Is it Safe to Buy Perfume from Online Discounters?

Even if you live in a city with lots of perfume shopping options, sooner or later you discover that buying fragrance online can be simpler and cheaper. You google the name of your favorite scent, and lo and behold, it’s offered on Ebay, or fragrancenet for considerably less than at a brick & mortal retailer. Moreover, the choice is vast, from popular best-sellers like Hugo Boss to niche stars like Serge Lutens. The only question, is it safe to make a purchase?


The answer is no, it’s not 100% safe, but the level of risk varies. The list of aforementioned sites can be expanded to include dozens of others, and while they have different standards and selling angles, most of them are not authorized retailers for the brands they carry.  What they offer is grey market inventory, which includes goods that are imported from abroad and sold outside of the manufacturer’s official channels of distribution.

The practice is also known as product diversion, and it exploits varying prices on the same product in different parts of the world. For example, the price on a bottle of perfume might be $10 in Egypt and $25 in the United States. A distributor takes advantage of this fact and resells the product intended for the Egyptian market to an unauthorized U.S. retailer for $15, while the retailer in turn offers it for $20, much lower than the producer’s official price in the U.S. The example and prices are purely hypothetical, used only to illustrate how the system operates and why such arbitrage is tempting.

Some companies like Chanel and Procter & Gamble are adamant about stopping product diversion, since they lose money and it tarnishes their brand image–Chanel No 5 sold next to toilet cleaner doesn’t exactly convey luxury. Other brands are more cagey about the practice and look shifty-eyed when you pose questions. This is because product diversion can help boost short-term profits, especially on perfumes that don’t sell well.

Broadly speaking, grey marketing is legal in the U.S. and Canada and illegal in the European Union. I used to be ambivalent about it, but there have been so many cases of abuses that I recommend discounters with reservations, even if U.S. law allows the practice. While grey market goods are not counterfeits, there is no guarantee that you will get a fresh product. Perfume might have sat on the dock for months before being shipped back to the U.S. for sale. It might have been exposed to varying temperatures or tampered with in some way. Fragrance doesn’t come with an expiry date, but it’s delicate enough to require proper storage. I’m still appalled by how many reputable retailers store their perfume under bright lights. So, even if the authorized distributors can’t get their act together, what can you expect of others?

Buying popular brands like Dior, Lancôme, Hugo Boss, or Chanel outside the established channels increases the risk further, and when it comes to unknown websites or flea markets, the practice is downright dangerous. Dior J’Adore and Chanel No 5 are among the most counterfeited fragrances in the world. Urine is the least offensive of ingredients found in fakes. It’s used as a ph balance stabilizer and colorant, in case you wanted to know.

To sum up, it’s safe to order perfumes from department stores, chains like Sephora, Planet Parfum, Douglas, Ici Paris XL (the last three are the popular European chains), licensed online retailers like Luckyscent, Beautyhabit,, specialized perfume boutiques, and of course, directly from the manufacturer.  My list is not comprehensive, of course. Usually, an authorized retailer will advertise itself as such. If you’re in doubt, ask for a confirmation.

Less safe are the discount chains, and this includes even my beloved TJ Maxx and Marshalls. TJ Maxx’s parent company was sued by Burberry in 2012 for selling counterfeit purses, by the way. Check a discounter’s return policy before making your purchase; in case the product doesn’t meet your expectations you should be able to return it. The same goes for the online auction sites of all stripes. Finally, if you see a deal that looks too good to be true, assume it is indeed the case.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Nick: I have always found (formerly to be a fantastic retailer of discounted fragrances. Their inventory is mostly common, high volume fragrances, but they do occasionally stock niche, old classics and lesser know brands for exceptionally good prices. Their service here in the UK is outstanding and are often in the top ten lists for online retailers. August 10, 2015 at 7:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I’ve noticed that they’ve rebranded. August 10, 2015 at 9:05am Reply

    • Curioso: Chiming in about allbeauty – never had a problem with them. Whilst I’m sure there are some that aren’t, most Channel Islands based places are probably legit, because of whatever geographical tax break they get meaning they can sell at (what used to be called duty free) prices. Enough of them are probably online only now, but when I went to Guernsey in 2000, the town centre was full of nice perfume and beauty shops all selling at those cheaper prices. I often kick myself for not having snapped up more pre-reformulation Samsara then, back when they were still selling things like the Rituel de Parfum. August 11, 2015 at 8:46am Reply

      • Victoria: Great to know! Thank you for adding another vote of confidence. August 11, 2015 at 2:36pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: If I have the possibility to buy locally, I always do. Just for the simple reason of supporting (preferably smaller) local businesses. I saw so many little stores close in the last few years – mostly niche stores like children’s shoes boutique, children’s bookstore or organic niche skincare boutique. The reason for closing their business was always the same – people came to the store for the service, got their recommendations and bought elsewhere online because it’s cheaper. What a shame…
    Now discount markets and mobile phone dealers took their place and the unique charm of the Old Town is vanishing…
    Of course niche perfume is not always available in my rather small town (although there’s one perfumery carrying niche brands) so I have to buy via the Internet but then I always use authorized stores such als First in Fragrance, Essenza Nobile or Jovoy Paris. August 10, 2015 at 8:05am Reply

    • Victoria: I do too. I saw so many bookstores closing down, because people would come to browse and then buy on Amazon. Same with small food stores. Just over the past two years two bakeries closed down around me and a Pizza Hut took their place. This is very sad. August 10, 2015 at 8:59am Reply

  • Sandra: I have bought at discounter websites 2 times and I was not disappointed. Especially when you know the perfume you can almost tell immediately if it’s a fake or not.
    I do however love Tjmaxx- I picked up a bottle of Bvlgari omnia crystalline a few months ago and was very vey happy.
    I think NYC had a lot of good perfume discounter stores- and I am happy they do- it’s hard to find Cacheral fragrances- and they almost always have those in stock August 10, 2015 at 8:36am Reply

    • Victoria: You’d be surprised how good some fakes are! But the chances of getting a counterfeit perfume from the big online discounters are slim. It’s more of an issue on auction sites or from street stalls. More of an issue is freshness.
      I’ve used discounters in the US for discontinued fragrances, and yes, if it’s something not sold in the US, you have no other way of buying it. Actually, in the US finding authorized retailers for certain brands is more of an issue! August 10, 2015 at 8:55am Reply

      • limegreen: Funny that you posted this article today, Victoria. After the mini discussion on Hiris on the other thread, I was searching online for the cobalt blue bottle of Hiris, now discontinued. Even the Hermes site no longer carries the new clear bottle Hiris (they don’t even say out of stock). So far it’s just eBayers selling the cobalt blue Hiris. August 10, 2015 at 10:17am Reply

        • Mikael: Hello limegreen, Hermès fragrances disappear from their website when they’re out of stock in the webshop available for your particular geographical location, and the fragrances just re-appear when they’re back in stock. They don’t have “out of stock” notifications. At the moment Hiris (the clear bottle) is available on the European Hermès sites, but not on the US site, whereas for example Equipage can be found on the US site, but not on European sites. I’ve seen this time and time again over the years, and every now and then there are forum posts like “Ambre Narguile discontinued?!” from worried fans… August 10, 2015 at 12:02pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s probably just the older (but not too old) stock. I also noticed that Hermes’s availability fluctuates in such unpredictable ways. August 10, 2015 at 2:33pm Reply

          • limegreen: Thanks! (very odd way of doing business — why not put in a note that says “backordered” or something) August 10, 2015 at 3:24pm Reply

            • Victoria: I also don’t know why they do that. August 11, 2015 at 1:57pm Reply

              • Sandeep: I dont completely agree with your freshness comment. I went to a major brick and mortar retail chain store and found a bottle of ysl la Nuit d l’homme 8 years old. I was actually looking for vintage bottles in this case and found many in retail stores throughout US, although they say they dispose of old bottles, yea right. I can know the date by their batch code. Many a time, I’ve seen that the stores have older testers and the boxes are watered down reformulation which isn’t fair to consumers,. A lot of perfumes that are released very recently, appear in online stores so they can’t be old? Also retailers pay high rent which is passed on to consumer. January 17, 2017 at 5:42am Reply

  • Alicia: I live in a small town in Upstate NY, and thus I do most of my buying (books, including those I have authored) by internet. I have bought Guerlain, Caron, YSL, and Serge Lutens full new bottles without problems. Vintages are always risky, of course, and my results have been mixed, which is something that I expected. I buy my samples in Surrender to Chance, which I find trustworthy, with excellent service, and I am also quite pleased with the Posh Peasant. For oils, body lotions, bath gels, I often buy in THe Fragrance Shop, and very rarely have been disappointed with their products. I have found their reproductions of some vintages quite good, although somewhat uneven (Crepe de Chine is good, Le de, not so much). Prices are relatively high, but where else can you buy a decent body lotion of Crepe de Chine, Mystere or My Sin? All in all my internet experience has been positive.
    Thank you so much for this post, Victoria. I had no idea of the facts you point out. August 10, 2015 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Throughout my student years when I lived in small towns without any decent perfume stores, I’ve purchased most of my fragrances online. I used to like Sephora mail-order very much for quick service and lots of samples. Luckyscent, first in fragrance, aedes, beautyhabit are also great.
      Surrender to Chance and Posh Peasant are run by passionate perfume lovers, so yes, they are completely trustworthy. I still have a bunch of samples I bought from Posh Peasant a few years ago, and she used such good quality vials that the samples are still fresh. August 10, 2015 at 9:09am Reply

      • limegreen: I try to maximize an order to my advantage — such as buying Nuxe oil from beautyhabit and requesting samples of fragrances I can’t smell otherwise. 🙂 They seem very nice at bh and luckyscent. I’ve never ordered from the Posh Peasant but STC is a standard. August 10, 2015 at 11:00am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s a good idea. This way you try something new at the same time. I love this aspect of Beautyhabit.

          In Europe, I’ve been using Cult Beauty for skincare and some interesting US brands that I can’t find elsewhere. As I mentioned earlier, ordering outside the EU means that you pay a big customs fee in Belgium, so it’s not cost efficient. August 10, 2015 at 2:41pm Reply

      • Alicia: Thank you so much for the information, Victora.
        Yesterday I received a new bottle of SL Datura Noir, a tuberose. I tried it in my hand at 6:00 PM, and this morning, at around eight o’clock, when I was about to take my bath, I noticed the fragrance in my hand, and no mere skin scent. I could smell it at three inches from my nose. Remarkable. What do you think of Datura Noir? I happen to have in my Berkeley, CA, home a Datura bush, and I don’t think this fragrance has nothing as narcotic as Datura. What I smell is tuberose, but quite different from Tubereuse Criminelle. I happen to love all indolic flowers (orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose), so I like Datura Noir. I also tried a sample of Bas de Soie, and completely agree with your opinion. Such a dissapointment… Should have read your review before trying it. With my gratitude.
        P.S.: the other day we were talking of carnations. I believe I remember a perfume (Teatro all Scala?) with sweet carnations, perhaps by Krizia. August 10, 2015 at 12:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: Ah, yes, you’re completely right about Teatro alla Scala. I must add it to my list of carnations.

          Datura Noir does have that quality, and although I don’t tend to think of it as my favorite white floral, it’s a fascinating perfume. I love its sheer but distinct presence, and the touch of apricot. August 10, 2015 at 2:51pm Reply

          • Akimon: I don’t really think of it as a carnation scent, to me Teatro Alla Scala was a powerhouse oriental, one of the very first perfumes I came in touch with in the 80s that set a bar very high for other scents. It is very highly regarded by Luca Turin, for once. It has been discontinued many years ago, but it’s easy enough to get bottles online. I have a few bottles, including one of Estratto, but wearing it is a major enterprise, because of its strong character and nuclear strength.. I’m always glad to see someone else mention it, even if in the passing! August 11, 2015 at 2:00pm Reply

            • Victoria: But it has a big floral spicy note that reads as a carnation to me. Of course, it also has lots of other things going on, as you say. Krizia was such a terrific brand. August 11, 2015 at 2:22pm Reply

        • limegreen: I enjoy Bas de Soie, the right kind of green and hyacinth for my skin. It probably seems pale after wearing a tuberose though. Did you dab or spray? I found spraying certain lighter or green perfumes makes a difference. August 10, 2015 at 6:35pm Reply

          • Alicia: I sprayed it. Limegreen. I don’t mind subtle perfumes, but this one made me think of the type of scent in my washer room. That is, the same feeling that Victoria describes so well in her review. Of course, there might be a difference of skin chemestry, olfactory memories, or aesthetic preferences. I bought it because of the orris it promised, and I had much hope, since SL has given us one of the best iris ever. For me, it was not to be.Meanwhile my consolation is Prada, Infusion d’iris. August 10, 2015 at 8:09pm Reply

            • limegreen: Oh, well, can’t wear them all! 🙂
              I, on the other hand, can’t wear Prada Infusion d’Iris but you and I have Iris Silver Mist in common. 🙂 August 10, 2015 at 8:23pm Reply

      • Olinda: Oh, my goodness. I had no idea that I could buy teeny tiny vials to try. A marvellous idea, that I will be using for lots of fragrant fun. Thank you, Victoria! August 12, 2015 at 5:28am Reply

        • Victoria: They’re a must before investing into a full bottle. Samples do end up costing money, but if the alternative is a wardrobe full of not-quite-right perfumes, they are worth it. August 12, 2015 at 8:01am Reply

  • Steph: I’ve learned the hard way not to buy perfume from Amazon. I have had good luck buying from fragrancenet but there was one time I wasn’t sure if the perfume was supposed to smell that way or if it was turning. It’s an older scent so I have no idea how long it’s been in a storage room. August 10, 2015 at 9:28am Reply

    • Kitty Van Halen: Really?? Amazon? I had no idea! Yeah, I’ve had VERY bad luck with Fragrance Net, but mostly just stuff that has clearly turned and was not properly stored. Oy. Ya get whatcha paid for. 🙁 August 10, 2015 at 10:06am Reply

      • Steph: Yes, I figured it should be fine since it was legit, real, two-day prime shipping Amazon and not a third party seller but those perfume were definitely off and/or counterfeit. I would say I had 50/50 luck with Amazon. August 10, 2015 at 9:43pm Reply

    • limegreen: Oh, yes, I guess buying perfume from amazon counts as a discount site. People often give me amazon gift cards so I sometimes use up a balance and get a low priced perfume, stuff I can’t find otherwise. This is how I ended up with Muguet des Bois, which was lovely. August 10, 2015 at 10:11am Reply

      • Victoria: I wouldn’t worry about such perfumes either. They’re too low priced to tempt anyone to fake them, and since they’re discontinued anyway, you can’t buy them in another store. August 10, 2015 at 2:31pm Reply

        • limegreen: And at $12 (with a gift card), what I call a safe blind buy!
          I suppose storage is an issue with these discontinued perfumes, too. August 10, 2015 at 3:57pm Reply

          • Victoria: Yes, it would be, especially if they’ve been discontinued for a while. But then again, you would have no way to obtain them, so a small risk might be worth it. August 11, 2015 at 2:02pm Reply

      • Steph: That’s actually one of the few that I bought from Amazon that turned out well. August 10, 2015 at 9:35pm Reply

        • limegreen: Do you also get the impression that Muguet des Bois seems indestructible? It’s one bottle I don’t hide in a drawer and not worry about exposure to light! August 11, 2015 at 2:07pm Reply

    • limegreen: btw reputable sellers sell on amazon, like LuckyScent, Beautyhabit and Parfums 1. I’ve purchased some Nicolai perfumes this way. August 10, 2015 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Amazon can be unpredictable, because besides the authorized retailers, it services pretty much everyone else. But at least, the returns should be easy enough. August 10, 2015 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Linda: Beauty Encounter, Fragrance Net, Om fragrances, Fragrance X, Lily Direct, and 99 Perfume have all been stellar! Only one! used/leaky mishap, which they replaced with no hassle….we think I was sent a damage that was put on the wrong shelf ? August 10, 2015 at 9:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Phew! Good thing they’ve replaced it. August 10, 2015 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Interesting article. I didn’t realise why discounters could sell the stuff for so much less.
    Ebay is my secret sin I suppose. I love getting half finished bottles, as I rarely need full ones, and most of these sellers take reasonable care of their scents.
    I didn’t know that the rules were so different in the US compared to the EU. August 10, 2015 at 9:44am Reply

    • Kitty Van Halen: I think on ebay if it’s vintage or used from a small seller you have a better chance of getting the real deal. The people who are selling multiple NIB bottles of Serge? Those worry me. 🙁 My rule of thumb on ebay is that I better be willing to handle a possible let-down. I once bought a “new old stock, SEALED” bottle of Diorling from a supposedly very reputable seller, and when I took it out of the packaging it was almost empty. Broke my heart, and the seller claimed it was “as is.” (Which wasn’t how it was listed.) August 10, 2015 at 10:04am Reply

      • Austenfan: I got one dud from ebay, only one. And I have bought loads of bottles that way. And I even got a refund on the fake bottle. The seller didn’t know, apparently. Shame on your Diorling though. August 10, 2015 at 10:17am Reply

        • limegreen: I got one dud, too, but was fully refunded.
          (My other eBay perfume purchase was a 3/4 full bottle of the discontinued tall bottle of Eau Premiere, which I think smells better than the current squat square bottle of EP. You are right, austenfan, one does not get to around to using full bottles, and it’s tempting to get the half full ones. You’ve had a good run of luck.) August 10, 2015 at 10:53am Reply

          • Austenfan: Yep, like my fairly recent purchase of a tester of Beloved. Less than half the normal price. And it’s not a fake as it smells exactly like the “official” samples that I own. August 10, 2015 at 12:08pm Reply

            • limegreen: Victoria — where do testers fall in this grey market? August 10, 2015 at 3:54pm Reply

              • Austenfan: Very dark grey 😉 August 10, 2015 at 4:29pm Reply

              • Victoria: Testers are usually sold along with the regular merchandise to stores to be used as such. They’re often provided at no or little charge, by the way. August 11, 2015 at 2:01pm Reply

                • limegreen: Hmmm… interesting. Presumably the unopened testers that are sold could be subject to the same storage and temperature variability issues you’ve raised.

                  One of the Jo Malone SAs once mentioned in passing that they often call “dibs” on what remains of testers of fragrances being discontinued (in this case, it was JM Vetyver) or limited editions.
                  I wonder if SAs experience burnout and don’t wear fragrance when they go home! (To this day, I can’t stomach the smell of certain protein powders because I made too many protein smoothies in my first job in high school. Ditto for any fragrance that vaguely recalls strawberry smoothie with protein powder!) August 11, 2015 at 2:18pm Reply

                  • Victoria: I’m sure that for some a day off from my perfume is a must. I know that it is the case for me. I often go for the whole weekend without smelling any perfume, since I smell so much during the week. August 11, 2015 at 2:31pm Reply

                • Raymond: Does white market dealers allowed by manufacturers to sell testers to consumers? If yes, what is the use of the labeled “not for sale” on the tester packaging and/or bottle? April 5, 2016 at 12:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: is mine, not for perfume though. But if we don’t know where to buy something, we go straight to Amazon. I just check the stores from which I order, and I make sure not to order anything over 30-35 euros outside of the EU. Belgium slaps lots of customs fees, including the ones that often seem utterly arbitrary.

      Even in the EU, the law is convoluted. Roughly speaking, it’s not legal to do arbitrage outside of the EU, but inside the EU it’s acceptable. August 10, 2015 at 2:19pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Aren’t secret sins wonderful? I hate paying custom fees. Loathe it, and utterly dislike it.

        So why is DelRae no longer distributed in Europe? This is a rhetorical question by the way, and created by the fact that I’m still dithering on whether to order a sample of Wit or not. August 10, 2015 at 2:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: I do too. Especially the arbitrary 20 (or was it 25) euro “handling” flat fee that the post office imposes in addition to customs fees.

          Hmmm, I really don’t know. Perhaps, she lost her distributor and is searching for a new one? August 10, 2015 at 3:05pm Reply

          • Austenfan: ALzD said something along those lines in a response to my question about it. But being the total idiot that I am don’t really know what that means, except for the fact that I can’t get anymore DelRae’s.

            Are you feeling better? August 10, 2015 at 4:29pm Reply

            • Victoria: It means that she has no way to sell in Europe now. I don’t think she can just pack up her perfumes to send them directly to ALzD.

              A little better but still stuffed. August 11, 2015 at 2:06pm Reply

              • Austenfan: Just stick your head in the North Sea. Salt water unclogs. 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 3:49pm Reply

        • limegreen: Austenfan — You didn’t ask but since you mentioned Wit, thought I would give you my two scents (get it? 🙂 ). I got a beautyhabit sample of Wit with my last order of Nuxe so I dabbed (not sprayed), so my impression of Wit being in the same style of Odalisque may be flawed. And others may disagree vehemently!
          It was almost a cross between Odalisque and Le Temps d’une Fete. Wit’s drydown is sweeter which is not a plus for my skin, but it struck me as being so much like Odalisque that I didn’t feel I needed another similarly styled floral. Odalisque won the sillage and longevity comparison (then again, Wit was dabbed).
          This might make you more eager to get a sample of Wit, or it may allay your craving. 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 3:13pm Reply

          • Austenfan: You’ve mad it worse! 🙂

            I just need to order some samples from Luckyscent. If I don’t order too much I should be fine. I haven’t tried Coup de Foudre either.
            Thanks for the description by the way, that is very kind. August 11, 2015 at 3:50pm Reply

            • limegreen: Be curious if you think Wit recalls Odalisque! August 14, 2015 at 4:06pm Reply

  • Jessie: I had two not so good experiences with FragranceX. Received perfume and it smelled wrong. They refunded me quickly though but I don’t want to take chances anymore. August 10, 2015 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s always unpredictable, which is why I wouldn’t shop at a place that offered no refund. After all, even regular stores can have mishaps with their stock. August 10, 2015 at 2:20pm Reply

  • limegreen: This is so educational, Victoria, thank you. (Though unintentional, I’m not sure I will get the idea of urine out of my head whenever I see no. 5 or J’Adore now! Lucky thing they are not in my perfume drawer.) I never knew exactly how the “grey market” worked. It explains a comment you once made that the Malle line controls distribution very tightly. Wonder if that will still be the case post-Lauder?
    As one who does not live in NYC or Paris, I buy online the things I can’t get here (Nuxe oil!) but if possible, I call up the shop directly and order from a live person (Malle, Atelier, L’Artisan).

    I don’t have small niche perfume shops here, but I find I enjoy talking with certain department store SAs that are knowledgeable and I do buy from them or let them order something for me (usually skincare). Not only do they get the direct credit, but the store does as well (foot traffic) so that contributes to all kinds of intangibles such as the store being able to expand their inventory and the lines they carry, which in turn is nice in the long run.
    (And of course gifts with purchase and samples are a nice bonus.) I get my “discounts” by accumulating points that I can use toward another purchase. 🙂

    I also like carrying the perfume home, less risk of something sitting in a hot mailbox or porch. I’ve become wary of ordering online during the warm months, even from reputable sampling services, for this reason. August 10, 2015 at 10:05am Reply

    • limegreen: Of course lately I’ve been fortunate to buy from niche shops in the UK and Europe, and all the fabulous European pharmacies! 🙂 August 10, 2015 at 10:56am Reply

    • Victoria: I saw fake Jour d’Hermes at a small shop in Florence. But that one was hard to do, because of the quirky and heavy Jour d’Hermes bottle. It was an instant giveaway. As was the price of 10 euros.

      Lauder usually controls their stock really well, and you aren’t likely to find them secretly selling their unsold merchandise to the grey market distributors. Not to say that their products don’t end up diverted, but there is nothing they can do about it. I was told that in the past only the luxury goods were diverted, but today it’s pretty much everything, including baby formula and detergents! Internet makes it very easy.

      Some chocolate companies don’t send during the summer for this reason. August 10, 2015 at 2:26pm Reply

      • Victoria: P.S. On the unfortunate association thing I gave you, I will just say this–O-Driu Peety. Read Basenotes or Fragrantica discussions. 🙂 August 10, 2015 at 2:30pm Reply

        • limegreen: 🙂 Well, that was good for a laugh, thanks! Always eager to be introduced to a new fragrance (wink wink)!

          Was it a niche shop in Florence that had the fake JdH?

          The ones I went to were either the houses themselves (Malle, Jo Loves) or established niche perfume shops that were authorized retailers for the many lines. Nothing was 10 euros! August 10, 2015 at 4:05pm Reply

          • Victoria: Oh no, it was just a random place that sold all sorts of things, not just perfume. But it was funny to see the obviously fake Hermes there. August 11, 2015 at 2:02pm Reply

        • Austenfan: 🙂 Brilliant, you will not wish to know what associations this triggered in my brain. August 11, 2015 at 9:19am Reply

          • limegreen: Makes one immediately bathe in something gorgeous (like Beloved!) to eradicate any residual icky associations! 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 1:59pm Reply

          • Victoria: Hmmm… 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

    • Karen: I was just going to post pretty much the exact sentiments, Limegreen! Establishing a relationship with knowledgeable SAs at some department stores is a great way to learn more. I’ve found them to be generous with samples – which has helped me also learn more about certain lines (Malke and Guerlain).

      In the U.S., you can call the FM shop in NY and order directly from them. The SA who has helped me has been super.

      I’ve bought a few things from online discounters, but only when the price is such that I was willing to take a chance. After your positive review of Rosa Flor, I found a bargain, but it was from a reputable site.

      But, if we as perfume lovers care about the integrity of products, I think it’s important to not support places that sell counterfeit products. It may not hold true for perfume production, but counterfeit purses are frequently made by enslaved workers. August 10, 2015 at 3:53pm Reply

      • limegreen: Karen — It’s probably a nerd thing but I think we both like talking with the SAs! They can be just as fun on the phone, too, and the interesting ones are knowledgeable. August 10, 2015 at 4:09pm Reply

        • Karen: I agree! I think that they are also happy talking with perfume lovers who are curious and enthusiastic. I was at Saks one day and got to witness an encounter with a customer they might find “challenging” (she was rude and kept asking the SA to open boxes so she could see how big the bottle was, never mind that the SA kept showing her the exact bottle size. I finally realized after she kept saying she wanted a travel size, that what she wanted was a big sample to take with her). So they deal with all types of customers and are probably just happy to talk perfume! August 11, 2015 at 6:35am Reply

  • Iva: I got Bond No. 9 – Park Avenue from Beauty Encounter, shipped from the US to Europe for $110 (and that includes shipping!!). I was expecting maybe a fake scent, so when it arrived in the original Bond No. 9 box, sealed and everything (including that postcard you get with BN9 perfumes), I was over the moon!!! I could not believe I got the original 100ml BN9 perfume for a 100 bucks! It retails at $256 on its original website plus enormous shipping costs. And one is hard-pressed to find Bond No. 9 anywhere in Europe for under €200. And just to further share with my favorite perfume community here at BdJ- my all-time favorite BN9 scent is Fashion Avenue, because MIMOSA!!! But Beauty Encounter did not have it, so I opted for Park Avenue, and am very content with it, on my skin the soft chamomile is predominant with just a hint of mimosa, but I layer it with Annick Goutal’s EDP Hadrien and the citrus blends in with it brilliantly. So just wanted to give a shout-out to Beauty Encounter, as they really deliver what they say they will, expedient and at low international shipping. August 10, 2015 at 10:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Fantastic! Sounds like a good experience all around, Iva. August 10, 2015 at 2:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Do you get lots of mimosa out of Fashion Avenue? I haven’t smelled it in such a long time. August 10, 2015 at 2:34pm Reply

      • Iva: Well, as I commented once, my favorite Mimosa scent was the Yves Roche Mimosa perfume. Alas, it was discontinued and I haven’t really found a solid replacement as yet. Fashion Avenue is a great “second- best”, what’s interesting is, Mimosa is the top note in both perfumes. The Yves Roche sillage is amazing, while the BN9 FA sillage is… wanting, esp. at BN9 prices. August 12, 2015 at 9:58am Reply

        • Victoria: Sigh.. I loved Yves Rocher Mimosa too. The shower gel was wonderful. August 12, 2015 at 2:16pm Reply

    • nozknoz: I’m tempted to say that I’ve had fewer disappointments from discounters and ebay than from the major perfume companies themselves, who have inflicted us with reformulations, sad flankers, those evil spiky woods, discontinuations, etc. 😉 August 10, 2015 at 11:54pm Reply

      • nozknoz: (Oops, this was supposed to be standalone, not a reply to Iva. I do agree with Iva re BeautyEncounter – I’ve had good experiences with them.) August 10, 2015 at 11:56pm Reply

  • Adriana: It is sad, I have been aware of how things really work and I only have one single website I trust buying from. For anyone around Austria or Germany, or .de is the online shop which has never disappointed me up to date. The advantage of this one is as well that they keep brands I am not able to find in Austria anymore like Lalique or Dupont. I have real frustrating experiences with Douglas / Müller when I asked for a fragrance and I got the “newest” ones because the ones I wanted she thought may be too “old” and less interesting. (It was about a D’Une I wanted and she suggested me some Flora Botanica thing). Imagine! I mean, pardon me, is it not me to choose what I want? Asked just a few days ago in a Douglas about Guerlain “Apres L’Ondi” and that lady asked me twice how is she supposed to write that as she can look it in some other branches for me. I mean, this way, I have no shopping joy. That is far taken from me ever since I am struggling to buy perfumes in Austria. Am always invaded by paper straps I do not wish to smell, and I almost feel this shop assistants are coming too close to my border line, literally throwing in front of my poor nose the new releases, offering me big deals and telling me how good they are but when it comes to the components, they let me wait till they look the ingredients then come to me and try explain. In this case, I’d almost risk an online discounter! Goes without saying that in Douglas I have to twice ask for a sample with my purchais otherwise it goes forgotten. Heard miserable stories told by my customers at work about people working in big fragrance shops and selling the testers for a small prise, or the samples. And thinking about it, I am boiling. I still did not find the real shop where I could order a set of samples, willingly to pay where I would be told yes mam, we have samples available! Again, in this cases, I am ok buying online!
    On the other hand, fakes are a huge issues. In for instance, U just have to type “perfume duplicates” and U will get a multitude of romanian websites selling U fakes for laughing prises. U never come to know what is inn there, who manufactured it, how many alergies U would get from it and so on and so forth. I’d rather suggest IFRA to try getting a grip on this kind of piracy rather than on what ingredients to take out of big branded products. Sorry, I guess I went out of my skin a bit. 🙂 Smiling bitterly though. August 10, 2015 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Sorry to hear this, Adriana. These chains don’t always have the best service, although since I go pretty much to the same Ici Paris XL store, I now know the staff and they recognize me. If they have samples of anything that interests me, they will offer. On the other hand, I once stood waiting for 10 minutes at another store while SAs behind the counter talked on their cell phones. After 10 minutes I decided that I can buy my lipstick elsewhere. August 10, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Joy: This is such a helpful and timely article, Victoria! I have had a couple of very unpleasant experiences buying perfume from Amazon, and also a couple of bad experiences buying from I have even had a bad experience buying from The Vermont Country Store who claimed their vintage perfume, Je Revien by Worth was the real thing. They may not even have realized how bad their product was. I should have had a clue since I could no longer find the perfume anywhere.
    I have had a lot of anxiety when I have made these purchases, and most often have been disappointed. I would really rather purchase from a brick and mortar store, but live in an area where perfumes are not available.
    I have ordered from department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom’s with good success.
    I very much appreciate your and all of the other readers great suggestions for reputable, on-line dealers. Although, there is the concern about the product sitting on loading docks in heat and sun.
    I have had to return perfume to Macy’s and Sephora because the fragrance had gone bad. I think at Macy’s it was due to it sitting on a brightly lighted shelf where it also gets too warm from the lighting. At least these stores allow the return of perfumes. Amazon does not due to product flammability.
    I have had great success ordering from Surrender to Chance for samples and decants. They are so accommodating. Even when sample vials have arrived broken they have replaced them, no questions without the hassle of sending the evidence back.
    This has been a most helpful article! August 10, 2015 at 10:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, a good point about Amazon and returns. I didn’t realize that it was the case.

      I once wanted to buy a perfume at Sephora, but when I reached for the box, I discovered that it was warm to touch! How can a major retailer store their stock this way? It was a while ago, so maybe they’ve improved. August 10, 2015 at 2:39pm Reply

      • Joy: The feel test is a good point. If the box is warm to the touch, it would be best to decline to purchase. I was so disappointed in my bottle of Miss Dior. I had gone through several testers before I made my purchase. Nordstrom’s seems to keep their bottles in drawers, a way better choice. They should be educated in better storage for such an expensive product. August 10, 2015 at 3:01pm Reply

        • Victoria: Nordstrom’s is one of the best department stores for perfume shopping. They give fragrance training to their staff, and they really know their stock. I miss this store here. August 10, 2015 at 3:02pm Reply

          • limegreen: I got a no. 19 that had a bubble in the glass bottle itself (like a defect) and of course since the box was sealed it wasn’t noticeable till I got it home. It was the easiest no hassle exchange at Nordstrom — they really do get it. The SA even opened the exchanged box to make sure that it wasn’t something about that Chanel batch.
            (I never thought about it but they do keep the perfumes in drawers!) August 10, 2015 at 3:37pm Reply

            • Victoria: That’s what I call great service! August 11, 2015 at 1:58pm Reply

  • Joy: I meant to add that there is what sounds like a lovely perfume shop in Portland called The Perfume House, but getting there involves at least a two hour drive with some of it through Portland’s worst traffic. I have not been able to bring myself to do that yet. August 10, 2015 at 11:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I heard very good things about this place, and while I haven’t been, a friend in Portland loves it and recommends it wholeheartedly. August 10, 2015 at 2:42pm Reply

    • AndreaR: It’s absolutely worthy of a perfume pilgrimage. Perhaps it’s time to create a list of perfume shops throughout the world that warrant a pilgrimage:-) August 10, 2015 at 7:51pm Reply

      • Joy: Love the pilgrimage viewpoint. for me it would be a pilgrimage with about 4-5 hours driving time. But, quite right, I need to check it out August 10, 2015 at 9:25pm Reply

        • Karen: Perhaps you can call ahead and let them know when you will be there. I did that with the Malle shop on Madison Ave., I had previously ordered by phone. The SA was prepared for me with lots of testing and a few delicious treats. It was a fun experience.

          If the shop knows you are driving a good distance specifically to come to the shop, they may be happy to make it a worthwhile trip.

          Love the perfume pilgrimage list idea! August 11, 2015 at 6:41am Reply

          • limegreen: How fun, Karen! It does sound like you had a pampered experience! Is the Madison Ave shop a big one? Did they put you in a private corner with one of those smelling chambers? 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 2:04pm Reply

            • Karen: It was really a fun and educational experience! It is not a huge store and I haven’t been to any of their other shops so no way to compare. The SA, Anthony, used all of the smelling chambers for me to experience different scents. There were not any other customers at the shop (we got there early), so that was also a bonus. The only “downside” was that I discovered on the way home that I loved Une Fleur de Cassie which I had gotten a sample of, more than the one I bought a bottle of (Cologne Indelible). But loving too many perfumes is not such a bad problem to have! August 12, 2015 at 5:57am Reply

  • Elizabeth: The trip to The Perfume House in Portland is well worth it.
    Once they realize you are really into fragrance, they are lovely. Absolutely no pressure to purchase anything. There are many, many fragrances there that are not listed on their site. Give yourself plenty of time…….
    I left there with a long discontinued Opium flanker and a Guerlain. They will do up testers, at $3 or $4 each. Then you can test them at your leisure.
    Re mail order. I have only ordered once, from, with no issues. August 10, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

    • Victoria: My friend says the same thing–great staff, no pressure and lots of choices. August 10, 2015 at 2:45pm Reply

  • MaryAnn Hardy: My trouble with buying from eBay was not with the sellers. It was with Customs at the Canadian border. Because the bottles of (cherished!!) Guerlain scents weren’t coming from a “distributer” with the “proper licenses to ship explosive goods (alcohol) they were intercepted at the border and “disposed of.” I was heartbroken and furious!! Customs told me that the bottles of EDT were a hazard on the short flight to come to Vancouver Island. I would have DRIVEN to the border myself if they had contacted me! (Still makes my blood boil). August 10, 2015 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh no! I’d be fuming too. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. August 10, 2015 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Aurora: An enlightening post, I wasn’t aware of the grey stock… It is mentioned above but online I’ve been always pleased with, I use them even more for skincare products. I edge my bets I suppose and go to the one small perfume shop in my neighborhood – I can purchase brand new testers at half price from them – and they give me samples, Bloom for special treats, when I can afford them, and eBay where so far I’ve had to complain once only. I’ve noticed that on eBay small UK perfume shops have a chance to reach a wider audience. Again thank you so much for a thought provoking article, and I enjoy reading the comments very much. And you are so right about stocks under bright lights, at Boots it is absolutely shocking. August 10, 2015 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Eleebelle: There’s a beauty shop near me that has a number of their fragrances in the front window, right in direct sunlight. Shocking is right! August 10, 2015 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ebay used to be even better for small sellers who had no other way of finding customers. Over the years they’ve added so many rules and restrictions that they make it easier for big grey market distributors to sell, rather than for someone with a small, nicely edited collection. I use Ebay on regular basis on various things, mostly books, but I don’t remember the last time I bought perfume from their vendors. August 10, 2015 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Figuier: Thanks for this Victoria – it’s really useful to know the legalities and logistics of the various sites. It’s such an interesting topic. To be honest, though, my experience of discounters has been uniformly good. Admittedly, I stick to the larger, better-known ones, and am always sure to buy perfumes I’ve already tested from more ‘official’ sources so that I could return if it’s not up to scratch (which has never happened me).

    Re. storage etc. I can’t imagine the grey market is necessarily less reputable than official retailers. As you say, department stores so often keep their perfumes under bright, hot lighting. That being the case it seems unlikely that the bigger perfume brands are all that careful about (or even have much control over) how long their stock is left dock-side or whatever. I’d be happier to buy a bottle that’s been stored in a packing box in a warehouse than on a department-store shelf!

    My main incentive for avoiding discounters would be to avoid the devaluing of smaller and/or more unusual perfumes & brands, and to support local business. For that reason I buy regularly from Les Senterus and Bloom in London, for instance, or from Liberty. I’m also happy to buy second hand and semi-used bottles from private sellers on e-bay, if they seem reputable – my view being that to restrict re-sale of goods by private individuals is a restriction on private property rights. I in turn enjoy being able to sell on unloved bottles on such sites and was, for instance, very annoyed when I was prevented from passing on a spare, nearly-new bottle of Cuir de Lancome when ebay banned my posting at the request of L’Oreal. I could see their (L’Oreal’s) logic, but I’m hardly a bulk retailer! August 10, 2015 at 2:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: If say, Saks orders a lot of Chanel, it will get delivered straight to the store from Chanel’s warehouses. In the US, the brands do have control over what happens with their stocks. Part of it is covered by the distribution contracts, and the control along the ways reflects high costs associated with distribution. On the other hand, if the same lot is sold to a distributor in Asia who then resells it someone else, the product is outside the zone of control. It might sit in the warehouses for months on end until a new buyer is found. It might be sold and resold a few times. My point is not that all diverted products are bad and rancid by default, but that you simply don’t know what you’re getting. If you’re ok with some level of risk and can return your purchase for full refund, then it’s ok.

      I also don’t like restrictions on resale imposed by L’Oreal and LVMH. I don’t even understand what legal means they have to do that. After all, once you bought something, it’s within your rights to do whatever you wish with the item, including reselling it. August 10, 2015 at 3:00pm Reply

      • Figuier: Yes, this policy of LVMH & L’Oreal really seems unjustified from a legal point of view, doesn’t it? I did object to eBay and then to the L’Oreal legal rep but didn’t make any headway…

        Thanks also for the clarification re. storage etc. of perfumes by original producers v. unknown supply chains – I see what you mean. And I guess it does all comes down to the degree of risk one is willing to entertain. August 10, 2015 at 4:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: Now that’s utterly infuriating, especially if the perfume was discontinued. I sort of understand their coming down on decanters, but it’s insane to do the same for private individuals wishing to resell. August 11, 2015 at 2:07pm Reply

    • limegreen: That’s really strange, isn’t Cuir de Lancome discontinued?

      A few years ago, a friend of a friend was banned from buying anything from Coach because she sold Coach bags on eBay. (Even if she paid cash, the store apparently asks for a drivers license or id of some sort.) Don’t know if it’s just an outlet store ban, but she would buy bags from the outlet stores (other brands as well) and sell them on eBay, though she couldn’t have sold that many. Coach must have also put the pressure on eBay.
      (She noticed that most of her buyers were from small towns.) August 10, 2015 at 3:51pm Reply

      • Figuier: Good point. It was about 18 months ago if I remember correctly, so unless there’s some super-exclusive boutique somewhere in the world that sells Cuir but is totally unknown to the perfume community (unlikely!), it wasn’t available from official Lancome retail outlets… August 10, 2015 at 4:58pm Reply

    • Gabriela: Hi, I saw your comment about selling your Cuir de Lancome on Ebay. I am currently searching for this perfume with no luck.. are you still selling it? Thank you April 27, 2016 at 6:15am Reply

  • JoDee: Just this weekend I purchased Lalique Le Parfum and SL A La Nuit from discount retailers. The Lalique was deeply discounted ($29). The SL was less so, yet still at a better price than retail. Now I’m just hoping what I bought is real and has not turned. Oh no! Thank you for this information and for giving us all an idea of what happens on the gray market. I believe in the future I will simply save and wait until I can buy from the more trusted sites. August 10, 2015 at 3:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m sure it will be ok! Lalique would be hard to find, depending on where you live, and it’s not a perfume worth tampering with. It’s too niche for that. Plus, the orientals like Le Parfum are less fragile. August 11, 2015 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Karen: Although I gave a lengthy response above, I, too, want to say thanks for this really informative article! There are few ways that we can actually have an impact on businesses/corporations, but supporting those who aren’t trafficking in counterfeit goods is something we can do. And supporting businesses that have helpful staff or offer samples is a great way to keep good stores alive. August 10, 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Most of the discounters mentioned in the comments don’t engage in counterfeit and are perfectly legitimate (in the US and Canada, that is, and in the UK, apparently). It’s just that you may not get fresh perfume 100% of the time.

      On the other hand, supporting small local businesses whenever possible is always a great idea. I’m still heartbroken over my favorite grocery store closing down. I liked the guy who ran it and shopping there was such a nice experience. August 11, 2015 at 2:05pm Reply

  • annemarie: In Australia when the dollar was high against the USD it was absolutely worth the relatively low risk of buying from the reputable online discounters. I also bought a lot from Surrender to Chance. The dollar has dropped substantially this year which is good for some parts of the Australian economy but a disaster for online shoppers. Still, it had to happen some time! (‘What goes up … ‘)

    An advantage of the discounters is that you might be lucky and get pre-reformulation stuff, or old packaging. When Yves Saint Laurent’s Y went into new packaging, I made sure to snap up a bottle of the old, just in case the new had been reformulated. August 10, 2015 at 6:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I did that too. I was glad that they changed the packaging, so I could tell them apart easily. 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 2:08pm Reply

  • carry: Great educational post and discussion! Thank you!

    I actually bought a large part of my perfume collection from ebay and with one exception with great success – and a keen eye for bargains.

    I live near the West Coast of Ireland in the wonderful middle of nowhere – by choice.
    I used to live in a big city where I could test smell and buy to my heart’s content. The drawback here is that there is no such thing as a proper perfume shop in my wider vicinity. So the only choice for me is to order online.

    The restrictions in Ireland is that you can’t send perfume abroad. Well, you can, as our village postmaster told me, as long as you cheat with the compulsory declaration. It’s still hit and miss.
    Importing perfume from Europe is on the other hand not restricted, unless some overeager Irish custom official thinks otherwise …

    That’s why a lot of private people here sell their perfumes on ebay only in Ireland which is lovely for bargain hunters like me since there is not much competition.
    And sometimes I do even blind buys because it’s so cheap – as yesterday when I won a nearly full bottle of Santa Maria Novella Gardenia for 5.50 Euros! No idea how it smells on me, but who can resist a try at this price! And I like gardenia.

    I have the advantage to speak several languages and can scour several European ebay-sites.
    And I always buy from private sellers who sell their used perfume bottles which they don’t like anymore. A good indication is always when they say “it’s been stored in a dark and cool place”.

    I don’t mind if the bottle isn’t full. It’s a good indication that it’s not a fake (though no guarantee) and having lots of choice already I could never use up a 100ml bottle – with lately the one exception of Terracotta le Parfum which I bought full and sealed from Germany not really cheaper than from a retailer (you don’t get it in Ireland anyway).

    The only disappointment was Kenzo Jungle l’Éléphant. It turned out to be a used tester bottle (with almost 50ml left), which I don’t mind as such, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be like this (not my style) or if it turned by brightly lit presentation in the shop. It smells nice though (a bit like my homemade spiced plum jam) but it’s not for me.

    I wanted to offer it on Bois the Jasmin (to Europe only), but I’m not sure if it get’s through customs or if anyone would take the chance either way. August 10, 2015 at 6:35pm Reply

    • annemariec: There’s a lot of wisdom it what you say! I’m cautious about buying from non-English speaking eBay sellers. If there’s a dispute it could be much harder to resolve. I do occasionally buy minis from European sellers, but I steer clear of large expenditure. August 10, 2015 at 9:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. Yes, international Ebay sites make it great to shop for bargains. 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 2:09pm Reply

  • Bobbie: I guess I am lucky, as I have bought many times from and parfum1 and have never had a bad experience. My only problem has been with a de Nicolai I purchased from luckyscent several years ago which just didn’t smell anything like the sample that I had already tried. I returned it, and was sent another bottle, which again was a shadow of the sample. I guess it had been reformulated within an inch of its life, another of the risks that unfortunately are part and parcel of this wonderful hobby. So sad! August 10, 2015 at 7:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a typical case of reformulation, and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it. Sorry to hear this. Which perfume was it? August 11, 2015 at 2:10pm Reply

      • Bobbie: It was Weekend à Deauville. I am referring to an incident four years ago, very shortly after it was released. I still can’t believe how much it had changed! I still have a few drops left in the original decant which I fell in love with. Sadly, I never find myself reaching for the reformulated full bottle! August 11, 2015 at 4:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: Weekend a Deauville wasn’t just reformulated a bit, it was changed so dramatically, they should have just renamed it. I like the new version, but I can see why those who fell in love with the original might find it lacking. August 12, 2015 at 4:54am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a typical case of reformulation, and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it. Sorry to hear this. Which perfume was it? August 11, 2015 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Brock: Excellent piece. Thank you. August 11, 2015 at 1:52am Reply

  • Michaela: Thank you Victoria and everybody for the information. Highly useful! August 11, 2015 at 3:22am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re most welcome! August 11, 2015 at 2:33pm Reply

  • Reg: Does anyone have experience with Essenza Nobile? I have a pending status on my Lipstick Rose 🙁
    I have come to realize that depending on where I buy the fragrance, it makes me feel different. In big department stores it can be nice to browse around and sample yourself if they let you, but I often feel pestered by the employees if I don’t want any help and just try specific fragrances. The other day I asked about the new Venetian Bergamot at the Tom Ford counter and since they didn’t have it yet the lady started a monologue about the second most recent launch (forgot which one) and I had to prevent her from spritzing it at me. Sometimes they even get iffy when one doesn’t require advice, and I often walk out with a feeling of both guilt and anger. I felt euphoric on the other hand when I walked out of Lubner, a small fragrance boutique in Hamburg – I had just bought a luxury item for 130 Euro, something I can rarely afford, and the employees were empathic and friendly and most importantly I didn’t feel so much out of place. And they know their fragrances much better and I’m happy to listen to them. Ordering online is usually cheaper, and it can be nice when there are free samples included, but for me it doesn’t match the experience. August 11, 2015 at 7:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried it myself, so maybe others can chime in.

      Love the story of your boutique in Hamburg. I also don’t always feel comfortable when SAs are hovering over me, and I prefer to browse in peace at first. August 11, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Tara C: It is probably backordered from the supplier. I ordered a bunch of Malle from them this spring and had to wait a week or so for them to get the bottles in before they could ship to me. Do email them if you are concerned, I found their customer service to be responsive. August 12, 2015 at 10:26am Reply

      • Reg: Thanks Tara. August 12, 2015 at 5:59pm Reply

  • Debby: I was amazed to get a fake bottle of Vanderbilt on Amazon, it was really bad, the box was so obviously wrong too. It was a double shock because I thought Amazon would be fine, and also that Vanderbilt would be too cheap to bother faking. I wore it as a teenager and just fancied a little blast from the past. I’ve found Allbeauty, Strawberry net and Perfume’s club to be reliable thus far. If it seems crazy cheap I tend to avoid. August 11, 2015 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Wow, I wouldn’t have guessed either, but since it was such a big seller at one point, perhaps it’s not that surprising. August 11, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

  • L: Thanks for this article, I’ve actually often thought the urine claims were made up.

    I guess our experiences really do show that sometimes you can get unlucky – I’ve had great experiences buying from Amazon (I always make sure that Amazon is actually the seller and not a third party) and Strawberrynet, but less so from Fragrancenet and Beauty Encounter, though BE was great in processing the refund.

    With all those negative experiences, I’m starting to agree that it might not be worth it to buy from a discounter. Even if they were willing to refund me, it takes a lot of time to manage the return process, which makes any discount just not worth it. August 11, 2015 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: I generally hate the hassle of returning so much–and since you often have to pay your own postage here–that I’ve started taking fewer chances. Or if I buy on Ebay, I usually stick to inexpensive things.

      Amazon simply can’t control every vendor it lists. It’s too big for that, so I’d expect that there are some bad apples. August 11, 2015 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Alicia: I just received from ebay a little bottle of vintage My Sin (extrait). It’s just heavenly. I am so happy. August 11, 2015 at 2:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: Congratulations! 🙂 August 12, 2015 at 4:50am Reply

  • OnWingsOfSaffron: What an exciting—indeed educational—post and what interesting comments! May I add my experiences?
    I have been buying vintage perfumes on Europe Ebay (mostly France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and sometimes UK) for the past two, three years.
    I have the impression, that never to this day, have I bought a fake. I do however spend (far too many) hours beforehand checking on the exact original packaging. It sometimes borders on rocket science to make sure which colour, which barcode, which address of the company, which code number, which design on the package etc. was placed there, and when. Then I crosscheck with pictures of other sellers.
    In the meantime I have a handful of “trusted” sellers.
    In my experience, buying vintage perfume on Ebay has many ups and a few downs: every now and then, Lanvin products, say Arpège (even though they are sealed in cellophane) have evaporated: tough luck. Sometimes, Chanel sprays from the 80’s have peetered out: oh dear. Sometimes a very old bottle of which the packaging is slightly mouldy has taken on a mouldy smell: heartbreaking but unusable. Caron (especially my beloved Nuit de Noël), on the other hand, has always been fine: hooray!
    So, on the whole Ebay Europe in my experience is very reliable indeed: but you must have done your homework on the packaging beforehand. And gosh, that is time-consuming! August 11, 2015 at 2:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: Those are some great tips. Thanks a lot for sharing. As long as you do research, you can find many interesting things online. But it never fails to astonish me to what length people would go to produce fakes. There was a notorious Ebay seller in the US who took empty vintage bottles, filled them with modern perfumes, blended to approximate the vintage ones, and sell them for hundreds of dollars! August 12, 2015 at 4:52am Reply

  • Abigail: I bought Traverse de Bosphorous and one of the Bois 1920 perfumes from Strawberry Net and they are both true to the originals. I won’t buy make up from them though as I think it may be a bit risky from some of the on line comments. Could be old stock. I am in Sydney, Australia so the parcels arrive in a few days. Both perfumes received great reviews here so I just had to buy them! Love this site but don’t often comment. August 11, 2015 at 7:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Strawberrynet usually has good stocks and good service, but buying skincare from them is where I draw the line. A cream may not smell spoiled in all cases, but if it wasn’t stored properly, its active ingredients might be affected. Then, it would be kind of useless. Not to mention that if something is outright rancid, it can cause irritation or worse. August 12, 2015 at 4:56am Reply

  • House Of Pheromones: I occasionally buy fragrances off the net, but always make sure to do my homework first. Heck, even Ebay can be a great source if you thoroughly check out the seller first. I have, however been ripped off by large discount pharmacy chains and bought bottles of stuff nowhere near their RRP (for the original, of course).

    If there are any readers in Australia, I highly recommend just purchasing from Discount Chemist or Terry White – they occasionally have lower prices not too far off from what you can buy online. For a few extra dollars, it’s worth the peace of mind you get as counterfeits are illegal here. August 11, 2015 at 10:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, thorough research is key. There are many good, trustworthy sellers on Ebay. August 12, 2015 at 4:56am Reply

  • Michaela: This calculator may be useful:

    For some perfumes you may find production date using this calculator. If the batch code doesn’t match, it’s probably a fake. August 12, 2015 at 5:30am Reply

  • Letiarisol: Hi

    Can anyone help me: Want to but Flowerbomb eau de toilette but any department Store or Reliable retain website carries,please someone know where can find??.

    I’m from USA. August 12, 2015 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Nordstrom should carry it. Or Saks5thAvenue. August 12, 2015 at 2:52pm Reply

      • Letiarisol: Days ago visit my local Nordstrom and Saks but sadly only have the EDP 🙁 want the EDT. August 12, 2015 at 9:57pm Reply

  • Lia: Since I discovered online shopping 6 years ago, I’ve been adding perfumes into my collection mostly from online buys at discounted prices. However, not all that glitters is gold, I have had one experience where I received similar perfumes both fake and real from the same seller in two separate purchases. In my case, the fake one even came with a matching serial number on the box and bottle. The bottle even look extremely similar and felt just as heavy as the real one. The only thing that diffrentiated them was the smell and longevity. The fake smelled a bit different on the top notes with stinging alcohol smell but everything else seemed pretty similar. Longevity was short. I could not smell anything after 4 hours where the real one stayed on me for 7 hours.
    I think the fakes and the real ones are really hard to be distinguished nowadays since online discounters may mix them both to sell. Now I have become more careful and try to have a good thought before buying perfumes online. August 12, 2015 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for adding this important observation, Lia. Yes, this sort of thing would be hard to detect. We think that we can tell real from fake, but counterfeiters are also getting quite sophisticated. August 12, 2015 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Sharon: Thanks so much for this informative essay Victoria… in the past I’ve always had good luck with Sephora,, Scentiments, Aedes, Luckyscent, and of all places… Walmart! (yes, they have some good deals). I do agree though that it’s best to be really really careful when buying online. Also, at brick-and-mortar I have bought perfumes many times at TJMaxx and Marshalls, without disappointment. I use this resource to see if a website is trustworthy — plug the name into the search field on this site: August 12, 2015 at 4:08pm Reply

    • Sharon: I forgot to mention surrendertochance and theperfumedcourt have been excellent sorces of samples! August 12, 2015 at 4:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Sharon! Another terrific tip to keep in mind. August 13, 2015 at 2:58am Reply

  • Neva: Hi everybody, I just want to make a contribution with my experience. I’ve been ordering at fragrancex some years ago and I was very satisfied. I ordered mostly testers without package and the prices were great. The shipping costs were negligible and the perfumes arrived in a few days with DHL from the States. I never paid any customs duties. The problem started when my country joined the EU – suddenly there were high customs taxes. I never ordered again. For vintage stuff I go to ebay and I had only good experience so far. I order samples at ALzD, but they have high shipping and handling costs. Can anyone recommend a shop in the EU where I could order decants? August 12, 2015 at 6:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m listening too. I still haven’t found such a place. And I hear you on high customs fees. August 13, 2015 at 3:07am Reply

    • Katherine: Neva or Victoria – Do you have to pay customs duties only when the perfumes come from outside the EU? Just curious… August 13, 2015 at 11:32pm Reply

      • Victoria: There are no customs on shipments within the EU itself, but if a package comes outside the EU and is valued over a certain amount (20 or 30 euros, I don’t remember exactly), then you pay an import duty. This is a law in many countries, including the US, but since Belgium is so small, chances of your package being scanned and found wanting in import duties are very high. August 14, 2015 at 2:55am Reply

  • Julien: Who are we trying to fool? It’s cheaper on the internet.
    But that says more about the internet gap that anything. One must know how to tell bad sellers apart. Ounce done, you can still have bad surprise one time out of ten, but that’s still so much worth it.

    Perfume shops have their own advantages : you get your perfume right away, you get samples, you get something brand new (if second hand is bugging you), you get something more proper to offer as a present. And if you buy a brand with high standard, you vote for a good actor in the industry.

    And, you know what, the most basic lore still remain “The perfume shops put better stuff in the tester, don’t they?”. That’s ludicrous.
    Funny to see that, since all the time, there have been disappointment, even when you buy your perfume IRL.

    I’ve spotted a place on a flee market where a guy sell overproduced new tester for 35€. You’re not allowed to spray, and they’re prey to the sun beam but they’re full and genuine.
    People think they’re stolen of counterfeit, but no. It’s kind of “when it’s raining gold pieces, unfortunate people have no bags”. I’m sure to seize my luck everytime. They’re have been a chanel extrait 15ml tester, and Mitsouko and Chamade golden extrait testers, -thinks the seller are not proud of, he prefers to claim he sells fresh recent stuff- but so much the better for me and people I’m making gifts to. August 13, 2015 at 5:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s cheaper, but you take risks. For some people (depending where they live and their level of comfort with buying ‘a cat in the bag’), the risk is not worth it. August 13, 2015 at 5:12pm Reply

  • msmonochrome: Strawberry Net stores their items in Hong Kong and then flies them to your requested delivery destination country. Probably not the best conditions for perfume or skin creams, unless you live in a country that requires a minimum of transit from there.

    I can’t speak on Fragrance Net, as I’ve never ordered from there.
    Fragrance X , the few times I’ve used them, I’ve had no issues.

    If at all possible, I try to keep the majority of my purchases to smaller local shops or the department store counters if there isn’t much other choice for distribution points on that specific line. August 14, 2015 at 11:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a good point. Skincare is even more fragile than perfume. August 15, 2015 at 1:52am Reply

  • Shannon: Oh, how I wish I’d seen this a day earlier! Had just made an order of Guerlain Mitsouko EDP & Aqua Allergoria Nerolia Bianca from With much anxiety awaited their arrival (orders cannot be cancelled once made). This morning opened them up and the AANB was not bad, but very faintly one-dimensional and gone in less than an hour. Never had this one before to have a reference. The “Mitsouko”, however was horrid! Smelled like diluted Dettol mixed with phony peach. I have had this one, and it is definitely not genuine. Had to scrub immediately. Got out my bottle of L’Heure Bleue (from Disney’s Epcot La Signature boutique, so definitely real) and the bottle was different in subtle ways. The sprayer was a different height, the cap had different-shaped clasping mechanism (to keep cap on bottle), the nozzle on the real one didn’t have intertwined “G”‘s like the fake, and the front label’s gold element on the fake is shinier, even the swirls at the bottle’s top are slightly different. At first glance, I was relieved, but upon smelling it, I looked further and have come to the conclusion that BOTH are being returned. Just hope doesn’t give me a difficult time! 🙁 August 15, 2015 at 5:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh no! Fragrancenet is usually pretty good about returns, based on reviews, so you should have no problems. Good luck with getting it sorted out. August 17, 2015 at 5:06am Reply

  • Michal: Anyone have any insights into the perfume vendors on Canal St. in NYC? They’re amazingly cheap. I’ve bought a lot of stuff there, and it smells just fine. How do they do it? November 17, 2015 at 6:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: They are either fake or the grey market stock I talked about in this post. November 19, 2015 at 2:19pm Reply

  • sarah: wow i was mesmerized and totally in awe of your knowledge and wonderful personality that comes through!!!! now i am struggling where to buy eccentric molecules 01 and what you think of the perfume? right now cannot afford to buy at bergdorf goodman but maybe you can please advise me where you may have seen it at a reliable discounted site please? sory to bother you and this urine concept really freaked me out!! thank you for your precious time to answer me. BLESS YOU September 24, 2017 at 2:10pm Reply

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