How To Deal With Perfume Sales Associates

How do you deal with Sales Associates when you are perfume shopping? Recently, a question was posed about dealing with pushy SA’s who are either  a) rude;  b) pushy or  c) do not have your interests at heart when all you’d like to do is sniff some fragrances that you feel you might enjoy.  As a former fragrance sales associate, I put myself back in the place of how I responded to people that approached my counter.

Yes, SA’s make commission on their lines. It’s their livelihood. So we know that they’re going to push their own lines over someone else’s products. That’s a given. But, when a customer shares their wants and needs openly, if the SA has any morals and truly wants a sale, they will direct the customer towards the correct product. It’s a shame that so many of them have attitudes which make them think they must make an immediate sale the day they meet a customer. That’s just not going to happen in fragrances. A customer needs to road-test the product first and see how it works with their body. If the SA is polite, congenial, happy and fun to work with, wouldn’t you want to give her/him the sale if you could?

The sad fact is, when you work in a department store, you are gauged by your productivity. You are measured by your daily sales. You are measured by your line sales. There are “eyes” on the floor that watch if you interact with customers. There is a lot of pressure to sell. I’m not saying that SA’s go about it the right way, I’m just saying that the pressure is on. Unfortunately, the pressure is there, while the proper way to sell help is not. So all customers really see are these vultures on the floor attacking them. It’s all a horrible scenerio.

When I sold, I knew customers couldn’t make up their minds on a whim. Men who came in, quite frankly, on certain holidays, would buy on the spot. The women who came in wanted to test and try out perfumes. If I wanted them to return, I needed to build a relationship with them. The only way I could do that was to respect them. But respect begets respect.

If someone comes in just asking for samples, that’s ridiculous. Talk to me and tell me what you’re looking for. Tell me your preferences. Tell me what you like, what you wear, what you might be interested in. Let’s talk fragrances. Let’s share knowledge. That’s how to build a relationship. Don’t expect freebies just because you asked for them. There aren’t that many to give out, anyway, which is a shame. It would have made our job so much easier. When I knew a customer was really into perfume and couldn’t decide between certain ones, I was more than happy to give her a variety of samples to take home, if I had them.  Believe me when I say there really are some good SA’s out there who love their jobs. They really are in this business because they love perfumes as much as you do. Talking about perfumes with them might just surprise you. And there are some vultures out there who could care less. You’ll know as soon as they open their mouths.

If someone is rude to you, and you’re shy, you can simply be cold to them and say “No thank you” with a very cold shoulder. You don’t have to talk to them. If an SA refuses to listen to your wants and needs, find another. Walk away from them and keep browsing. Look for another associate. There’s always another on the floor. But do let them approach you. That’s their job. They have to approach customers. If you really don’t want any help or don’t want to strike up a conversation, then politely tell them so. But also tell them that if you do need help later on, you will specifically ask for them. And then, ask them their name.  No need to chastise someone for doing their job.

If an SA sprays a perfume I specifically asked for on a card, (and this happens to me all the time), I smile at them, I don’t take the card, and I’ll ask for the bottle instead with a smile. I’ll tell them the paper doesn’t smell like me. Just keep smiling. It unnerves them. It really does when a customer keeps smiling. And you’ll find the more you smile and say “thanks so much” the more they will leave you alone.

Some believe that we will assess a customer based on the way they’re dressed and that’s how we relate to you. Half-true. If a customer comes in dressed in dirty clothing and reeks of body odor, that tells me they don’t have a very high opinion of themselves. They are going out in public without taking the time to  clean themselves and present their best image. So yes, based on dirtiness,  a customer will be judged. But as far as based on clothing, hair, makeup? Not really. Most of us knew that everyone has money in their pocket to spend. And not everyone will dress up on their day off. It’s the SAs that have personal opinions of keeping up with the Joneses that gravitate towards the women who would approach counters over-dressed. Similarity encourages the same. In other words, if you’re shopping Chanel, might as well look the part and not come to the counter right after your aerobics class when you’re sweaty and haven’t changed yet. It really shouldn’t make a difference, but unfortunately, it does. So if you like to present yourself as having a certain lifestyle, go for it.

When an SA is obnoxious to you or rude or haughty and makes you feel terrible, it’s your choice to be rude immediately, but really, why? Why ruin your perfume experience of the day? You set out to have a pleasurable shopping experience, didn’t you? So why let someone else set the tone for you? Go in there with a smile and set the tone for them.

You are armed with so much information from perfume sites and know what you are looking for. Sometimes, this information when given to an unknowledgable SA can be overwhelming to them and they get testy. They’re embarrassed at their own lack of information. So hold back on what you know until you see how educated the SA is or how open they are to learning. You can overwhelm them and not realize it.

There are times when I’m shopping I’ll mention little tidbits of information about perfumes, like, “I love patchouli in a perfume. The three I’m testing all have patchouli in the base along with amber, which I really love.” I’ll get a look sometimes, and that tells me the SA has no idea what I’m talking about. If she asks me how did I know that, I’ll continue on and talk about fragrance sites, my history with perfumes and notes. If she doesn’t ask, I won’t go any further. You’d be surprised at how much you can teach some of the ladies on the floor.

Bottom line is to have fun when you’re at the counter sniffing perfumes. Don’t let anyone ruin your day.



All works past, present and future are protected under a CCC. Creative Common License, Kaarie Blake Musings by Kaarie Blake is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution-Noncommercial-Noderivs-3.0-Unported License.



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