Friday, 27 December 2013

The Scent Crimes Series: No 11 - Perfumed packages in bombastically big boxes

So Christmas is well and truly over, though the forest of little pots topped with tin foil lids and housing cold turkey and its concomitant roasted bits and bobs doesn't seem to diminish with each passing day - the contents of the pots just look a little less appetising as the week wears on...

On the gift front, I hope that Santa 'delivered', and that he conscientiously worked his way through your wish list.  If he had any wit, he would embed half a dozen reindeers in Amazon's Swansea warehouse, and have them on permanent standby.  My own presents included a Chanel mascara, a fat bottle of gin and a Black & Decker crevice tool, so I am well happy.

Now, newer readers may not be familiar with this long running mini-series mentioned in the title, which recounts sundry crimes against perfume - or perfume related things - that have particularly exercised me.  I wrote a flurry of posts back in 2009-10 - about anything and everything from confusing Stella flankers to the evils of bathroom storage, trigger-happy sales assistants and opaque perfume receptacles. I must have felt I got a lot of things off my chest back then in a relatively short space of time, for it is getting on for two years since I filed my last report in this sorry canon. Though I did make reference to a scent crime post in my recent piece about the new perfume shop in Stafford, called Vienna.  The one about my friend Clare's fruitless attempt to find a stockist of Mitsouko in our town, and how a sales assistant witheringly dismissed the entire house of Guerlain as 'old stuff'.

I have touched on perfume bottle - or sample vial - design a few times in this series, and now find myself increasingly bothered by the packaging of promotional products, unsolicited yet consensual consignments of which I am receiving more and more these days.  I may revisit that theme - and how I should approach such offerings (aka 'PR swag', to put it bluntly) - in my upcoming 'end of year' musings.

Then in my review of Puredistance BLACK not so long ago, I couldn't resist having a mischievous pop at the heavy duty laquered-look box that had been used to present a sample of Opardu, the brand's previous release. This was more on weight rather than size grounds, it must be said.  On an impulse, I just stuck the Opardu box on the scales and it topped out at almost 1 lb, a hefty receptacle indeed for a 2 ml sample vial!

Looks a little bigger if allowed to stand on its own box

However, the prize for the most disproportionate packaging to product has to go to a scented candle I was sent recently from a company called Rive Sud in Cannes. The one I received was a highly spiced, church incense-y number called Via della Basilica, featuring (declared) notes of incense, pepper and myrrh:

"Like a poem by Pavese, the streets will open out onto a pine-clad hill and stones, leading to the silence of the basilica."  (My rendering of the French blurb on the Rive Sud website.)

The collection of four candles was created by Cannes-based interior designer Christine Bodino in tandem with perfumer Delphine Thierry, the nose behind Cloon Keen Atelier's Castaña, which I happen to own!  I was intrigued to smell any scented product inspired by the Mediterranean, having lived on the Riviera for a year in my student days, teaching in a school in Cannes in fact, just a hop and a skip behind the Croisette. My morning commute from Antibes featured dark silhouettes of palm trees against unfeasibly lurid peachy-pink sunrises, exactly like those holiday postcards I reject on a point of principle for being too gaudy.

I haven't burnt the candle yet, but other bloggers who received the same press package as me have lit the wick and recorded their thoughts, notably Kevin of Now Smell This and Gaia at The Non-Blonde.

What surprises me is that no one has been similarly struck by the humungous big box the candle came in - or seen fit to mention it at any rate.  Compare the candle's small size on the table with a standard vase!

Possible negative 'splay' effect of the (albeit matching) roses?

And see how lost it looks amongst the polystyrene packing peanuts!

That very same outer box ended up being sent to a friend in Canada, where it comfortably transported a present for her and three further gifts for her children. So at least it was appropriately sized for that journey...




Do you have any examples of extraordinarily OTT packaging to share?  I'd love to hear about them!




28 comments:

  1. Packaging craziness!!

    Oh is that the candle you mentioned on my incense blog post the other day!?

    I had to smile at your use of the phrase 'tin foil.' A few years ago, I went to a local restaurant and asked that my leftovers not be put in a big take-out container (another 'too big packaging' rant) and instead i asked for a piece of 'tin foil'. The young woman/girl had absolutely no idea what I was talking about! :)

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    1. Hi Carol,

      It very likely was in the back of my mind at the time, plus I have been burning a lot of nag champa joss sticks over Christmas. ;)

      Oh that restaurant story is too funny, and doesn't surprise me in the least. I find that US wait staff ask me if I would like to 'get a box for that' when I am only a few mouthfuls into my dinner. I think they have it in for lone female diners or something, but what would I do with a box in my hotel room - with at best coffee and not even tea making facilities?!

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  2. I succumbed to a good sale pre Christmas and ordered four standard sized bottles of nail polish from a company that's new to me. They were housed in a cardboard tray, similar to the kind that fast food restaurants use for beverage transport. The tray had individual spaces for twenty four bottles - this was then sandwiched between two substantial cardboard inserts to suspend the tray inside the shipping box, and finally it was all crammed full of packing peanuts. The box overall was the size of a narrow shoe box, much too large for my mail receptacle. Truly overkill but the polishes are gorgeous. I wonder how many people order 24 bottles at one time? Surely salons mostly? Seems having a smaller box available would make sense?

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    1. Hi Rosarita,

      That is indeed a great tale of 'packaging overkill' - I love the fact that there were spaces for *24* bottles of nail polish! Maybe they couldn't afford to design one box for the likes of salons buying in bulk, and one for sales to individual customers. If they wish to target the latter you would think they might have figured out a more appropriately sized container!

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  3. I don't have a tale as good as this, but I do have one to do with moisturisers: Kiehl's ultra facial cream and The Body Shop's Aloe Soothing Day Cream. The Kiehl's product quite rich, and so, as if to emphasise this, the round pot it comes in has a very thick base. If you pick them both up you notice how much heavier is the Kiehl's. The other just comes in standard lightweight plastic. I suppose the folk at Kiehl's think that the extra weight and solidity makes the product seem more desirable, or that it has more product in it (it doesn't, both are 50 mls). I've seen Clinique products that are over-packaged in just this way.

    I know it's not a big deal but it irritates me.

    As do those packing peanuts. I hate them.

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    1. Hi annemariec,

      That is a good example of 'bombastic' - this time weighty rather than big - packaging in the cosmetics line and one I have encountered with a range called Lange. Small pot inside a big clunky glass jar to big up the luxe aspect.

      Packing peanuts are annoying, aren't they? They are half alive and cling to your clothing, even as you try to take them to the bin...

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  4. Your comment about "doggy boxes" in restaurants here in the US made me think about how often a one-size-fits-all is proffered up to take said leftovers home. All very well if you have a salad (or at least the US version of a salad which is usually just a plate of lettuce...) but many a time I've wanted to take half a portion of tiramisu or cheesecake home to enjoy as a nawwwwty night snack, only to have it rattle around "like a BB in a box car" as The Hubby is fond of saying.
    (And a comment on an earlier post re the "Mitsouko who??" SA - I was in Macey's before Christmas and asked if they had a Guerlain counter. The SA who was about 12, looked at me in bewilderment, even when I offered further encouragement : "Shalimar??" She fetched an older SA (this one was decrepit, at least 25) who had the same reaction to Guerlain, but the light bulb flickered when I bleated out Shalimar in somewhat desperate tones. Sure enough, on the bottom of a counter was the Shalimar "display" - half a dozen bottles of Initial...)

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    1. Hi Sally,

      Thanks for stopping by - I was very interested in your comment, not least because of the expression 'a BB in a box car', which I instantly rushed to google. ;) I have found the box car bit, but my efforts to identify the 'BB' part keeping bumping into citations on BB creams, which I know isn't what you meant at all. ;) I do completely understand the saying, for which our nearest equivalent might be 'like two peas rattling around in a pod'.

      Anyway, I love the image of your oversized doggy box (or 'bag' over here ;) ) and have had the same experience - like Carol above. And your Guerlain story is priceless - and sadly so easy to imagine!

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    2. Hi Vanessa, The BB part refers to the wee round shot for a BB gun (an air rifle). As a displaced Brit living in the colonies, one has to know these things ;-)

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    3. Hi Sally,

      Well, well - rather like that other 'BB' of 'ball bearings', though those are nothing to do with shooting. ;) Thanks for explaining that to me!

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  5. My tiny Hello, Sailor lipstick came in a genourmous box with those packing peanuts.
    What do you do with gin? Gin & tonic or more elaborate cocktails?

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    1. Hi Undina,

      Well, well, the problem seems to be quite common then, across different product categories.

      I don't make cocktails myself, but am always up for them when staying at my brother's, as I did recently. Had a lovely one with Cointreau, gin, vermouth and blood orange (I think). At home I just have gin with tonic.

      Then I have a bottle of sloe gin on the go at the moment (thereby 'hangs' a tale of a bit of a hangover, owing to my failure to add sufficient tonic to this new variant of my favourite tipple. I am sure it needs some, but not as much necessarily as regular gin as it is only 50% actual spirits. Anyway, long story short, I kept getting the ratio wrong and felt a bit delicate yesterday...)

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  6. I am sorry but I am still getting over the House of Guerlian's perfumes as "Old Stuff" !!!!
    Infact , I would love to "stuff" that sales girl in your empty Big Box and send her off to deepest darknes Africa - minus the candle - too nice a scent - maybe I would spray the insides with Red Door - that should make the journey nice ! LOL

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    1. Hi lady jicky,

      Well, with your screen name I am not surprised at your indignation! Re your 'tough love' approach to chastising that SA for her lack of product knowledge - if she made it out of her Red Door-scented container at journey's end, she certainly wouldn't smell 'box fresh'...

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  7. These over-sized packages are also a crime for unfairly raising expectations. You think you're in for a substantial gift but instead it's a lucky dip!

    Though I did love a lucky dip as child, it's true :)

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    1. Hi Tara,

      'Unfairly raising expectations' - haha, and how true. I must say I also loved lucky dips as a kid, and those party goody bags that were also a bit of a lottery. I think the anticipation was a major part of the appeal, and easily insulated you against minor disappointment. I am a bit like that with my paint sample pots which I eagerly look forward to trying, but which may not come up to the mark when I apply them to a trial patch. I get sufficient buzz from the build up to opening them, however they turn out!

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  8. Just found your blog and it's lovely! I have loved perfume since I was a child (in the 1950s!) but so many of the old established fragrances have been tinkered with and they are nothing like they once were. And no, my sense of smell has not deteriorated with age. Arpege by Lanvin isn't the fragrance it once was, ditto Miss Dior, ditto Diorissimo. Hermes' Caleche is something approaching what it once was, but Hermes have removed my favourite from their range, Parfum Hermes, which was available for a few years in the 1980s (it was packaged in red and gold livery.) I found your blog as I'd Googled Penhaligon's Ormolu, another favourite that has been discontinued. Why is it that perfume houses either tinker or discontinue what are already superb scents in favour of yet more vile, chemically-smelling new ones?

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    1. Hi galant,

      Why, thank you! And thanks for taking the time to comment. I was interested to read your roll call of doctored or discontinued favourites. It is a sad phenomenon in this industry which we just have to get on with, it would seem. Some of the reformulation is genuinely driven by regulatory change affecting the materials, though I suspect there may also be a bit of corner cutting going on here and there...And what fun that you should have lit upon my Ormolu post - I don't suppose there is a massive amount written about the scent in the Internet, with it being fairly obscure in the first place.

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  9. I haven't come across packaging quite as OTT as the one with the candle in it! I'd initially recycled all the packaging which came my way, using them to send out my own parcels and gifts, but then it got to the point where I just had WAY TOO MUCH BUBBLEWRAP and also cardboard boxes!

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    1. Hi J,

      I can totally relate - I get so far reusing cardboard boxes and bubble wrap, but more seems to come in than can be recycled, and in my case the overflow of both has filled an entire wardrobe in the garage. I persist in telling myself that one day I will need a box exactly 'that size', but am probably deluded. And I don't know when I will be posting an item big enough to make a serious dent in my bubble wrap surplus!

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  10. I have not experienced too much overpackaging, but certainly a few instances stand out. A single full size bottle of perfume that came in a box the size of two shoeboxes, for example. :)

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    1. Hi N,

      Wow, that does sound like another flagrant case of 'disproportionate packaging syndrome'!

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  11. QVC UK, they are famous for packing a Bobbi Brown eyeliner pencil in a box big enough to use for a weekend away instead of a suitcase.

    But also have been known to pack a silver bracelet in a very thin padded envelop

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      LOL at the Bobbi Brown overkill. I wouldn't have thought that brand would be so profligate with its wrapping materials - they seem to have quite a 'right on' image in my mind. I hope the bracelet was sufficiently well packaged to arrive in good nick - and not *get nicked* because it was apparent what lay inside...;(

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  12. Hi

    Bit of a random query, but does anyone know where I can get a few new sample-size spray bottles? I have a frustratingly large number of perfumes in little vials with plastic stoppers. They are virtually impossible to open without resorting to pliers. Pliers are never a good look on the dressing table. All those lovely fragrances trapped in their glassy prisons. I need to free them.

    Poppynut

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    1. Hi Poppynut,

      I know that problem with the little glass vials - God help us all when we are old and arthritic, for those stoppers are a major challenge now! If you are in America, I would recommend Accessories for Fragrance, who have most every receptacle in not too large a minimum quantity. Or Undina rates Best Bottles - the shipping is too much for me to consider them over here. That would be another suggestion. I must say I often use a 3ml size and fill to two thirds or so, because some of the 2.5ml atomisers can have a tricky snap on mechanism - from Accessories for Fragrance and also from Pilot Vials, a third US company.

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    2. Thanks so much for the reply - I should have said though that I'm in the UK. Any ideas?

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    3. Oh okay, well the recommendation of Accessories for Fragrance still stands - their 3ml plastic sprayers are good value, even coming from the US. For higher end glass ones you could try trawling UK eBay with various search terms - I have done that with success in the past.

      Also check out this post by Bois de Jasmin -

      http://boisdejasmin.com/2013/06/making-fragrance-decants-and-samples-in-pictures.html

      I have no experience of Proudstyle, but the website looks good. Might try them myself next time! I guess a lot depends how many vials you are after.

      http://www.proudstyle.com/Items/Glass-Spray-Bottles.html

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