Coffee anyone?

I saw reports on the new research published by a Beloit College professor and two of her students that suggests that sniffing coffee beans isn’t more effective than using lemon or just fresh air for the purpose of “resetting” one’s nose in between sniffing different perfumes.Coffee

Fragrance sellers often provide coffee beans to their customers as a “nasal palate cleanser,” to reduce the effects of olfactory adaptation and habituation. To test this idea, college students smelled three fragrances multiple times, rating odors each time. After completing nine trials, participants sniffed coffee beans, lemon slices, or plain air. Participants then indicated which of four presented fragrances had not been previously smelled. Coffee beans did not yield better performance than lemon slices or air.

I haven’t read the full article (I was curious but sorry, I have a better use for $32 than to buy a 24 hours access), but when I read at the Perfume Shrine:

“Fragrance sellers,” they suggest, “may wish to reconsider the practice of providing coffee beans to their customers.”

it made me think. In my opinion, the professor is wrong. Not in her findings (I assume they knew what they were doing and those results aren’t less accurate than results of any such studies) but in her conclusions.

I think that department stores should not only keep providing those jars with coffee beans but come up with the additional/alternative “cleansing” objects (glasses with cucumber water? Charcoal in some form? Baking soda?) If you focus on what is really important for those big stores (I’m not talking about small specialized shops where owners and staff are focusing on a repeating business from happy and because of that loyal customers), you’ll agree that sniffing something offered to you by an SA is much more efficient than allowing you to sniff air. While results are practically the same (please notice that the researchers do not say sniffing coffee impedes getting the right impression from a fragrance or that this approach is inferior to sniffing air), chances a customer will walk away without making a purchase are higher if an SA lets him/her to “break a contact”, pause, think, breathe… And since customers’ retention isn’t a real priority for perfume counters in department stores (an average consumer will most likely use up whatever they bought and then come back for the next Eau du Jour), car seller approach with an uninterrupted contact should work the best.

As for us, more or less seasoned perfumistas, – we all have our own tricks and methods. My approach is trying not to test more than 6-7 perfumes in one store visit. What about you?

How do you deal with an olfactory fatigue?

Image: my own


12 thoughts on “Coffee anyone?

  1. He, he. I don’t really feel olfactory fatigue, more like drunk on perfume. :)
    When I’m somewhere smelling a lot of things, I usually smell my skin/sweater. That clears my nose the best.


    • Well, maybe it is for the best. I have no problem drinking a cup or two daily. The problem starts when I do not drink it: I’m getting migraines. Not fun at all.


  2. If I don’t have a break or try too many scents at once everything starts to smell the same, which I guess is a symptom of olfactory fatigue. It’s hard to limit yourself sometimes though!

    I think Ines and JoanElaine have the right idea, I read a long time ago that the best way to refresh your sense of smell is to inhale through wool. Maybe perfumeries should have a few woolen sweaters hanging around for us to sniff, or maybe not…


    • Not a bad idea for a personal use but with multiple customers I question already those jars… ;) Can you imagine how many people are touching them, sniffing?..


  3. I have a system for trying up to 10 scents on skin at once, but after that my nose starts to tune out. I think there is merit in coffee beans or something to sniff as a momentary time out.

    When I was a product manager for fruit juice we used to eat bits of broken cream crackers to cleanse our palate. Also helped line the stomach from all the acid!


    • If it’s not too much to ask, can you map the placement of those 10 scents? I can think of placement for 6, well, maybe 8 (but it’s a stretch already). But 10?


  4. Hmmm…interesting.

    I try to not sniff more than 7-10 in store. It’s overwhelming. Some days I can handle more, others much less. And really all I get is an “impression” such as “no” or “yes, I want to try that”.

    I’ve heard that sipping ice water between sniffs helps. I don’t see a difference, but whatever. I seem to fatigue the most when sniffing “mainstream men’s fragrances” or florals.


    • Ok, I have to ask: why would you sniff even seven “mainstream men’s fragrances” in one visit? ;)

      Recently I noticed that I get overwhelmed if I try more than 2-3 mainstream perfumes. Not in the sense “I can’t take it any more” but rather “they all smell the same, I do not like them, why do I keep doing that?!!”


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