ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif – Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

On more than one occasion I tried to dissuade my readers from blind buys – be that full bottles based on somebody else’s reviews or sample sets selected by unknown authorities. But then recently I came across an article in Luxury Daily about Opulent Box, a jewelry subscription program

“While most people shop for jewelry they love, they’re missing out on the surprise factor, and that’s what we’re wanting to achieve with the Opulent Box,”

said CEO Jon Yedwabnik, Opulent Jewelers, the company that for mere 25K per quarter ($100K per year) offers their affluent consumers a surprise box with brand name estate and vintage jewelry.

I suspect that most of my readers do not have a perfume budget that amounts to even one tenth of the quarterly jewelry subscription cost but if you decide to spend $25-$100 to get a surprise factor or want to wear some popular mainstream perfumes without committing to a full bottle, one of these services might be exactly what you need.

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In all years I’ve been running Undina’s Looking Glass the only time I used my “perfume blogger” status to get anything from a brand was 4 years ago when I tried to buy from a new niche line samples they haven’t offered at the time. I didn’t succeed then.

The second time I attempted that recently when I started working on this post. On the ScentBird‘s website I noticed a section For Bloggers. It offered bloggers to get their subscription free. I provided the required information – my blog address, number of subscribers, FB & Twitter accounts – and explained in the note the purpose of my subscription. I think, I even suggested holding a draw for whatever perfume I would receive. I got rejected. I don’t remember the exact polite phrasing (and for some reason I can’t find the letter now), but it was clear that my blog wasn’t big enough for their purposes. I was slightly offended (they kind of offered themselves!) but mostly amused: both services that specialize in much more expensive niche perfumes – Olfactif and ScentTrunk – had previously offered me their subscriptions (I haven’t accepted) while the mass-market-oriented one decided to save ten bucks on me.

Since my blog is my hobby and I make a living from other sources, I paid for ScentTrunk and ScentBird subscriptions (3 and 2 months correspondently, with some %% off of the first month with coupons I found online). I didn’t have to pay for Olfactif since I had a box gifted to me by Jeffrey Dame, when one of his perfumes was featured there. So here’s how these subscriptions stack up against each other.

Features Comparison Table for ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif

Name
ScentBird (https://www.scentbird.com) ScentTrunk (https://scenttrunk.com/) Olfactif (http://www.olfactif.com)
What you get
8 ml glass spray decant (you choose your scent from the list). With the first month you get a travel case that can be used later with the following months’ decants 3 x 2 ml plastic spray samples (selected presumably based on your profile), in a box, information cards for each scent, a drawstring bag and testing strips 3 x 2.25 ml glass spray samples (the same set per collection for everybody)
Collections
Feminine and masculine. There are more than 60 brands, mostly mainstream but there are a couple of niche brands Unisex, masculine and feminine. About 40 niche and indie brands Unisex (“for women and adventurous men”) and masculine (“traditionally masculine scents”). There are about 35 niche and indie brands
Base cost
$14.95/month including S&H. US only $18/month including S&H. US & Canada. +Tax if you’re in Canada $18/month including S&H. US only
Subscription options
$84/6 months ($14/month); $162/12 months ($13.50/month) $96/6 months ($16.5/month); $180/12 months ($15/month) $51/3 months ($17/month); $96/6 months ($16/month); $180/12 months ($15/month)
Delivery
Once a month, ships on the 15th regardless of when the subscription starts Once a month; ships within several days after the subscription starts and then every 30 days Once a month, around the 1st. Subscriptions made before 15th of the month get that month’s subscription box
Payment
Credit Card only Credit Card and PayPal Credit Card and PayPal
Cancellation
Online; any time before 5th of the month. Subscription can be put on hold for a month By e-mail request, at any time By email request; any time before 15th of the month. Subscription can be put on hold for a month
Returns/Refunds
Not offered Full refund by e-mail request if you’re not satisfied for any reason Not offered
Referral program
Get a friend to subscribe – get one month free (plus a friend gets the second month free) Points offered for recommending to a friend (see Coupons & Discounts) Not offered
Full bottles
Not offered There’s a small collection of full bottles offered for purchase. Online shopping is in its infancy: all you can do is to scroll the page to browse the selection sorted in the descending order by price Bottles for perfumes featured in the subscription are offered. Filter by price, brand, note, season or category.
Coupons & Discounts
Search Internet for a one time discount code Search Internet for a discount code for the subscription. You will also get some points for different actions on the site – placing the order, reviewing perfumes you tried, referring friends, etc. After you collect enough of these points, you can convert them into a $10 or $25 discount for the full bottle purchase from the site $18 credit toward the full-bottle purchase of a featured fragrance every month (even for discounted subscription options). You can also find a 15% off the subscription price coupon online
Customer Service
After I reported the wrong perfume sent to me this month, I got a replacement within three days and they suggested keeping the wrong perfume After I reported the duplicate box sent to me in the second month, I got an immediate refund. Unfortunately, the next box I got only the next month (and with a delay), which slightly defeats the purpose of a monthly subscription N/A (since I didn’t subscribe, I didn’t have any experience with it – please chime in if you did)
What I like
You know exactly what you’re getting and 8 ml is more than enough for most perfumes if you’re not prepared to get a full bottle

Ease of cancellation (though they cleverly offer to put the subscription on hold when you’re cancelling)

Packaging that is both cute and functional. Rusty gave the highest approval to the testing strips (see the picture below)

They try hard to be nice to customers and to engage them

During the sign-up you go through some type of personalization where you get express your preferences of some aspects of perfumes – “fresh”, “floral”, “woody”, “oriental.” These are supposed to be taken into the account while preparing your monthly box. It didn’t work in my case (I got twice exactly the same box – even though after getting the first one I changed the profile) but I think it’s a good direction and hope they’ll improve with time

You can buy additional samples (the same 2.25 ml size) for any of the perfumes they sell as well as the previous collections (unless sold out) and perfume books

If you think of starting the subscription, you have until the 15th of the month to decide if you want to do it that month and get the samples offered

Very well-written and informative FAQ section

What I do not like
It’s an unusually deferred gratification: you pay (or at least decide that you’ll be continuing the subscription) by the 5th of the month and your order arrives around 19th. And it’s even worse if you subscribe in the end of the month: it takes almost a month to get your first order Perfumes that I got in the first two boxes were all on the cheaper/cheapest side of the offerings, with which the site teases (not even mentioning Amouage samples used as main images all over the main page). With my final box they’ve redeemed themselves though: all three samples were “top shelf.” But I would have preferred a better mix for each of the boxes

My negative review for one of the perfumes is still awaiting an approval (for the last 2.5 months) while the positive one had no problem being approved

Beautiful but extremely wasteful packaging
~ ~ ~

Rusty plays with Scent Trunk's test strips

Conclusion

Personally, despite the rejection from their marketing people, I found ScentBird‘s service the most useful: I got two decants I wanted (GHAG‘s Miss Charming and Montale‘s Intense Cafe) much cheaper than I could find them elsewhere (not counting split groups but they don’t always have what you want). But then it’s not really a subscription, is it? Still, if you see something you like in their online store, it might be a good value for the money. Also I think it might be a good gift (the offer is 3 months for $44) for a “civilian” (© Tara) friend.

As to the actual subscription services, I still think that you’ll be better off testing perfumes in stores (if possible), exchanging samples with other perfume enthusiasts or buying them from brands’ sites or in split groups. But if you live too far away from the stores that carry high-end mainstream or niche perfumes and you’re not too big on communicating with others to arrange exchanges or splits, I have a couple of recommendations on how to decide whether you want to play with one of the services and with which one.

If you’ve tried and/or do not want to try 50% or more of perfumes, full bottles of which a service offers in their online store, do not subscribe.

Since ScentTrunk sends “customized” boxes without disclosing who gets what, there’s a good chance that you’ll get three of the perfumes that are already in their store at the moment you’re checking it out before signing. So just look at what they offer and think how many of those you haven’t tried yet or tried and wouldn’t mind using for $3/ml.

Olfactif, on the other hand, offers for sale perfumes from their previous collections, so you do not know what you’ll get next but can try predicting the future performance by calculating the ratio of the perfumes you tried and disliked to all perfumes you tried from their collection. The smaller the result, the better chances that going forward they’ll keep selecting something that is closer to your tastes.

If you are not familiar with most of the perfumes in both stores, go with the service that offers more brands that are new to you: if you’re making a leap of faith, at least you’ll get exposed to something completely new.

Have you ever tried any subscription services (not necessarily perfume-related)?

 

Images: my own

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19 thoughts on “ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif – Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

  1. That was an interesting read, Undina. Since none of them offer international subscriptions, I’ve never looked into them closely, although I was quite curious about them. If you like the surprise factor, these subscriptions sound enjoyable. It’s somewhat different but I purchased couple discovery boxes from the Perfume Society in the UK. The boxes contained a few samples I wouldn’t normally choose, but it was fun. As you said, I got exposed to something new. ;)
    By the way, I love the photo of Rusty looking bemused.

    • I read updates from the Perfume Society and I’ve recently bought a box from them and now it awaits for my friend’s visit to the U.K. office to bring it to me. So I might do another post once I get it.
      All these limitations on sending perfumes overseas are really unfortunate: it would have been much more interesting if we could all share the same experiences.

  2. Very interesting comparison, Undina. Like you, I received one of the Olfactif sample boxes, courtesy of Jeffrey Dame, and though two of the three fragrances weren’t to my liking, I ended up loving Jeffrey’s fragrance (Parfums Retro Grand Cuir) and was really excited to try the People’s of the Labyrinth sample that came in that pack (I think it was Luctor et Emergo), even though it didn’t turn out to be a love connection. :-) And when I ended up writing a review on my blog of Grand Cuir, the owner of Olfactif wrote me a lovely note, telling me how much she liked it, and I really got the feeling that she was indeed one of us – a perfume person. So all in all, it was an enjoyable experience, and one I might actually subscribe to if I was at the beginning of my perfume obsession, when I didn’t already have a mountain of samples.

    OK, changing subjects, could you please tell Rusty that I love how very elegant he looks in that photo where he is sitting tall at the corner of your table.

    • Suzanne, I also liked Luctor et Emergo. Not enough to pursue it but I thought it was interesting.
      Olfactif seems to be doing a good job selecting interesting brands to showcase. And I think that ScentTrunk will get there eventually (if they survive: Fregrance Republic and Bergamot hadn’t). But for anybody who’s been around the perfume block for a couple of years or more they might be a little too redundant.
      Just for you: a little bit less elegant Rusty:
      Rusty and Scent Trunk

  3. Wow! That was a supremely thorough bit of investigative research on the three schemes – I am sure it will be a most helpful resource for anyone contemplating taking the plunge along any of these lines. Subscription is not for me – certainly not anything approaching ‘pot luck’ though it would have been once when the acquisitive fever was well and truly upon me. The decant service sounds the best of the three, I agree.

    Actually, I have a bit of a personal beef with one of those sites, where about 3-4 different people either working there or affiliated with it approached me to ask if I would collaborate with them in some kind of blogging venture – either me writing a post myself or them writing as a guest bloggers. One or two of those individuals were very persistent, but I kept saying no, and that I had already been approached by their associates. Either the left hand genuinely didn’t know what the right hand was doing, or they thought that guerilla tactics were the way to go.

    • Thank you, Vanessa. I thought you’d appreciate the approach to the research :)

      I recently had a slew of strange requests for cooperation. If people are nice to write them a way that it seems personal, I reply to those (usually refusing anyway). Those that look like a cookie-cutter (“The most recent post was so good that I sent it over to a friend” – yeah, right…) usually just die in my inbox: if they don’t spend enough time to personalize their letters, why should I spend time replying?)

      I think about 5 years ago such service would have been very appealing to me. Nowadays I refuse free samples :)

  4. Hello Undina! I have never tried a subscription service for perfumes nor, for the matter, beauty box services like Birch Box. The primary reason is easy access to many perfume brands in the New York City area. That said, I will take a further look at ScentBird’s offerings because the $14.95 (or $14 / month for a six month commitment) is a fair price point for the right perfume. We will leverage the Referral Program if I do subscribe :-)

    I love how your post is very informative and well-balanced. And thanks to your handsome assistant Rusty!

    • Thank you, dear (especially from Rusty: he enjoyed his treat – though those test strips were just made for him, do I didn’t have to bribe him with anything to participate in the photo shoot).

      With the ScentBird it’s important to create a queue of perfumes you want to get – or they’ll send you something of their choice (I managed to stop Pink Sugar being sent to me in the very last moment; I’m still a little shaken thinking that it could have arrived! : ) ).

  5. Hi Undina,
    I’ve been on Olfactif almost since it started. I like this service simply because I don’t know what will be coming every month. This gives me the opportunity to try fragrances I probably never would have bothered to sample otherwise. I like the wasteful packaging and so far have purchased two full bottles from the site. The downside is that about 30 plus % of the frags are not new to me.
    Azar xx

    • It’s interesting that you keep the subscription even though you’re repeatedly getting perfumes that you’ve previously tried.
      I think that the packaging is very nice and aesthetically , I’m just not sure what to do with it: it takes too much space to keep just 3 samples in it.

  6. This was a really well researched, thought out post, useful too! Most of us have to have pondered subscription services…
    I had been given Olfactif for a little while courtesy someone affiliated with it, and I thought that the presentations were very nice and the samples generous. Problem was you had to take whatever it was on offer at the time. Often I just didn’t want whatever. The basic idea that you can get the consumer used to a product and then she’ll use it isn’t too far wrong though.

    • Thank you, Blacknall. I hope it’ll be useful for potential subscribers who try to research first what’s offered.
      These services are probably useful to those who wouldn’t seek strange(r) perfumes on their own. But for us, who proactively reads about upcoming releases and perfumes out there a chance to get perfumes we do not care about or have previously tried is too high.

    • I think it’s slightly different in case of Bloom: they are, first of all, a perfume store so they get the best perfumes that fit their store collection to sell bottles. This subscription service is an add-on. It’s their way of promoting the perfumes they sell. Actually, that’s how it should be: samples are paid for to eliminate people who would just want to use/sell a free sample they got and not really care for getting an actual product. But the cost shouldn’t be a full retail price per ml – and that’s exactly what decanters and subscription services are doing. While it’s more or less fine for the decanter services, it feels wrong for sampling.

      • Very good point, on the different business model and intent–which will, of course, shape the choice and appeal of the samples included in a surprises subscription. I mentioned it mostly as it seems to be a pretty good option in the UK. I’ve not seen others (bar the Perfume Society’s discovery boxes–and that’s different again) that are close to the types you looked at. There are lots of beauty/skincare boxes, but no scent ones that I’m aware of.

        • I was so curious about the Perfume Society’s discovery boxes that I’ve ordered one recently but haven’t got it yet (it was sent to a friend’s office location in the U.K. and he’s supposed to bring it back here when he visits that office). But of course it’s not sustainable as a subscription for me.
          If you ever decide to pull the trigger on that Bloom’s subscription, I would be curious to hear how it went.

  7. Pingback: In the Search for the Perfect Coffee – Undina's Looking Glass

  8. This was an excellent and informative post for me. There were several things on Scentbird that intrigued me but not enough (50% or more) to start a subscription. I think your idea of trying things out in person is the best idea! I will just have to make a few more shopping trips :)

    Thanks for this great post and for linking it for me in the other comment section.

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