Great Expectations

There are so many classic perfumes I haven’t tried yet and niche lines’ recent creations I plan to try (as soon as I lift my self-imposed moratorium on buying samples*) that usually I keep an eye only on counted upcoming new releases from brands I like. But there was a whole new line the launch of which I waited for the last six-seven months. I do not want to name names so let’s call this company Undina’s Great Expectations (UGE).

Burning HeartsHaving signed up for the website updates (a couple of times – just in case), I kept checking both UGE’s website and a FB page from time to time – again, just in case. Nothing changed for months.

When I got an e-mail from UGE about the launch of the line and an online store I immediately went to the site hoping to find samples. Not only there were no Request a Free Sample as some new brands do in the beginning but I didn’t find even an option to buy samples. I was a little disappointed but wasn’t ready to give up.

I sent a letter to the contact e-mail in which I explained how much I waited for that launch and asked if I could buy samples of new perfumes since UGE wasn’t available in the U.S. I did mention my blog but I didn’t try to play that angle.

Four days later I got a reply (I used green to mark places I changed):

Dear Undina

Many thanks for your email we are delighted that you would like to try the new UGE fragrances.

Unfortunately we do not have samples of the fragrances, however as you are such a fan I could pop some spritzed scent strips in the post to you which will hopefully give you an idea of the X different fragrances. If you would like me to do this please do give me your address and I will send these out tomorrow.

We hope to be able to ship orders to the US as from MMDD so please do check the website then, or pop me an email to confirm.

Kindest regards

Marketing Manager

I was prepared to many different outcomes. I expected they might ask for a nominal price, offer me free samples, ignore my request altogether or respond politely that they had no samples to offer at this time. I didn’t expect that offer. For a while I was stunned. I still don’t know what it was. A tongue-in-cheek “go away”? But why? I wasn’t a freeloader with a bogus story, I sincerely offered to pay (mostly because after reading some of Andy’s and Laurie’s thoughts on samples I realized how hard it might be for small companies without a huge marketing budget). Or was it a genuine attempt to help? But really, can a person in any way related to the perfume marketing be that naïve? How did she envision that? X envelopes with X scent strips? One envelope with all X together?

I chose to believe it was an offer in good faith. I wrote her back, thanked for the response and declined the offer citing doubts that those blotters would survive a transatlantic trip.

But I still can’t believe it. Sprayed blotters in the mail? Really? And I had such great expectations…

Birnt HeardsImages: my own

* I decided to stop buying samples until I have just a month-testing-worth number of untested samples (free samples from stores or swaps do not count).


33 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Hey, Undina, let me know what fragrances that I own that you want to sample. I’ll just spray some packing peanuts with those scents, label them and send those out to you next week. And then maybe you can write reviews or buy a full bottle.
    Seriously, I can’t believe that (I mean, I do, but you know what I mean). I think the problem is that the PR person doesn’t “get” perfume. They don’t realize that if you could smell anything on the paper, it would be the base and that you’d be missing out on most of the perfume. It’s going to be difficult for them to get started if this is how, well, they get started!


    • Thank you, Victoria! You’re a true friend! But do you think using a post card will make more sense? This way PO workers will be able to enjoy samples from your great collection as well ;)


  2. That is – well, let’s say, and interesting response indeed. I think I know who that new line is, and I must say I was similarly miffed that there was no mention of samples on the website. I don’t understand the reasoning behind that. Is it really better to hope people will just buy unsniffed going on the strength of a previous reputation only, and possibly be disappointed, than to let them try and hopefully fall in love? It seems so.
    I find the line “since you are such a fan” very condescending, I must say. It is almost, as if you were a bit odd wanting to smell them at all before you buy them.


    • Yes, Birgit, I think you guessed correctly.

      I find some other aspects of their marketing … not the most efficient as well but since I still hold some warm feelings toward this line I don’t want to say anything too bad or too recognizable about them (not that I get that many readers but still).

      I wish them luck. Because they’ll need it with that approach.


  3. This is really very odd. How on earth can you market a new niche line without making samples so people can smell the perfumes? Very few people are going to be able to access a tester if it’s a niche line or have the funds to risk an unsniffed purchase. I like to think the offer to spray scent strips is genuine if totally pointless. Maybe they are just going to rely on Luckyscent and First in Fragrance to supply samples. Please email me the name of the company, I’m intrigued!


    • Tara, had there been a massive ad campaign, building up an anticipation through bloggers and/or regular media or, at least ;) a rumor of this line being a candidate for any next Big Royal Event, I would have understood that approach (no samples, I mean – scented strips are beyond my understanding). But there was nothing of that sort, I was watching!


  4. I’ve heard this story before, except for one detail…it was a 3rd party (eg. boutique) sending out scent strips, not the company itself.

    Buying a whole bottle of perfume just to sample it is out of the question. Perhaps their goal is to attract a very limited clienetele and gain little profit. Good luck to them.


    • I should add that the line is more expensive than, let’s say, Ormonde Jayne or L’Artisan. So yes, buying a bottle unsniffed is out of question. And buying X bottles is even less probable.


  5. Whoever that PR person is should be fired, because a) that person knows nothing about perfume and b) even less about successful PR. I mean…c’mon! You offered to pay for those samples! Samples, mind, not scented paper strips that would like dissipate by the time you received them. If this company wanted to be successful in a cutthroat niche market, there are plenty of examples of good PR to choose from, but perhaps, as JoanElaine says, they simply want to take the term ‘exclusive’ to a whole new level…of stupidity! And any perfumista worth her atomizers know you don’t fork out a gazillion bucks for something you haven’t even tried…;) Right?


    • I was really impressed by Kilian’s marketing strategy. And I plan to buy their travel set with all 10 scents just to express my appreciation of the approach. I thought that Pandora’s campaign was great. But here… I don’t know. I hope they have a plan and it’ll work out.


  6. To me this sounds like a non-malicious email from a PR person who is absolutely clueless about perfume, and not much better informed about proper comment use. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to try the line!


    • Well… I think in a while I’ll read some reviews of this line from somebody who’s better travelled than me gets to try them. If those reviews are good TPC will make money on my samples order.


  7. I think I’ve guessed who the company is and if I’m right aren’t these new releases limited edition? And X number of them seem very weak, nondescript and done to death in female perfumery? I just don’t think an itch is being scratched with this line, least of all with the high price and no sample crap.


    • Aaron, they kind of are limited editions; and I do not understand the idea of a limited edition from a perfume line which has no regular editions yet but maybe they’ve figured out some new approach?


  8. Undina, as strange as it seems, I think some lines haven’t cottoned on to the idea of samples and how in the long run they may actually boost their sales. Plus, if you blog about them, its press coverage for them too, if you look at it that way. A relatively small outlay and as you say, choosing to pay for them means they win really, particularly when you consider how expensive samples really are, on a per ml basis.

    That’s one of the reasons I refused to continue buying samples from Frederic Malle – their prices just became ridiculous, even more ridiculous when they tried to pass off this cost as postage – EUR15 or more to send 3 teeny samples weighing next to nothing from France to the UK. Anyway, I digress….


    • Michael, since it looks like we all agree about the situation described in this post, I’ll comment on your side note.

      I think I disagree with you on FM’s samples.

      I don’t know maybe it changed recently, but when I ordered samples 6 months ago those weren’t “teeny samples”, they were a nice 2 ml spray samples packed really well (I re-used that box a couple of times since then for sending back and forth more valuable swaps). And if you calculate the price per ml you’ll see that it’s not a bad deal (with 50 ml bottle of the least expensive perfume from the line EUR 95, not including S&H, 2 ml come to EUR 3.80, which leaves only EUR 3.60 for S&H; and some perfumes are much more expensive). So, of course, had they been a new line that needs to get recognition, they should have done that differently (well, actually they did do it differently in the beginning: they were sending people those samples for free after you went through there “find a perfume for me” program). But now they are a well-known luxury brand with counters at luxury stores so they do not have to engage into dumping their own perfumes.


      • Undina, I think the point I was trying to make was that FM state on their website (or they did at the time, I haven’t been back for well over a year) that the samples were free but there was a EUR10 charge (which went up to EUR15 I think) for postage. I know for a fact that it doesn’t cost anywhere close to EUR15 to post 3 light samples from France to the UK, so the reality was that they were charging for their samples, but in a roundabout sort of way. I would have much preferred if they had just been frank and said the cost of purchasing 3 samples from them was EUR15 rather than all the guff about cost of postage. I’m totally off topic here anyway, as your post had nothing to do with FM!

        At the end of the day, the best way to vote is with your wallet or not. In the case of FM I decided not to purchase directly from them again, even though I do love many of their perfumes.

        Getting back on topic, I think irrespective of price, any serious niche (or other line) line should have the facility to allow potential customers to obtain samples first to test before they commit a large sum of money. And if they charge for those samples, that’s perfectly within their rights to do so.


  9. Wow, that’s their loss, Undina. My bet is that they’ll come back to you months from now asking if you want to try their discovery set or some such.

    I do agree with Ari, though: I think the offer your received was genuine, but probably from a PR person who knows little about how perfumes are properly tested/sampled.


    • As I said, I also hope it was a well-intentioned offer. That was one of the reasons I didn’t want to name the company: we’ll discuss it here among friends in general terms but it won’t be found in Google searches and won’t harm anybody involved.


  10. This is absurd. How could anyone expect for their brand to gain further recognition without making samples available for sale? Exclusivity is one thing. This is just bad business.

    That PR person clearly does not understand perfume, because the idea of sending strips is actually laughable.

    How disappointing for you, Undina!


  11. Hi Undina,

    I have no clue who UGE is, but am sorry you had such a daft response – they really don’t know their onions. Actually, had you been wishing to smell an onion scent, that might have made the trip okay impregnated on a blotter. But anything else, not a chance.

    And would they indeed have gone for those individual “glassine” etui / sleeve thingies I once went hunting for, that LArtisan use in their shops in Paris, or would the blotters all have been jostling one another in the envelope, much like the bottom of one’s handbag! Poor show, but good copy!.


    • To tell you the truth, I was very curious about the implementation. But I have too much respect for the perfume to waste it just to satisfy my curiosity (even when I’m in a perfume store I try not to spray unnecessary).

      I think that Angel or some of SSS’s perfumes might make it. Actually… I had a crashed Le Labo 31 decant incident a couple of months ago and I still use that envelope in my linen closet. But it was 10 ml. And from everything I know about UGE, Le Labo it is not.


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  14. What a funny story! To be fair, I did receive some Indian attar samples on paper strips that were sealed for the mail in tiny glassine envelopes- they arrived in great shape, I could smell them perfectly. But those were attars, extremely strong oils that are mostly base notes. In glassine. I think their PR person must have been hired for expertise is areas other than perfumery! ;-)


    • As I’ve mentioned earlier, I doubt this specific line would have survived a week – glassine or not. Imagine most L’Artisan’s or Annick Goutal’s perfumes sent this way (and I’m saying that with all due love to these brands).
      But thank you for the information: if Amouage ever offers me to smell one of their attars this way I won’t refuse ;)


  15. Hm, I think to know which company you talk about, Undina… I was looking for the sample sale ont he very same homepage – wondering, how on earth they want to sell their perfumes. Unsniffed ??? really ???
    I don’t know whether I should lough, or be upset about the offer for the blotter… I guess, I don’t even want to deal with a company who treat their products & customers so poorely.


    • lady jane grey, yes, judging by your train of thoughts we were on the same homepage. I just went one step further.

      I was a little upset first but the irony is that had I been sent those samples, liked them and decided to write some story I wouldn’t have gathered that many intresting people in the same thread. So, overall – my gain, their loss.


  16. My take home message from your unfortunate experience that niche lines will do best if they treat their customers as the well-informed, discerning and intelligent consumers that they are.

    I would not have bought a Tauer FB (Reverie) were it not for the sample sets being sent anywhere in the world for free. Andy is pretty generous with draws, too, on his blog. I won one of these, and bought two sample sets, meaning that I was able to sample all the fragrances he then had on the market. So when it came to the purchase of the FB, I was thoroughly informed of his line, and was certain I was making the right choice for me. It was probably the best FB purchase I have made. If Andy is making a loss on his sample, as perhaps he is, hopefully it is made up in FB sales like mine.


    • Well, we’ll see how it goes for this brand. Either they get exactly the results they wanted as is, or they adjust, or they die. I hope it’s not the latter. Especially if their perfumes are good – which I don’t know since I haven’t got to try them. From the other side… I just thought about one more possibility: maybe “unsniffed” or a-quick- decision-in-a-store purchase is the only way these can be sold? :) Time will show.


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