Rhiannon Harries: Something sinister is going on at the nation's perfume counters

Share
Related Topics

If the commercial breaks in kids' TV programmes are stuffed with ads for the latest toys at this time of year, then those later in the evening seem to be dominated by plugs for perfume. If it's not Sienna Miller pulling irritating cutesy faces for Hugo Boss, it's Charlize Theron strutting about in the buff on behalf of Christian Dior.

There's a sound economic basis for the seasonal war of the fragrance houses, of course – it's said that more bottles of the stuff fly off the shelves on Christmas Eve than during a whole month in the summer.

It seems, to the uninitiated, like the perfect no-brainer present. A little piece of Prada and Chanel at a relatively low price, with none of the pitfalls of sizing presented by lingerie or clothing. But I'd think carefully before breezing into the beauty hall, not least because I used to flog the stuff to earn some cash during my university Christmas holidays.

Brought in by the big names, Christmas casual workers are the mercenaries of the beauty-counter world. With a minimum of knowledge, the aim is to shift as much of your brand as you can, earning yourself the maximum commission. Shop assistants are rarely impartial advisers, but at this time of year they could give Machiavelli a run for his money.

I shudder to think of all the disappointed faces for which I have been responsible on Christmas mornings past. Utterly ruthless, I'd assure bemused fathers that Estée Lauder's Youth Dew (a favourite with the over-sixties) was just the ticket for their teenage daughter. And heaven knows what the grannies made of the gift sets of Carolina Herrera's 212 Sexy I'd foisted on their clueless grandsons.

I like to make myself feel better by thinking of all the Scrooge-like men I persuaded to buy the good stuff, informing them that the perfumed talc really wasn't an acceptable gift for their wife of 20 years. My motives may have been dubious, but at least somebody, somewhere was reaping different benefits.

Really, though, for most women, and indeed men, scent is such a personal choice that grabbing the nearest pretty bottle is a high-risk strategy. It's easily avoided, however, by nothing more complicated than a quick peek in your recipient's bathroom cabinet.

So this week, if you find yourself at the perfume counter and the salesperson starts treating you like Julia Roberts in that snooty Rodeo Drive shop in Pretty Woman because you only want to buy the smallest bottle of eau de toilette, stay strong and stick to your guns! Or else retreat quietly to the accessories hall. Everybody loves scarves.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.  

The Only Way is Ethics: The birth of a royal baby will not top the news for long

Will Gore
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk