Perfume fans who have ever bought a bunch of samples from decant sites such as The Perfumed Court will be all too aware of the peculiar postal practice of enclosing a single boiled sweet with your order. The most popular choices seem to be a Bali's Best Latte, Espresso or regular Coffee Candy, though I have received tea flavoured sweets and the ones with a hole in that we call Polos and the Americans call Lifesavers. Unfortunately, I don't like coffee, so along with a number of other perfumistas who have latched on to this idea, I recycle these candies in perfume swaps on Makeupalley. It would not surprise me to learn that certain individual sweets have clocked up many thousands of miles to-ing and fro-ing across the Atlantic. What is slightly concerning is the introduction of non-regulation confectionery lines to the swapping scene. I am speaking in particular of ADHD-inducing, lurid, sugar-encrusted jelly snakes, of which I once received a bag so substantial it completely overshadowed the 5ml atomizer that was the focus of the trade.
As well as confectionery, swappers often pop in extra perfume samples - from your "wish list" if you are very lucky, or from their "wish-to-be-shot-of list" if you are not. Along with the sweets, some of these less aspirational samples commute regularly to and from America. Another popular enclosure is samples of lotions - usually the ones that come free in magazines and still have a telltale blob of glue on the reverse. Their main (and valuable) function is to add a soupcon of truth to the Customs Declaration form, in which the contents are always breezily described as "cosmetics samples".
Other freebies include Scratch 'n' Sniff panels from the same magazines, scented cocktail umbrellas (there's a bizarre invention!), and what I tend to lump together under the heading of "Alternative Tea Bags" - which is my book is basically any tea blend that is not English Breakfast, which is the one variety the rest of the world seems not to drink. The most bizarre freebie inclusion was without doubt a "collagen-placenta-face mask" from Russia. Sheep's placenta, no less, as the helpful small print pointed out.
My partner, though utterly indifferent to perfume, finds this sweet sending ritual highly amusing. He has already made serious inroads into my stockpile of coffee candies, but that's okay. He recently began swapping guitar effects pedals on a forum for bass players, who are as you can imagine a group of rufty tufty, hard-boiled, hairy musicians. For the hell of it, he has now started to slip in a chocolate lime with the pedals, tucked into a corner of the newspaper wadding. Already there has been one reference to this in a feedback comment: "Hey - nice packaging!! : - ) " And so the ubiquitous sweet continues its unstoppable march...