Friday, 30 September 2022

Shooting the messenger: a palate-cleansing post on an Hermès product format fail

Source: eBay

I am interrupting my series of travel posts about the recent French trip because a) something came up in the perfume sphere that I would like to air without delay, and b) I figured people might like a break anyway from the travelogue style of writing, even though the final part will feature perfume in a small way (if and) when I do eventually get to it.

What sparked the present post was this email I received from my old English teacher, Sheila:

"I’ve completely run out of perfume and have no idea what to buy. You once kindly gave me some little phials, amongst which was one for Hermès which I still love - I have a tiny, tiny amount left. It's a long time ago (before 2013), but can you remember what it was? It just says Hermès on the side with no further clue. I’ve been googling and think it may be Un Jardin sur le Nil, as that is quite old and has woody notes like this one. I love cedar, sandalwood, leather and vetiver, but not strong floral notes."

I immediately snapped into sleuthing mode, and replied:

"If the vial is a spray one, that narrows the field to its mainstream line, of which Un Jardin sur le Nil was part, while the more expensive scents in their Hermessence range come in long thin glass tubes with stoppers."

And back came the answer:

"The Hermès vial is in glass with stopper: I knew it had the whiff of expense about it!"

My mind immediately went to Vetiver Tonka, and on checking back to my "Perfume Protegé" post from 2014 I was able to confirm that this was indeed a scent she loved.

The next step was to give Hermès in London a ring on my friend's behalf and see if they sold samples. It had taken Sheila some nine years to drain one of those little glass tubes, so she clearly didn't need a 100ml or 200ml bottle at anything up to £300(!), which seem to be the only sizes they do nowadays. I explored the travel size option - 15ml would have been an ideal compromise - but was told I would have to buy four of them in a travel set costing around £136. I lamented this narrow-minded marketing approach, and made it quite plain that I would look elsewhere.

Within five minutes, eBay came up trumps, as I found a seller with several of the 15ml travel sprays of Vetiver Tonka, complete with tweedy bag (see photo) - and Sheila is now restocked with her favourite Hermès, no thanks to the brand itself...

NB I nearly didn't bother to add their accent, so exercised was I by their intransigent attitude, but relented in the end to avoid confusion with a certain delivery company.


Hazel said...

AND the big Sainsbury's at Cameron Toll has stripped out all but four of their staffed tills and replaced them with a stockade of self service ones. This has nothing whatsoever to do with perfume, but just goes to show retailers don't care about customers only profit.

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

I hear you - it is a deplorable trend across most of the supermarkets these days. I was in a Lidl in Morden the other day that ONLY had self-service tills - it was most disorientating.

Anonymous said...

One work-around was going in with three other friends and each picking one, speaking from experience but yes, a little unclear on the concept...AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

It would indeed have been a work-around, if I could have mustered the extra friends who loved that particular scent. Maybe that is how the chap on eBay came to be selling several!

Vanessa said...

Copying Tara's comment over, as she had difficulty posting one herself (Blogger misbehaving again).

Hi V, how odd the name wasn't on the vial. Not the best way to cut costs. It was on the ones I had though.

Well done for figuring it out and finding the 15ml on ebay. Not surprised the store was unhelpful. They are notorious for going to lengths to keep their products out of hands of those who aren't rich
Have you heard of the hoops you have to jump through to get 'offered' a Kelly or
a Birkin? Quite unbelievable.


Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I do agree that the name should ideally be on any vial...definitely a false economy.

Do you remember the days though when Hermes were very free with those little glass vials - I had a whole clutch of them, mostly obtained while wearing my "sample scoring coat". See the Hermes section of this post!

On this very subject, I didn't realise Sheila gets a mention in connection with Vetiver Tonka only last Christmas:

" the other end of the scale there are still some houses which are generous - perhaps too generous - with their samples. Take Hermès, for example, who give out 4ml samples in long glass-stoppered vials slipped into those distinctive orange card cases. Hermès has to be the most forthcoming with samples of all the luxury brands I know, and I am borderline ashamed of the times I have sauntered in (invariably wearing my good, sample scoring coat or its summer frock equivalent, depending on the season), spun some line about a friend / husband / relative with an upcoming birthday / wedding / anniversary, and walked out with not one but two of the 4ml vials. For two fit better into the card case than one - one just rattles around, quite frankly - so the SA usually cracks and sticks two in there, one for me and one for my imaginary friend. In my defence, I have genuinely given away a number of the Hermès samples I have procured using various ruses - my old English teacher did wear Vetiver Tonka at her wedding (er...the sample, not a full bottle) - but I cannot pretend not to have squirrelled away a few vials for my own nefarious use. Though some of the ones pictured above were gifts to me by friends and relations on similar morally questionable foraging missions."

Maybe it is Karma catching up with me for past freebie-related transgressions...;)

Vanessa said...

PS I did not know that about the "screening" process for a Kelly or a Birkin bag, but it doesn't surprise me...they won't want people they don't consider a good fit for the brand out and about sporting them like the wrong kind of walking advertisements!

Undina said...

Hermes in our area (not the one in San Francisco - I haven't checked that one) during the pandemic switched to "by appointment only" - and stays that way since then. For my big birthday, I had a fleeting idea to get a nice scarf... But I'm not making an appointment to look at patterns and try to figure out if I would like to get any.

In the past, you could do mix and match with those 4 travel sprays. But still, it's annoying to have to buy 4 when all you need is 1.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

A picture is definitely building of Hermes becoming more exclusive...I certainly wouldn't make an appointment to go to a shop!

Yes, whether they call it that or not, I think the brand is missing a trick there by insisting you have a "Discovery Set"-type format when you may not want to "discover" any other scents in the line.