Sunday, 14 January 2018

A nest lined with bubble wrap: hoarding tips from a 'perfume packaging magpie'.

It is over eight years now since I wrote about the endearing and slightly bemusing practice of popping a sweet in with a perfume package - standard practice on Makeupalley swaps back in the day. Since then the business of sending parcels of perfume and the actual packaging used to do so have continued to fascinate. I have blogged about insulation tape and bubble wrap and a little cardboard box that shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic on multiple scent carrying missions. And I am still fascinated, despite the fact that my perfume sending of late has been radically curtailed: as regular readers know, I don't attempt it at all overseas anymore, and even domestically I worry a lot, as you are only meant to post full unopened bottles in their original packaging, preferably cellophane-wrapped according to the rather draconian post office nearest to me. In vain did I try to explain that these days not all perfumes ARE cellophane-wrapped, even if I were ever minded to send a bottle that was BNIB, as they say. In fact I am not sure I have ever posted a single thing that HAS met the official Royal Mail guidelines...!

Yet notwithstanding my dwindling postal habit, I am still hoarding suitable bits of packaging like a good 'un - or like a magpie. THE Perfume Magpie is obviously someone else altogether, with her own blog - her magpie tendencies doubtless relate to being attracted to perfume and stashing that away. And a magpie might not in fact be the correct term for my own behaviour, because bubble wrap and envelopes are not exactly the bright, eye-catching trinkets traditionally associated with this opportunistic bird. Moreover, according to an article on the Discover Wildlife site, entitled 'Debunking myths about magpies' (would you believe there are quite a few myths, beyond their alleged bling-nicking proclivities?) that isn't even true either. It seems to be a much misunderstood bird. On balance, perhaps I am more like a squirrel, then!

The avatar of The Perfume Magpie!

So, you may be wondering, to what in the way of packaging am I drawn exactly? A considerable array of things is the answer, starting with bubble wrap, that classically protective wrapping that augments the intrinsic bubble wrap of a padded envelope. There is always a trade off between appropriate levels of swaddling and the ensuing fatness of package and associated postage costs, but I usually come down emphatically - and pneumatically - on the side of wrapping.

Pictured in the basket at the top of the post (sorry, nest!) are some random scraps of bubble wrap of varying widths and lengths, all potentially useful to our cause. But before I go on I must point out that not all bubble wrap is created equal. As I mentioned in my 2012 post on the subject, the ne plus ultra of all bubble wrap formats, the jewel in the crown - to briefly reprise our magpie musings - is the ready-made bubble wrap pouch or pocket, with handy foldy over flap, complete with traces of adhesive, if you are very lucky. Could a more perfect receptacle be devised for neatly enclosing and protecting a clutch of decants or samples?

Also featured in that post is another variant on the same theme - I still don't know the definitive word for this material six years on!, but back then I thought that it might be some kind of polystyrene. It is opaque and a bit stretchy, and does the job pretty well too. I may be wrong, but I associate this second pouch style with the USA. Can anyone confirm if it is a common bagging material over there?

Then I also squirrel away assorted plastic bags like this - they aren't particularly aesthetic, and offer zero padding, but come in handy as a leakproof layer at the very least, for which there is much to be said.

Still on the theme of bags, I also keep and recycle any decorative drawstring bags I am sent, as these make a nice form of gift packaging, again with minimal protective value. Though saying that, the velvet and suedette ones are a lot better in that regard than the organza, while the mighty white faux leather ones from Micallef are best of all in the padding department!

Moving on from bubble wrap, bubble wrap bags, and bags of other materials, I also collect small boxes. I have many more than this example, but I suspect I may have hidden a whole bunch of boxes inside a bigger box and then gone and hidden that somewhere(!) for so-called 'safekeeping'.

Speaking of bigger boxes, a special tribute should be paid to the trusty Jo Malone box, which is ideal for a large collection of slim decants or samples. There is more inherent sound proofing with a box than a bag, so it is easier to conceal the incriminating fluid nature of your shipment(!). This particular specimen is much travelled, and its sturdiness and rigidity means it still has many more miles in it.

Ditto this Hermes box, a much rarer animal, with its striking orange livery. The mini orange sleeves that house Hermessences samples - of which I am sure we have all had a few in our time, thanks to the generosity of Hermes stores the world over! - are also handy for stowing the Hermessence tubes they originally contained, or other long thin samples. ;)

And no review of packaging for posting perfume would be complete without a mention of the humble Jiffy bag, or Bubble Mailer, for readers across the pond. I have a drawer absolutely rammed full of the things: in every size imaginable, some more padded than others, some in white and some in fawn, some with ID8000 labels already affixed, some without. I am often tempted to pop a reused envelope with the hazard label on it into the post box, but I believe you are supposed to have the thing scanned in a post office, even though this does invariably invite a barrage of awkward questions!

So there you have it - a house groaning with packaging materials, and an ever growing reluctance to post perfume. I also have a bowlful of appropriate postal sweets as it happens...maybe on the increasingly rare occasions when I do send scented packages, I should pop one in for old times' sake...

Please do tell me if you are also a packaging magpie - or squirrel - and if so, what are your materials / formats of choice?!


crikey said...

I seem to accumulate tissue paper and ribbon for reuse. Bubble wrap has to be carefully hidden, as both the moggies have a passion for the stuff, even ripping open boxes to get into it.

But my favourite trick for protecting samples and other tinies through the hazards of the postal system is, as I think you have encountered, the Smint tin.

Vanessa said...

Hi crikey,

Yes, the Smint tin was an inspired manoeuvre! Have you ever deployed such a thing with coffee beans in it to create a decoy noise in the package? Maybe you would need a Smint tin for the samples and one for the coffee...

I always mean to keep tissue paper, but it often seems to get overly scrumpled in my custody and doesn't make the cut. I do also keep ribbon, but more for Christmas presents. Maybe I should up my decorative game!

Undina said...

Guilty on all counts! Bubble wrap, plastic bags, gift bags, small boxes from cosmetics and jewelry, tissue paper, ribbons and who knows what. I can probably send out half of my perfume collection using everything I’ve accumulated over years. And I’m too send less and less, especially outside the country (sending anything in the U.S., if I do not have to talk to the clerk, isn’t a big deal).
When I send something abroad, I always include chocolate squares: not only I declare them in the form, but I think they can serve as an indicator of how hot samples got in transit :)

Tara said...

This post is very relevant to me, V considering I will be posting my giveaway prize shortly. I squirrel away all of the above and usually add extra perfume samples rather than sweets but I'd really be pushing my luck to do that now.
I think I may employ the small box method - oh to have a Smint tin!
Natalie recently tried to smuggle me a tiny vial of Twilly from Down Under but caved under questioning and had to promptly eject it. Luckily I have no such problem lying to the postal authories. It's such a stupid rule.

crikey said...

Undina, that's inspired: using chocolate as a temperature gauge!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I was thinking the same thing about being able to send out much of my perfume collection using my hoarded packaging materials! What are we like?

I also love your story about the chocolate squares - how ingeniously scientific of you. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

As well as sweets, I used to send small decoy items of haberdashery with my overseas shipments - buttons, bits of wool etc - but since getting caught I just couldn't contemplate risking a long haul parcel.

Oh, poor Natalie! If her local PO is anything like mine, I am sure I would have caved in too.

Vanessa said...

PS During a perfume sampling session with a couple of friends last night, I found my stash of small boxes! They were in the cupboard under the stairs, in a bigger box, as predicted.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I just found you based on searching for reviews for Citron Boboli - and this other post could've practically been written by me!! The oddest behavior that I must confess to is not just the squirreling away of the bubble wrap and boxes.... but of agonizing over which to use when it comes time to mail something out. Even though I have almost as large a stash of used mailing supplies now as I do have of actual perfumes, I still don't want to "waste" any such bags or bubbles unnecessarily, and spend way too long trying to find the just-right size to use for THIS package so that I won't regret it later when in some indeterminate time I must mail THAT package and (I imagine now) will be wanting for a proper container. Which never happens, of course, because between now and that indeterminate future time, more incoming packages will supply many new supplies to the stash of mailable empties!! Gah! You'd think I was a hoarder... ;-)

Glad I found your site, it's just lovely.


Vanessa said...

Hello /morejasmineplease!

How nice to hear from you, and am glad you found your way to the blog while looking for a review of Citron Boboli. It was only a small review to be fair, but I am not a conventional reviewer, as you will have gathered.

Also happy to hear that my packaging post resonated with you - I do a bit of the agonising over choosing packaging of which you speak, but I sense you are the real pro in that regard, hehe. It is true that a selection today could have an impact over your options for a package down the line. Luckily, as you say, more envelopes and boxes will usually have arrived by then so the crisis never actually occurs. The psychology of packaging husbandry - there is a a scientific paper in there, surely?!