Wednesday, 30 January 2013
"Used Cosmetics Samples" - More Perfume Mailing Mither And My Makeupalley Karmic Comeuppance
Unfortunately, the postal services pretty much anywhere you care to name take a dim view of mailing perfume. I had a pop at the US Post Office once following an encounter with a very draconian counter clerk in Venice, LA - see the US POST OFFICE DIGRESSION about half way down this post. And fragrance is still prohibited by dangerous goods regulations here in the UK, though that looks set to change for consumers in July of this year according to an article last November in the trade magazine "Post and Parcel":
"Royal Mail customers will be able to post items like aerosols, nail varnishes, perfumes and aftershaves to UK addresses from next year, after a review of rules banning such items from the postal network."
VENICE POST OFFICE - NICE FRESCOS, SHAME ABOUT THE SPANISH INQUISITION
The rules regarding international outbound parcels were revised earlier this month, and sadly the position has not eased on shipping perfume to friends across the pond, though it's good news for those of us who had been champing at the bit to send lithium batteries on a bit of a hike.
"Aerosols will continue to be prohibited from international parcels, as will nail varnish, perfumes and aftershaves, but when lithium batteries are contained within an electronic device, the revised rules will allow them to be sent internationally."
So it looks as though, for the foreseeable future, it's business as usual when it comes to posting perfume outside the EU, namely getting creative with the content descriptions on the customs form. The tried and tested favourite of Makeupalley swappers who are bold enough to flout the rules in this way is: "used cosmetics samples", though the prize for the all-time most audacious descriptor has to go to The MOTH, Bloody Frida's husband, for writing "knitted hat" on a consignment of perfume bound for me. Included in the parcel were admittedly a couple of skeins of sock wool, but even so, "knitted hat" was spectacularly stretching the point. (The whole charming story is reported here.)
Yes, I have been sneaking packages of perfume past international customs officials with the weasel words "cosmetic samples" for some five years now. I guess "perfume" could very loosely be construed as a subset of "cosmetics", certainly of beauty products. However, "the beauty" of saying "cosmetics" rather than "beauty" is that it sounds reassuringly solid, and not likely to slosh around in transit, like a cleansing lotion or shampoo - or God forbid, an alcohol-based product like perfume. The addition of "used" merely serves to gross out the officials - and with any luck put them off their spot check duties with disagreeable visions of half-used cacky cakes of shimmer shadow, claggy mascaras and smeary stubs of lipstick.
And then some time last year, I entered into a swap more as a "coerced act of kindness" than because of any interest in the items the swapper had on offer, quite the reverse. The swapper in question - as I later learnt - has acquired a bit of a reputation for cajoling her fellow Makeupalley members into doing deals they would not otherwise have entertained. In this case she wanted 15-20ml of Creed Love in Black in return for anything I could pick out from her list of mostly make up items and drugstore fragrances. At one point she said I could have EVERYTHING on her list, which actually filled me with alarm.
"I have longed for this fragrance for so long...I am seldom able to go out...I do enjoy wearing good fragrances at home because it lifts my mood...if you would swap, consider it your good deed for the day.... actually for this fragrance, it would be your good deed for the year."
So in the face of such a compelling appeal to my better nature, of course I caved in to her plea, and we settled on the Creed in return for a Sue Devitt blusher. It was in a colour (Malay Reef) which may or may not have suited me, not ever having come across the brand in the UK. It was hard to judge the shade in Google images, but it looked on the dark side to me, the sort of shade that Christina Aguilera might even consider ill-advised. Not to worry, I thought. I am going to consider this as a good deed for an unspecified timeframe! (A year did sound rather a long time to me. What about all those charity bags that come through my door with annoying frequency, all vying for my attention? Am I to ignore them, pleading a prior Creed good deed last March?)
But anyway, I sent off my end of the swap, duly labelled as "used cosmetic samples", even though it was in fact a single large atomiser of Love in Black (with a smaller one as an extra). After a couple of weeks and a few bizarre crossed wires with the swapper, the details of which I shan't trouble you with, I received my package containing the blusher. And - finally - I also received my customs-snook-cocking comeuppance. For the blusher had been swiped already ie it was "a used cosmetic", if not a sample as such. And that had not been made clear in the exchanges between me and the swapper. The plastic metal-effect case was also scratched, but some people might not have been too bothered by that.
So the central item was a bit of a disapointment to be honest, and the RAOK (Random Act of Kindness) extras that had been put in with it were a bit offbeat - costume jewellery of a type I wouldn't wear, and a lipstick from Lola Cosmetics called VICE in a shade to match - but in fairness people can't be expected to know my taste.
But meanwhile....meanwhile.....there was the wrapping to admire, for this was hands down the most elaborately and exquisitely wrapped swap parcel I have ever received. Gauze and ribbon and petals and miscellaneous haberdashery fripperies and I don't know what. I couldn't help but be impressed. I felt as girlishly thrilled as my four year old self in a tutu. All my misgivings about the evenness of the swap or the wheedling manner in which the deal had been struck fell away, as I plunged my hands gleefully into the sea of petals. And even now I still chuckle about the day I actually received used cosmetics that weren't even labelled as such...
Have you had any less than stellar - or merely downright peculiar - swaps? Do share! Can you beat my all-time most bizarre extra item, a face mask fashioned from sheeps' placentas? For your sakes, I do hope not.
Photo of Venice Post Office from venicebeachliving.com, photo of Christina Aguilera from lovelyish.com, other photos my own. NB I have since tried the blusher, but even on arrival it was obvious that it had been previously used.