deserved profits for yourselves to finance more bottle splitting and smell-sharing. It feels like a much nicer community could be purpose-built and we could all abandon the urban sprawl that eBay has turned itself into.

  • Gaia says:

    Horrible, horrible day. We’re kinda flooded here, in North Jersey, as well, and the gloom is fitting.

    I’d take part in whatever bloggers’ protest action. They would have to realize, sooner or later, that banning decants isn’t going to boost their sales. Not to mention that hurting the most hard core group of perfume lovers is the stupidest thing they can do.

  • Rob says:

    Fragrance of the day: Testing my DECANTS of Durbano Cristal de Roche , Profumum Ambra Aurea and Patchouly, and Eau D’Italie Bois D’Ombrie….

    …Wouldn’t be able to do that without the help of a passionate Seller over at the Whorehouse.

    Glad that they haven’t banned the sale of fur-trimmed handcuffs…and where else can I find a Britney doll with her head shaved or a can full of cigarette butts?!! LOL!

  • Cheri says:

    Fragrance of the day: Passage D’Enfer by L’Artisan.

    It is such a sad day, with the horrible massacre at Virginia Tech and the terrible weather back east. We can only hope after our h*ll on earth that we all have something better to look forward to.

    • March says:

      It’s devastating. I couldn’t believe it. Our power’s been so sporadic today, and the local weather nightmare, I hadn’t even seen the news. My heart aches for those people and their families.

  • Cheri says:

    Those sales associates are taking these samples home to their friends and family! That is why it is so difficult to obtain a sample from places like Macy’s or Nordstrom.

  • Cheri says:

    I say we ALL send a flurry of letters to the Ebay yokels that are shutting down the legit decant business/service. Better yet, all sellers should move to other sites. Take your money elsewhere!!!

  • Tigs says:

    Such dedication, March! My signature Evil Empire drink is a Venti black tea lemonade with only one pump of classic syrup, but I guess that doesn’t seem very seasonal right now.

  • AngelaS says:

    Thanks for ranting for me, I feel so much better now!

    (And I’d like to think that in this photo Clint has a dab of Songes behind each ear.)

  • tmp00 says:

    March-

    Brilliant as usual. I have to admit however, that I am kind of over it. Okay, eBay wants to be asshats. Great. I’ll order from Patty (and Lisa and Dragonfly and the rest when they are set up) as I have been for the last couple of months. I’d rather 100% of the money goes to them anyway.

    Manufacturers should be kissing their elbows that decanters exist, especially in a world where SA’s are so freaking testy about giving out samples. :((

    Hope the weather clears up there fast- I am hearing god-awful reports from my friends in the East. Keep dry! %%->:d<

    • March says:

      The lull between the storms … took me 55 minutes to make my 7-minute drive.:( I can’t believe what happened at VA Tech.

  • Pam says:

    PS, March: Just saw your update. So sorry you guys are having such extreme weather and I do hope your area will get power back soon. Take care!

  • Pam says:

    Perfectly put, March. The perfume houses who complain about decanters are only shooting themselves in the foot. I can’t tell you (well, actually, I could, but I won’t) how many FBs of fragrance I’ve bought after having first purchased decants. Living in Podunkville, I am extremely limited in what I can sniff at the b&m stores. It ain’t much, I can tell you that.

    And a pox on those who think this eBay ruling is so grand. I was reading on BaseNotes earlier and saw an eBay seller not only shilling for his own business but supporting the not-yet-enforced decant ban.

    Okay, I’m no lowya, but I can’t see how selling a decant violates the fair use laws.

    Great rant, March. LOL at The Whorehouse. Good one.:x

    • March says:

      Pam, thanks! As I’ve already said (and you have) in many different ways, I can’t think how the ban helps anyone, and I can’t understand how the manufacturers are so dim they can’t see it helps sell FBs to people who want to, you know, TRY a $160 fragrance before they buy it.:-w

  • Christen says:

    You know, the irony was not lost on me when I made the pilgrimage to Scent Bar in LA this past weekend. Of the four – yep, four! – fragrances I bought on Saturday, all had been prior decant buys from e-bay or Fragrant Fripperies. I knew how they smelled on my skin, I knew I’d be happily sniffing my wrists throughout the day, knew they were unique and fabulous and worth every penny to me. Did I buy anything I’d just smelled on Saturday? No. Nor do I buy anything from my local faves in Seattle, Essenza and Parfumerie Nasreen, without first working my way through a decant. Scent Bar assured me they would continue to sell samples, but I have to say, my loyalty is to the Pattys and the Dianes of the world. These women love perfume like I do, they understand the thrill of searching for something new, the a-ha moment when a fragrance comes to life on your own skin. They are doing a great thing for the fragrance junkies of the world, and I will continue to seek them out. Sorry, e-bay! Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

    • March says:

      Absolutely! I almost never buy a bottle without test driving it; in fact, my general rule is I have to use up a decant first before I buy a bottle. My spontaneous “love it!” purchases are few. Decanters are priming you to buy.

  • Patty says:

    a Rousing great rant. 🙂 Loved it and agree, of coures I do have a vested interest. Even if I didn’t, I came back into the world of fragrance through the lovely Dragonfly. I was out of perfume for a while because it was jus too darn expensive to buy full bottles of obscure scents and then hate them once you got them home. So I just found a few things I liked well enough and gave it a miss.

    Once I found the world of decants, hey! That was awesome! I could live with these scents for a while and either stay at that level or get that full bottle. Of course, I didn’t stop there, but that’s a whole other story.

    If I were a perfume house? I’d want to get my new, great perfume in the hands of decanters, ask them to send them out as free samples for a couple of weeks. That is the best marketing in the world, people finding your scent and yakking it up because it truly is great.

    Funny, it doesn’t seem that the companies that do have great scents care that decants/samples get sold, they’ll sell even better with a trial.

    Great fragrances sell with exposure — mediocrity gets by with great marketing and enough complaints.

    • March says:

      P — as I commented up there somewhere — I have *never* understood any animosity on the part of manufacturers toward decanters. You’re providing a sample service through which more people are exposed to their fragrances, thereby selling more bottles ultimately. If they don’t like it, they can get off their lazy butts and offer a sample service, but clearly for most of them the hassle isn’t worth it.

  • Dawn says:

    Love the Clint Eastwood pic. :d Your post is right on. I have bought many decants from Ebay from the sellers you have mentioned and never had a problem. I even went on to buy Full Bottles after using up the decants. I will still continue buying decants from the sellers who have moved on from Ebay. Thank god for these perfume blogs to keep it together.

    Dawn

    • March says:

      I remember reading at MUA someone complaining about bad samples, but it’s never happened to me. Word gets out, you know? Not only that, but there are frequently extras to tempt you!

  • Judith says:

    Agree with everything! I’ll just one ironic note: while all the perfume decanters I have dealt with (and there are many) have been honest, lovely people whose products have often persuaded me to buy FBs (first taste is cheap if not free) :), the sellers of full bottles on Ebay (especially of scents like Chanel) are much more dicey (I hear there have been problems with Bond, too, for that matter). Of course there are MANY honest bottle sellers, as well. But presenting something in “original” packaging clearly doesn’t guarantee quality control–and while wonderful decanters like Lisa are kicked off, I know of at least one really shady character who is still happily selling bottles under what must be his 20th name (I would know more if I bought more Chanel):)

    • March says:

      The volume fragrance sellers of brands worth counterfeiting (like Chanel) who are selling at vastly reduced prices are, mostly, selling fakes. The only knockoffs I’ve gotten on eBay were Chanels. Some of the stuff I just look at to giggle (like the GENUINE Le Dix bags for $120 or whatever, that look like my daughter made them.)

  • Lauren says:

    Good morning, March!

    As usual, I agree with all you’ve said here. And thanks a bunch for the much-need good laugh you’ve given me – that pic of Clint is just really funny for some reason.

    • March says:

      Isn’t that picture wonderful?!? I knew it was the one. He doesn’t just look tough — he looks sort of baffled and disgusted, too. Mirroring perfectly all the appropriate feelings for the post.

  • Elle says:

    I agree w/ every single word. From your mouth to ebay’s ears. I still have a sliver of hope this won’t go through w/ ebay, but I’m eternally grateful for Fragrant Fripperies continued existence and the future Perfumed Court.

    • March says:

      I’m still holding out hope too, that eBay will see the error of its ways (or someone will sic a lawyer on them and they’ll back down.) But I’m thinking it’s not likely.

  • Anne says:

    So many of us all with the same experiences. That inner smile during work hours knowing there would probably be decants waiting for me (the postal god willing) when I got home. Putting the bills aside, searching for a scissors or maybe just tearing the package open. Beautiful, girly little bags filled with so many possibilities. I must have looked like and for sure felt like, a child on Christmas morning , totally focused on the booty, and the worries, issues of my life, gone for those moments. Such joy, that only us crazies “get” all brought to me by e-bay decants.
    Oh yeah, just like Christmas, I got to eat candy too. Thanks N, for those sweet red fish.

    Ebay you suck!

    Now I feel better.

    Peace y’all,
    Anne

    • March says:

      I know! I love those envelopes! I’m so mad at them I’ve actually blown off a couple of bottle purchases, although that won’t last long; where else can I get them?!

    • pitbull friend says:

      Hey, Anne: What a lovely post! You bring up something else we’ll miss — the darling personal touches. I used to sell used books on Amazon and would write little notes on the receipts when I sent them out. Can’t tell you how many folks sent emails, etc., just to thank me for a personal note. We all love a little human touch with our purchases.

      I’m baffled now. I spent Thursday night buying like there was no tomorrow but it looks like decants are still there and more being listed. ??? –Ellen

      • March says:

        It seems to be scattershot — a bunch of people haven’t been notified. I have no idea what’s going on, and eBay isn’t saying.

      • Patty says:

        It gets weirder. Ebay doesn’t seem to be actively pulling down anything. Someone finally got a written responde back, and they seem to be saying they just intend to do stricter enforcement. So if a company registers through VeRO and says take it down, they’ll take it down, but they appear to be only taking down listings via complaint, not proactively.

        We think. Anything may change. but for now they don’t seem to be taking down anything in bulk and may be only taking them down upon complaint, which is a great thing! Because then the decanter gets notice of the company that is a HUGE TOOL and KNOB and should be ignored by everyone’s wallets from that point forward.

        🙂

        • March says:

          YESSSSSS!!!! That’s PERFECT — what they should have done all along! Because then, like Philosophy, we will know exactly who they are, and if they don’t want anyone decanting, fine!

    • tmp00 says:

      Anne-

      That was beautifully put!

    • Maria B. says:

      Anne, thank you for capturing the excitement of knowing you probably have something beautiful waiting for you in your mailbox at home. And if it’s not there that day, you can have the same excitement the next day.

  • Louise says:

    Thanks March for so clearing articulating the scumminess of Ebay’s actions. Funny thing is, they will have a heck of a time enforcing it. I saw quite a few “violations” yesterday-BE samples, Philosophy particles, Bond bits. This while obsessively searching for a d/c lipgloss (hey, I’m allowed another obsession aren’t I?).

    But the fine decanters we have been buying from will simply move on to a better business, and I wish them verrrry well.

    • March says:

      Yeah, you’re right — I think eBay still relies in large part on someone complaining, rather than proactively kicking people off. And decanters can move around and reopen, but eventually the pain isn’t worth it. The decanters were getting sick of the jacked fees anyway, which is why some of them were already moving off eBay to their own sites.

  • carmencanada says:

    I’m angry too, both as a part-time decanter (those Serge exclusives you bought, fellow perfume loves, may have come from my bell jars!) and as a decant buyer. Many’s the time when I couldn’t afford a full bottle of my “fix” and turned to Patty even though she’s accross the world from the boutiques where I could’ve bought the full one.
    As a seller, I’ve sent out decants to many people who clearly aren’t on the boards/blogs (when they are, they say so because they recognize my handle) in Hungary, Poland, Austria… and I regret not having access to them any more.
    I agree, March: they’re squashing the fly because they can’t be bothered to slay the velociraptor that is their huge amount of fake/stolen goods. I still think there’s a problem with Dior: I couldn’t post a decant of vintage Miss Dior on eBay France, got blocked automatically. But the legal landscape may be different out here. I’ve never seen any decants on eBay France. Wonder why?

    • March says:

      Buried … somewhere (I’ll never find it again) on the U.S. eBay website is a list of manufacturers (like Bare Escentuals) that have registered their intellectual property rights or whatever it’s called, basically objecting to sales of any of their products on eBay. Interestingly, the only frag line I saw on there was Philosophy. How come the accusers aren’t registered on their stupid list? That would give a clue…

  • Lee says:

    I share your righteous fury.

  • Gina says:

    You know what’s really funny? I put on Encens et Lavande today, too. Loved this post, March. Ebay made it possible for me to try so many amazing scents I’d never be able to afford otherwise. I’ve got my share of full bottles, but most of my collection is decants. I always had a positive experience from all the lovely ebay decanters. It sucks that it’s changing. I remember a friend of mine bought a 4000. camera from Ebay and NEVER received it, ebay would do nothing about it. Ridiculous.

    In my opinion, whichever perfume house it was that did the complaining are really being stupid. For one, if I buy a decant and love the frag so much I can’t live without it, I WILL buy a full bottle. And think of all the decanters who have to buy full bottles repeatedly because they run out. I don’t know, this decanting thing seems good for business to me, but I could be wrong. I seriously doubt it ever hurt sales of perfume.

    • carmencanada says:

      Gina, are you the New Yorker who bought a bunch of SL decants and some Caron from me a few months ago? If you are, it’s nice to see you on board the Posse. If you aren’t, it’s nice too..

      • Gina says:

        Hi Carmen. No, it’s not me, I live in Los Angeles. But thank you anyway, I love this blog and am so happy to find other fragrance addicts like myself!

    • March says:

      Gina — I just noted up there — we had a honking storm last night, it’s so gloomy and windy here today. EetL seems just perfect.

      I have actually never understood the animosity of the fragrance houses to the decanters, for the reasons you describe. Sampling sells bottles. And if the fragrance houses don’t like it, why don’t they offer samples themselves?

      • Gina says:

        It was sort of gloomy out yesterday, and I had the same thoughts as you about the Encens et Lavande, March. Seemed absolutely perfect. I kept catching wafts of myself and was blown away by SL’s genius.

        Compared to the profits most perfume houses make, what money decanters make from the product is TINY in comparison. Greedy bastards.

  • Amarie says:

    Well said, and yet sadly all these words by so many will fall on only deaf ears of the people who really should be listening.

    • March says:

      Amarie — I dunno, I’m sort of hoping someone growls back at eBay. I don’t get how they can just kick you off without any sort of due process. Maroons.x(

  • Maria B. says:

    I’m sitting here wearing Serge Lutens Borneo 1834. (March, just be glad you’re not near me.) I would not be able to wear this strange fragrance but for the enterprise of fragrance decanters. It is absurd to pretend that someone in her bathroom laboratory could concoct something she might credibly sell as Borneo 1834, and the same goes for all the other rare, beautiful fragrances that we obsess about. The powers that be at eBay obviously do not understand that the fragrances that decanters carry are works of art, not chemicals thrown together.

    Perhaps Bond No. 9 feels insecure. Maybe they fear their fragrances really could be copied. Perhaps they’re right, but who would bother? I say, hang ’em high.

    March, I discovered the world of fragrance obsession as you did, first lurking in blogs and then trying out the strange practice of buying fragrance samples from eBay decanters–because they carried knowledge I burned to acquire.

    • March says:

      Maria — then you feel my pain too! I live in a major metro area, but I can’t buy most of the interesting stuff here. I am the Decant Queen. What would we do without them? I am so grateful Patty and the crew are keeping it going, but eBay is just idiotic.

      • Maria B. says:

        March, I also feel your pain of living through a storm aftermath in DC. I went through a windstorm there that knocked power out for days and days. The trees in DC-Maryland seem awfully shallow-rooted. I hope you’re one of the lucky ones who get power back right away.

        Back to the importance of decanters: I live several hours’ drive from a ScentBar or a Barney’s. And Paris is nowhere near.

    • March says:

      I am so dang mad. I had to delete all (okay, most) of my potty words. They do seem to be pretty scattershot so far, don’t they?