Biologically impossible



Twice this month I’ve had customers unhappy with a fragrance they ordered, and rather than contacting me to troubleshoot or to exchange for something else, they went ahead and left me unhappy feedback on my Etsy shop. Since I usually do troubleshoot, and send replacements without a problem, you can see why I’m irritated. I feel like I’m left at the mercy of a customer’s sense of entitlement: I realize that perfume buyers enjoy the snob appeal and the sense of entitlement, but if you just look at what I NAME my fragrances you should easily identify that I am not on that train with you.

In one case, I had a bad feeling about it from the get-go: the language was barely literate and the communication was a bit snotty. The second one was out of left field, and I’m willing to bet that the customer never, EVER tried it on the intended wearer.

I repeat this until I’m blue in the face, but I’ll repeat it again:

1. It is biologically impossible to make a sent that EVERYONE will like. BIOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.  We choose and refuse our mates by pheromone response, and just as our brains are wired to like certain colors and dislike others, our noses are similarly wired to like and respond to certain scents and be repelled by others.

2. I don’t use traditional perfuming chemicals like you get in the department store. I use essential oils and extractions I do myself. This is not the land of aldehydes and endless synthetic grapefruit. I only use fragrance oils in very specific projects, mainly to get them out of my stores so I don’t have to use them again. This also means that while I do put a preservative in my fragrances – rosemary oleoresin – it will change a)as soon as it hits skin b)if you expose it to heat or sunlight and c)over time. Usually this improves the scent, but there are no guarantees. Each scent is a living person that changes. Synthetics stay the same more or less from bottle to skin, or at the very least hit skin and stay the same. Botanical materials that are not made from reshaped petroleum and/or animal molecules do not behave like that. I stay away from most florals because a)they’re expensive and b)it’s just one drop of grapefruit eo away from being a weaker version of department store fare.

3. I need to re-label some fragrances to get this across better: perfume is about how scents combine. If you want a hyacinth scent, buy a straight hyacinth oil, not something with hyacinth notes – the human nose can only readily distinguish up to five scents at a time, and the entire art of perfumery revolves around how layers and layers of individual ingredients combine to express that final three to five notes your nose and brain will actually accept. You may think you can identify more, and you can – if you smell a given perfume over time, several hours apart.

Right now I’m feeling a tug of war between my perfume business and my writing career. I’d like to integrate somehow – doing just one thing is bad for your brain, and I’d like to remain intellectually flexible for the course of a very long life. At the same time, the frustration of combatting assumption versus reality when I’m a small and highly vulnerable business person ticks me off: it’s tough enough being a pro-writer, without dealing with people who want their noses in the air.