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.
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
|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|
|$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|
|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|
|~ ~ ~|
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