Saturday Question: Are You Tempted by GWPs?

You can make this question as much or as little about perfumes as you wish.


Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass


Saturday Question #64:

Are You Tempted by GWPs?

I’m not sure if it is a common practice for the B&M stores or sites that you shop from regularly, but in the U.S., beauty departments, brands and stores periodically have “events” during which they offer “gift with purchase” (GWP). If where you live it also takes place, do you time your purchases to such events? Are you buying anything you didn’t plan to because you want to get a GWP? Maybe not the complete purchase but something as an “add-in” to reach the required minimum?

A bonus question: have you ever found anything (perfume or a skincare item) that you wouldn’t have tried otherwise but now like and use?

My Answer

Twenty something years ago, fresh in the US, when I saw a printed ad for Estee Lauder‘s GWP at Macy’s, I couldn’t believe that it could be true: in my native country each of the pieces offered free with any $25 purchase would have cost probably half of that amount. A co-worker, to whom I showed the ad, confirmed that it wasn’t a trick and even offered to give me a ride to the store after work. That day I bought my first bottle of Tuscany Per Donna (I tried it before and liked). And I was perplexed by the fact that they were giving for free all those wonderful travel size goodies. I don’t remember what was in that GWP, but for many years after that I was using cosmetics and skincare from Estee Lauder trying to time my purchases to their GWP events. I stopped doing that when most of the items in those gifts became make-up items – and I didn’t have much use to them.

I’ve never bought anything more expensive than $5-$6 that I didn’t plan to buy if I needed something extra to get to a free shipping or GWP that I really wanted to get, but I don’t remember ever buying anything just to get a GWP (though, on a couple of occasions I’ve been tempted to persuade myself that I needed something right away – usually I was able to resist).

With perfumes, I usually try to wait for a percent off since those perfumes that I like usually do not come with anything that interests me.

Recently, as I started using more make-up and skincare, and especially since it is more difficult to test new products these days, I started following more closely different sales and GWPs events… When I was placing an order at Bloomingdale’s about 10 days ago, I knew that I was getting a lot of “goodies” – that’s why I decided to make that purchase in the first place. But when I started getting all the packages with what I ordered plus all the gifts, it was something unreal. I felt like…

Have you ever had a dream in which you would come across something wonderful, something that felt like a treasure – rare perfumes or coins or sweets or something else that in your dream seemed magical? And when you would wake up and realize it was just a dream, you’d feel disappointed. It felt like that dream but without the waking-up part. In all years I’ve been playing this game, I’ve never managed to get anything like that. That was a very unusual combination of a gift with any purchase, then Mother’s Day GWP, plus 2 cumulative gifts from Bloomingdales, plus GWP from SpaceNK. Now I have a lot of testing to do.

Beauty Samples

I got all these promotions after reading a newsletter from the GWP Addict blog. They mostly cover sites that specialize in skincare, but sometimes those overlap with online stores that carry perfumes as well. And, from what I can see, even though US-oriented, it covers some international sites as well.


Are You Tempted by GWPs?


37 thoughts on “Saturday Question: Are You Tempted by GWPs?

  1. Ha, fun question. I believe GWP isn’t such a big deal here, or maybe the gifts aren’t as good. The gifts you get don’t interest me. I don’t really like all those tiny test things, I never got anything I liked if it was given out at random, so I felt like it was a lot of extra plastic for nothing. I think it makes sense those few places where you decide what to get, some skincare brands do that, and of course niche perfumeries. So you can test something that you want to test and have thought about.


    • I understand your position, and I feel the same about just some random samples. But I usually go only for those GWP where they have samples from the brands that I know and either want a travel size to have with me on trips (haha) or want to try. Those samples, BTW, are not that tiny: most of them last for a week of use – enough to figure out whether you like the product.


  2. I usually only luck into GWP but have sometimes gotten decent hauls (although the one above looks epic). I have a few products that I repurchase over and over, so I will often keep them in my Ulta or Sephora cart indefinitely, purchasing when they are offering a discount or promotion. I watch brand emails as well for discounts or promos when I need to restock staples. After trying out some subscription boxes a couple of years ago, I found myself with a huge stock of products and travel sizes to try (one of the reasons for my no-buy) and I’m still trying to work that down, so I’m not seeking out more! That said, just bought a couple of the Jo Malones (Elderflower Cordial and Rhubarb) from Macy’s, arrived with a mini Velvet Rose & Oud and pear/freesia body creme. Happy to get the freebie!


    • I looked a couple of times at subscription boxes, but they carry too many mid-market or small/new brands. With my problematic skin I prefer to try only those brands that I choose, I can’t just do anything that makes economical sense for the box creators.

      I have to admit that never before I had such a haul (but I did well a couple of times before).


  3. I usually don’t even want GWPs as they are filled with fiddly sample packets of things I’m not interested in. However if a brand I use regularly has a GWP, I’m happy to take the goodies as I already know their products. I’ve gotten a couple cute travel sprays with perfume purchases but have never bought just to get the gift.


    • There are sites that have good GWP from time to time (and Bloomingdales wasn’t one of them until this time). Usually those are not brand-specific but rather have a good assortment of brands that the store carries, so if you like many of the brands there, it’s a good chance you’ll find something new you’ll like. Lookfantastic, Cultbeauty, Dermstore, Skinstore and similar are sites that I watch for interesting GWP.
      I almost never use packets: it’s impossible to figure out if I like something from such half-application. But if those are creams, I might carry them in my handbag and use as a hand cream if I have to wash my hands and feel that they are too dry.


  4. The only stage of my life when I was tempted by GWPs was in my 30s, when I worked across the street from a big old-fashioned freestanding Macy’s, and “Clinique bonus time” came around. My work friends and I would go over at lunchtime and indulge. What appealed to me was that I could buy a large size of their skincare, which I used then, and get “bonus” make up to try. I’ve never worn much make up, so I wouldn’t have bought that alone, but it was fun to experiment and try some different looks. And I learned that their mascara really is superior to my usual drugstore brands. I am so impressed by your haul, Undina! Wow! You’re going to have so much fun!


    • To tell you the truth, I still can’t believe how many different things I got there. I think it has something to do with our situation: less people shop in B&M stores, so companies and stores don’t use testers, and consumers don’t buy something they’ve never tried before. So, it makes sense to provide samples to those who is already spending money: it looks like they have discretionary income they can keep spending if they like something. Now I’ll need to try all of these carefully – not to aggravate my eczema (I have no idea what I’m reacting to).

      I’ve never warmed up to Clinique for some reason. I think it’s because I didn’t like the name (I always think about it as “clinic”), I didn’t like their packaging (too simple), and I didn’t like the scent of the couple of products that I used. But I liked one of their lipsticks. If I’m not mistaken, it was called Tender Heart.


  5. Hey Undina,
    Mum always bought gifts for me when GWPs were on. These were the 1980s and the gifts were amazing. Umbrellas, sports bags or backpacks, wet packs or ties were all things she grabbed and would wrap separately to my fragrance. It always felt like she’d gone CRAZY. Also, all of these things were really useful to a kid/young adult. Having a Ralph Lauren umbrella or an Aramis sports bag was super cool. Though designer stuff was around it hadn’t really hit us, nor was it as accessible in the way that it has become in the 21st century.
    It wasn’t until much later when I was working as a squirt bitch myself that I understood what had been happening. It was NOT a let down but rather impressed me no end.
    Nowadays when buying at the department stores it feels lucky to get a carded sample of something. I can’t even remember seeing a GWP lately.
    Portia xx


    • Have you ever told a story of your working in the industry? If no, you should! If yes, you still might consider doing that: even those who read it before might not remember.

      I remember GWPs in some of the stores 15-20 years ago. I think I still have a travel bag CK I got when I bought Eternity to my vSO (I have some of it left as well). In addition to the bag, there were 3 or 4 Eternity-themed items – a shaving cream, travel perfume spray and something else.

      Until the previous year, I wasn’t paying too much attention to GWPs because I used minimum products from a couple of brands, so I was trying to get those with a discount rather than extra items I didn’t need. Mostly I was on a lookout for perfume deals.


      • I think I probably told it Undina but it’s not very interesting. Just working as a squirt bitch in the summer and other holidays in a suburban department store in the late 1980s. My houses were Guerlain, Oscar de la Renta, Worth and Nina Ricci. I think there may have been two or three more but I largely ignored them. We were mainly selling sets to men for their girlfriends, wives & mistresses. There were also some women who came to try stuff but they rarely made purchases. It was a good job, the people were fun, money excellent, not too many hours and I loved the fragrances.
        It was the perfect job for a fashion student.

        Yeah, Calvin Klein often had sensational GWPs back then. It was definitely a golden age.
        Portia xx

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely! I love Love love GWPs. In fact I’d go so far to say there are certain places I won’t buy unless there is a gift with purchase. Maybe it’s because I grew up frugally, but I love getting freebies, and I give away the ones that don’t interest me. Quite the haul you have there by the way! Space NK always has good ones, although the buy in can be steep. Way back in time I used to get almost every Estee Lauder kit that came out, and as a result I had way too many lipsticks that would eventually dry up and go bad. I curbed my addiction, and I’m now really picky. But I’ve become a mini expert on gwp. (I never shopped at pricey Barneys except to get a GWP and so was sad to see that avenue close.) Saks is a good one, although only about twice a year, and they often have good perfume samples. Neimans I’ve found to be surprisingly cheap with the gwps. Space Nk and Bergdorf Goodman are always generous, although you have to spend a bit to get it. Beautyhabit is also quite good with eclectic products. When buying perfumes that aren’t carried at the dept stores, which is almost everything I buy, I’m much more interested in sales, and will wait for one patiently before buying. And off topic, can I say that recently I bought two bottles of perfume and a set of samples from a smaller but long time established indie/niche perfumer and they did not include one free sample. I was kind of surprised and a bit put out. Am I being unreasonable?


    • I think I have a very well-tuned “barometer” for fairness: whenever I buy something with a discount, I do not feel bad to not be getting any samples – though, I still think that providing samples to a paying customer is a good idea. But when I pay full price and do not get anything at all, I feel cheated. So, I completely understand how you felt.

      If you use skincare/cosmetics and were to subscribe to the newsletter to which I linked, with patience, you’ll be able to get really good deals from the sites that sell many brands. For any specific brand it makes more sense to subscribe to them directly, but if you haven’t bought from them yet, before subscribing, check if they give some special discount to new customers: often they offer 10-15-20% of the first purchase or when you subscribe, but those coupons expire, so its better to subscribe when you’re ready to buy.

      I liked Barney’s GWPs. And I liked their perfume and cosmetics department. Too bad…


  7. I started my fragrance and makeup journeys with Clinique GWPs. Clinique makeup and skincare products were very pricey for me paying my own way through college so I only replenished when there were GWPs and I used every sample. In the 70s and 80s the samples were quite generous. Once I started working I would collect the samples I received from GWPs and include them bags for some of my office mates, along with small bottles of perfume, etc. They were a big hit.


  8. Now I only consider GWPs if they are really big. For example, a few times a year, mostly at Christmas, Jo Malone will have a buy one bottle of perfume and get an equal or smaller size free. Buy a 3 oz and get a 1 oz for free. I will wait to buy until I see.that promotion.
    Generally I look for sales rather than GWPs.
    I do, however, buy perfumes and skincare more frequently from retailers that include good samples with purcha ses, like Luckyscent and

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve never seen that type of a promotion from Jo Malone… but that’s probably because I have most of their perfumes that I wanted to get by now :)

        I’ve just discovered Oribe, and shampoo + conditioner were part of the main purchase with which that haul of samples came. I think I’ll buy bigger sizes if/when there is the next big Sephora of similar sale (20% off). I’m taking any pointers for the brand. What products do you like?


        • I use the Oribe shampoo and conditioner for hair with color. It really does help keep the color from fading. I also really like the repair and restore shampoo and conditioner. I have the thicker jar of repair product, too. My rampant parathyroid glands wreaked havoc on my once shiny hair.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Many years ago when I visited friends in Germany, I remember being surprised seeing sales on perfumes: back then none of the department stores ever had sales for beauty products. Sephora was the only store that had Friends & Family % off once or twice per year. It has changed just less than a couple of years ago, and now many other places started having that type of deals from time to time.


  9. Wow, what a haul! I know I have been tempted by gifts with purchase, and Clarins springs to mind, but I can’t quite recall what it was I discovered that I subsequently really liked. I think some kind of eye make up remover. Sorry, my memory is shocking! I know I have historically been drawn to free make up bags from any brand. ;)


    • Oh, bags… By this day the only makeup bag I’ve ever bought… was a GWP bag someone was reselling on eBay (I used up mine and wanted another one exactly like that). Everything else came with other purchases (or were gifted to me :) ).

      For me, a lot of the things that I ended up liking and purchasing more than once came from GWPs sets. So, I’m a right person to give samples and trial sizes to :)


  10. You got a nice haul! I used to be tempted by GWPs and still lament Barney’s. Nowadays, I try to look for % of $ discounts. I’ve learned to consolidate my purchases to take advantage of these discounts. I usually get extra extras when I buy. Quite often, although less so since 2020, I can usually request something even if I just happen to pass by and not buy anything.

    If buying anything online, it is best to leave a note with what you are interested in sampling because there is no harm in asking.

    On the $ discount, sometimes one could get lucky with a Rakuten Cash Back that you get on top of the store discount. I read somewhere that Rakuten even works for B&M purchases but I have not put time in researching how one can go about utilizing this. Note to self: check this out!


    • Good point about Rakuten. I signed up with them and have gotten about $30.00 in rebates in the last year. Not a lot, but one could get more by planning purchases around Rakuten deals.


    • I also usually prefer % off (I use $ off sometimes as well but I like it less because I hate spending more than the required minimum (not to decrease the %% I’m getting off :) ). But on a couple of occasions I wanted to get those bundles because that was the most economical way to get to try a lot of things that I wanted to.

      Do you use TopCashBack as well? They have a sign-up bonus (let me know if you haven’t signed up yet, I’ll send you a link), and their %% sometimes better than with Rakuten or MrRebates.

      Liked by 1 person

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