Do “Bad” Perfume Samples Circulate Better?

What does a perfumista do while being sick to the degree that wearing any perfume is temporary out of question? She thinks about them. And thoughts might flow in an unpredictable direction.

But first let me explain what I meant by the title. Did I mean samples of bad perfumes or perfume samples that are bad? Either. Of course, “bad” is a subjective term: tastes differ, and for almost any perfume there is someone out there who adores it. But we all know that some perfumes get everyone’s love while others pass by to be forgotten half a year later. These “others” are those that I called “bad perfumes.” Besides, most people (though, not all) prefer spray samples, hence, the other ones (those messy 0.7 ml dabbers from Luckyscent and other similar places) are “bad samples.”

What I’ve noticed over years of swapping perfumes: when it comes to exchanges not with friends and usual “sparring partners,” percentage of perfumes that I didn’t care for at all would go up significantly. When I started thinking about it, it made sense. I’ll share with you my train of thought.


Small Perfume Samples


A perumista (let’s call her P.) gets a sample, tries perfume and likes it. If she doesn’t love it enough to buy, P. wears it until it’s finished (or keeps in her collection planning to finish it eventually). This sample never leaves P.’s possession.

If perfume goes onto the “to buy” list, P. continues using that sample waiting for a bottle, especially if it’s a convenient spray sample. By the time that bottle finally joins P.’s collection, the sample is either gone or is so depleted that it feels wrong to send it to anybody else. The sample stays with P.

Unless it was a dab sample because then it wasn’t worn as much; or let’s say it was, but even a 0.25 ml in a dab vial is still suitable for testing, especially it it’s a “freebie” that P. adds to a split or a swap.

On the other hand, if P. didn’t like perfume, a nice spray sample of perfume that everyone else praises has a better chance to go into a “maybe” or “try again later” pile (and die in it), while a sample of perfume that nobody else proclaimed to love, especially in a dab vial, seems like a good candidate to be sent unsolicited and, most likely, not to one of the friends whose tastes P. knows. It is easier to just throw it in than spend time asking if the recipient even wants to test it.

… Another perfumista, S., gets a sample from P. – and everything repeats. In the end, those “bad perfumes” and/or “bad samples” get to move from one perfumista to another much more often than “good” ones amplifying the common perception of the recent years that niche perfumery becomes worse and worse.

What do you think? Were those just feverish emanations of my perfume-deprived brain?


16 thoughts on “Do “Bad” Perfume Samples Circulate Better?

  1. Oh no! I hope you feel better soon! Your post makes a lot of sense – “unwanted” samples get passed along more often than the desireables. With our relatively close community, I’m actually surprised that something has not come back to me full circle yet. That said, when I receive dabbers that look like it had been around the block, I may take a cursory sniff but would never put it on skin. The vial just goes into the giveaway pile. Personally, when I swap or give away freebies, I tend to let the recipient know if something is new (most often) or used (by me only or from a previous exchange).


    • In the early years of swapping I once got my own sample back as a “freebie” from a person to whom I sent it not too long before that :) I was completely puzzled since she actually asked me to send it to her.
      Not only I do not mind, in many cases I prefer small dab samples, especially when those come from friends’ favorite perfumes: while I’m more than happy to both share and receive a 3-5 ml sample/decant of perfume I/my friend previously tried, liked, wanted to wear but didn’t want a bottle of it, it feels too wasteful to get even a couple of ml of perfume I might not like. Well, unless it’s someone with really similar tastes ;)


  2. Sorry you are poorly and get well soon. I am just emerging from a two week cold and my perfume wearing has been fitful.

    I completely agree with your reasoning! It explains why I been receiving freebie samples of Papyrus de Ciane for years. Possibly the same one, even! Would anyone like it btw? ;)


    • Just two weeks? You, lucky you! ;) But I’m almost back to normal. Almost.
      Since PG’s perfumes almost never come my way, I can take that sample off your hands on the next mule’s trip: I like galbanum, so who knows… :)


  3. I was with you right up until the last sentence. Yes, I do think that lousy perfume samples get passed around more than good ones. But it’s all the brand new niche samples I get, where 90% of them are uninteresting or unoriginal, that makes me think niche perfumery has gone downhill.

    Hope you feel better soon!


    • Thank you, I’m better already (at least I wear perfumes).

      I know that the industry went crazy with producing hundreds of new perfumes monthly. But our testing capacities stayed the same, so maybe if we were to pass on mostly good perfumes (or at least didn’t circulate bad ones), our perception would have been more positive? I’m not sure, just thinking aloud :)


  4. Timely! I’m working through the traveling box of perfume at the moment so awash in new to me samples. Fortunately there are plenty of spray samples in addition to the dreaded dabbers. I do think that many of the scents in the box were unloved castoffs (at least if any of the previous recipients shares my taste!!) Not many made it to skin status. But I agree with Tara – I think the explosion in niche perfumery has meant that what’s out there really IS uninspiring, rather than the same boring stuff being overly circulated!! When I pass the box on I’ll be adding spray decants and not dabbers!


    • My confession – I usually buy or acquire 2 of the same dabber sample. If I like it, both get dumped into an atomizer. If I din’t like it, I quarantine the used one into the used pile and the unused one goes to new. When I post freebies, I disclose which type is included.


    • I’m one of the strange people: I prefer dab samples. Since I do not wear perfumes from samples, I prefer to apply just a tiny dot on my skin prior to deciding to do a real full testing. Not all samples make through that tiny test. But if I had to spray it, I’d end up with too much perfume on my skin. But I understand that most people prefer testing perfumes sprayed.
      I did add to the box my castoffs but those were 1) spray samples; 2) popular brands; 3) I did not really participate: I sniffed a couple but I didn’t test most of the perfumes in the box and didn’t keep any. I wouldn’t mind sharing perfumes I like with someone who’d like to try specifically that perfume or to send it directly to someone I “know.” But for the “traveling” box I wouldn’t decant perfumes that I love. Others probably did the same.


  5. Oh dear, I hope you’re feeling better! I can always tell I’m really under the weather when I don’t feel like wearing anything scented.

    It’s funny, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my sample pile. When I’m in this frame of mind, everything tends to smell a bit uninspired and same-y to me.

    But I’m always quite excited to try the samples you’ve sent me! Maybe being in a better frame of mind leads me to appreciate the samples more.


    • Sending samples to people one “knows” is a completely different thing: in this case we actually try to share either something we like or something we hope the recipient will like. We might include something extra of the above-mentioned kind but with “personal” exchange we tend to ask and see whether the other party wants to try something you have and do not care for. This way the recipient is prepared to getting something not that great – and from this low point it might get only up since there are no expectations.
      Until now I rarely had been so sick to not to wear anything at all. But this time it was that bad. Luckily, I’m almost back to normal now.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hope you’re feeling much better right now but I’m sure being sick and not being able to wear perfume must have been a small trauma on its own.

    I think I agree with you. If I don’t like something or think it is ok I would be more open to sending it to anybody else who expresses interest. However if I like a perfume I will usually wear a sample until it’s completely empty because it will serve as my testing material to decide if I wanted a full bottle or a decant bought in a split or not.
    Couple of years ago I gave a sample of Heeley Iris de Nuit because I didn’t care for it. 2-3 years later the very same sample came back to me (I recognized my writing on the label) and at that point in time I appreciated the perfume much more. Funny, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What you say makes sense, but if I love something enough to buy a full bottle I often put the remaining ‘good’ sample in the ‘to go with swaps’ pile because I want other people to enjoy it, too. Or I will sometimes make decants for perfume pals. I honestly don’t pay that much attention to samples I get when swapping. I’m all about the main thing I’m swapping for. Most times I hardly even look at the samples and they get sold on Ebay if not used.


    • Decants for “perfume pals” do not count! To those who I know I usually try to get either something I like or think they’ll like.
      I used to keep all the samples (unless a friend wanted it), but now I’m trying hard not to hoard them, at least not all of them.


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