Is decanting perfumes the same as illegal downloading of music and movies? Are the creators and manufacturers of the perfumes being violated when their fragrances are sold in a different packaging by someone who bought their perfume (for a retail price)?
For several years, the culture of fragrance swapping has evolved tremendously, including the sprouting of micro businesses selling perfume decants on the various fragrance forums and on eBay.
While the music and film industries are coping quite well with the abundance of copyright infringement online (ripping songs and downloading movies) by offering legitimate alternatives to the tech-savvy consumer, the perfume industry seems to drag behind in response to the popularization of perfume. Perfume companies seems to be having hard time accepting the fact that perfume, nowadays, is becoming more of a commodity than a luxury, and that gradually, many people are becoming more interested in the product (AKA the juice) rather than its glamorous packaging.
In the past few years, perfume addicts found creative solutions for subsidizing their expensive hobby by selling off some of the juice of the (usually over-sized) bottles. The buyers for these modestly re-packaged perfumes are usually other curious perfumistas who don’t have physical access to the particular perfume (or brand) where they live, or simply haven’t quite made up their minds if they need 100ml of a particular odour to be added to their already-impressive collection.
A few months ago, I read that a popular decant seller was booted from eBay for this reason, after a complaint (or was it a law suit? I can’t quite remember) from a New York based perfume house. Hundreds if not thousands of perfumistas were puzzled and ticked off by this move. And I don’t blame them. But coming from the side of niche perfume business myself, I can’t claim not to understand the motive behind the abovementioned perfume house. Just imagine how many impulse-buy they lost because of that! On the other hand, let’s try to imagine how many unhappy customers the decant trade saved these very same perfume companies; ones that would go around the internet and say “such and such brand is overrated” and so on and so forth. Obviously, if one gets a decant of something they end up loving, they will upgrade to a full bottle, and in my opinion are more likely to re-purchase in the future more than just once. But this philosophy of common sense and good karma is perhaps not something that spread neither widely nor evenly amongst all perfume houses.
_MG_5891, originally uploaded by Jonathan Tramontana. In my opinion, choosing the legal route to respond to this phenomenon is not only ineffective (as if that stopped you from downloading songs onto your MP3 player, right!); it also shows lack of understanding of the current trends in the fragrance industry, perhaps even a lack of confidence in the juice itself. If the juice is ripped of its elaborate packaging, it should be just as stunning and impressive, and definitely worth the money. It is also a symptom of lack of creativity and flexibility of the business structure of the brand, which is usually associated with larger sized corporations. Amongst other solutions, the abovementioned perfume house could have opened their own eBay store – the official brand name so and so store, and offer a more “legitimized” alternative in the same internet shopping neighbourhood.
To conclude, I’ll bring you a short little story of a similar situation, but from the film industry. Mark Achbar, the director of The Corporation, worked on the film for about 10 years. After years of research, filming, fundraising and marketing, the film was a huge success world wide. Everybody waited for the DVD to come out, and when it did - it started to become part of the curriculum in many universities. Poor students on low budgets started looking for free downloads online, and guess what? - They found them, of course. The film was quickly becoming one of the most popularly downloaded documentaries on BitTorrent. Instead of suing BitTorrent, Mr. Achbar is now offering his own downloadable version, directly from his computer, and encourages the downloaders to donate as much as they can afford and support the filmmakers.