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.
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