Help me buy perfume in Chicago
December 11, 2018 4:50 PM   Subscribe

I haven't bought perfume in well over a decade. It used to be you would go to the fragrance counter in a department store, smell a bunch of samples, and buy one. Today I went to Macy's expecting to do that but...

... apparently things have changed. Now it appeared that everything is broken down by brand and each brand has a counter and a staff who can only get samples of that brand's fragrances. So instead of dealing with one person who has lots of options, I have to speak to many people who each have only a few. If there's shopping in hell, this is what it is like.

So did I assess this correctly or did I just not look in the right place? I'll admit I got overwhelmed pretty fast and bolted. Are there any other department stores that still do the fragrance counter thing?
posted by great_radio to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a department store, but I really like the fragrance counter at Sephora; it's the closest thing I've seen recently to the old school fragrance counter like you're talking about. They'll make you little samples of just about everything, and I like the interactive Fragrance Finder system they have. Not always totally accurate but usually good to point me in the right direction, and the staff are usually pretty good about recommending things based on your other fragrance likes!
posted by stellaluna at 5:00 PM on December 11, 2018 [21 favorites]

Dunno if this is true where you are, but in my town there is a vast difference between the Macys in the "nice" areas and the ones that are in the "less nice" parts of town. I'd expect the old-school fragrance help at the nicer Macy's near me, and also at Bloomingdales.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:13 PM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

+1 to Sephora. Ulta is good too.
posted by Fig at 5:28 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sephora and Ulta are great with this. You could also try Merz Apothecary in Lincoln Park or downtown, but they'd carry more independent/organic brands.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 5:30 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure if if it's at all near you, but I had good luck in general the few times I visited the Greektown Ulta. Specifically last year around Christmas my husband and I went there looking for something new for each of us. There was someone in the fragrance area who helped us both out: asked what we'd had before and what we thought we wanted now. Then he brought us samples and then some more based on feedback. We both found something we liked.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:31 PM on December 11, 2018

Came in to say Sephora, too.
posted by lazuli at 8:09 PM on December 11, 2018

Magazine aisle?
posted by shalom at 9:53 PM on December 11, 2018

For high-end niche perfumes, Barneys is the joint.
posted by matildaben at 10:00 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, department stores have definitely divided out the space to isolate each brand. Nthing Sephora or Ulta. They're like department store cosmetics/perfume counters used to be.
posted by cooker girl at 5:48 AM on December 12, 2018

Sephora and Nordstrom are both really good about making you samples of perfume. I always get samples, then go and wear them for a week or so, before plunking down a hundred bucks on a new perfume. It's saved me several times when there's something I love in the store for 10 minutes but then find out it goes Old Lady on me over the course of a day.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:53 AM on December 12, 2018

Sephora sells this perfume sampler pack that gives you a range of perfumes to try and includes a voucher for a full size perfume (it has to be one of the perfumes in the sampler pack). I used it to find new scents I like.
posted by Julnyes at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2018

I'd skip the department stores and Sephora, and head over to Merz Apothecary in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. The last time I was there, they did provide samples of their perfumes. Next door is Q Brothers, which is more male-focused, but they also offer up samples of their unisex fragrances.
posted by stannate at 7:40 AM on December 12, 2018

I ended going to Sephora and it worked out well. Thank you everyone.
posted by great_radio at 8:33 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

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