Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Perfumers Make The Most Annoying Customers...

Here's a funny little Sales Assistant moment for you.

I was in Harrods the other day and I walked up to the Loewe counter to try 7. Within moments, a smiling, well-groomed gentleman popped up before me, urging me to spray the scent on my skin. I should say I generally have no problem whatsoever with sales staff. I'm aware there are lots of bloggers out there who have had many unpleasant experiences in shops, but I guess I've just been rather fortunate so far: most of the SAs I've encountered have been friendly and patient, if a little clueless, which takes me back to my story...

I delivered my usual line about preferring to spray on paper first and, in the interests of keeping up the conversation, I said, "So this has got only seven ingredients, right?"

"Yes," he replied, "it's the only fragrance ever made with seven."

"No, it certainly isn't," I said, my smile broadening, "in fact, I could name you at least one other that's got only seven."

Uncertainty clouded his face: it was clear that he didn't know whether to agree with me - because the customer is always right - or to disagree - because his Loewe trainer had assured him that 7 is utterly unique.

After a few moments during which it was clear that he wasn't going to say a word, I decided to help him out. "In fact," I said, "the other fragrance is also based on frankincense."

"Oh, but this one isn't based on frankincense! It does have a little frankincense in it, but it's based mostly around incense."

"But..." I couldn't quite keep a note of bewilderment from entering my voice, "when we say that a fragrance contains incense, we mean frankincense."

"No, but this one's different. This has incense. It's completely different from frankincense. It's like a... like an incense..." he began edging away from the counter, "... not like frankincense. It's something... something quite different." And I think the incredulity on my face must have been so clear, that he just gave up and shuffled away. 

So here's a question for those of you who have ever visited London's most famous department store. What do you think of the service at the perfume section of Harrods? Is it relaxed and attentive or off-putting and snooty?



  1. It's not completely their fault. They're like the badly-raised children of an inattentive mother who hasn't bothered to teach them manners & other important basics. The companies, I'm sure, don't give them much more info than the ridiculous press releases, and I can't imagine they find it cost-efficient to give their quite-likely part-time & temporary employees much training. And, like badly-raised children, some of them rise to the occasion and eventually better themselves, and some just get bitchy and defensive whenever their failings are pointed out to them.

    One of my fondest memories of my first trip to London was 30 minutes or so spent at the Patou counter with a lovely, knowledgeable, friendly SA who delighted my friend & I with her attentiveness and expertise.

  2. When I read this I imagined the times when the Maison D'Orsay would receive their clients and would give so many details about the ingredients inside the perfume bottles. Things that would make the ladies dream of exotic places. Of course they would not give the formula but they would give and know the information about their perfumes. And this is an example, that has been happening years and years afterwards. Right now sales assistants are promoting a product, but in the world we live now, only a few I think would take the time to really see and study more about what they are selling. Not only perfumes. It's not his fault I think, but Loewe's fault in this case, sorry to say this, as I love this brand in Spain. Perhaps they were not really informed about the true importance of selling a perfume: to know what they are really going to sell.

    But you made a very good point.

  3. I agree as well a little. I don't claim to be an expert and would take a perfume sales assistant word at face value, though, blatant lies and selling techniques put me right off. "Oh this one is really popular." That phrase is my pet peeve and a guarantee instant sales loss from me.

    There's a lady in the Guerlain counter in Arnotts in Dublin. Her knowledge is infectious and inspiring. The same can be said for the girl at Tom Ford in Brown Thomas too. These ladies know so much about perfume, the ingredients, the house they represent. An excellent sales assistant. Having been one myself for LUSH I know it's all to important to know you shit even if we do slip up now and again! Though Frankincense/incense LOL

  4. Style Spy, I like your analogy... and I should also point out that this particular SA didn't get nasty or unpleasant at all. As you suggest, he was just repeating what he'd been told.

  5. Vintage Lady, yes, I agree: if there was any 'fault' in the whole situation, it wasn't really the SA's. After all, how was he to know that I wasn't the one talking complete rubbish? And as for Loewe, I confess I'm not really familiar with their output.

  6. Liam J, the issue of 'popularity' gets my alarm bells ringing too.

    And speaking of your former employer, I think I have yet to meet a single less-than-impressive LUSH SA!


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