Should we accept Mr. Ross’ apology ?

In his latest post, entitled “The Future, and An Apology,” over at the FromPyrgos blog, we are told that:

My guilt stems from a piece I wrote last year about Creed’s Royal Water. I denigrated the scent as being disappointing and short-lived. I considered it overly simplistic and over-priced. It turns out I sampled a counterfeit, at the very same brick-and-mortar store here in CT where I once discovered a counterfeit Green Irish Tweed (the famous “Green Frich Tweed”). I should have known better, and should not have published that review, which will soon be erased and replaced.

The fact that I have sampled Royal Water from two different “official” sources and found it to be overly simplistic and over-priced (though not short-lived, unfortunately) is not my main point here (I’d also say it was too sharp, and suggest trying to find something like vintage O de Lancome instead, though I’m not a huge citrus scent fan). Instead, I think it’s important to point out that Mr. Ross’ post is filled mostly with predictions and well-known information, and includes what I regard as his major claim here, “Fragrance blogs have always been a force in the industry…,” which is not supported with evidence, IMO. Nor does it make much sense, as I’ll explain below. My guess is that by not responding directly to my position, which is very different, he feels that he can present his opinion without having to address the evidence I have uncovered and cited.

Specifically, in my recent post, entitled “The influence (or lack thereof) of the blogosphere, ‘part deux,’” I examined the prices several old/vintage scents actually sold for and put forth what I thought was the most reasonable hypothesis, which is that a “fan base” was established for certain scents when they were initially released, so that when the bottles become scarce prices on ebay rise to levels that don’t seem to make sense to many of us aficionados. We look at some of those prices and say to ourselves things like, “why not just get some vintage Vermeil for less than $20 and not pay those prices for Davidoff Classic,” or “Stetson Country is a nice, safe ‘office scent,’ ‘but there’s no reason to pay those prices for it, and I’d probably rather wear something else anyway.”

On the other hand there is Avon, which has produced some quality scents (often sold in huge bottles – up to eight ounces!) that still sell for next to nothing. Apparently, they decided to try and make the bottles the focus of a fan base, as “collectibles.” It seems that this was a very bad idea, and they eventually abandoned it, going in various directions, including designer and celebrity. I think the supposedly collectible bottles were marketed in the late 60s to early 80s, but if anyone knows for sure please leave a comment and let us know. Out of some vintage ones I’ve tried, Tai Winds is quite interesting, with minty, fougere, animalic, mossy, woody, etc. facets, for example, and it smells entirely natural. Moreover, even though it’s an aftershave it lasts as long as many EdTs, and with reasonable projection (“sillage”).

Perhaps most importantly, one has to ask what “influence” can mean going forward, assuming that there will always be a few major scent sites and more than a few active blogs. Though there may have been a peak in releases, it’s likely we will witness one thousand or more each year for quite some time. How many can any blog review, especially if he/she/they want to include some discontinued ones as well? How many blogs will feature rather “middle of the road” reviews, with no comparison to other scents, and probably do little to encourage or discourage people from buying the scent in question? How much conflicting information will be featured on blogs? For example, Mr. Ross and myself seem to disagree entirely about many reformulations.

In short, I don’t see how any blog will become particularly influential, unless the blog itself gets significant “mainstream media” hype. For example, if Chandler Burr were to have a weekly spot on a major daytime talk show, then if he had a blog and it was mentioned on that show, I could imagine that could have at least some significant amount of influence. However, that remains to be seen. Why write up blogs posts about what blog posts might do in the future, especially in this context? If you have some evidence for your claims, Mr. Ross, I’d really like you to present it. You can call my blog irrelevant if you wish (as you have in the past, or something to that effect), because I couldn’t care less what “the industry” thinks, one way or the other. Do you really think that soon, hordes of people are going to make a decision about buying (or not buying) a bottle “blind” because of what was said on a blog?

Sure, if what we can read on, for example, is any indication, some scents have been “hyped” and some number of bottles were sold that otherwise would not have been. The question is, does the industry think this phenomenon is significant now? If so, then the next question is, can they do anything about it? It seems to me that at most, what we’ve seen are lame attempts to try and create scents that “straddle the line” between niche and designer, for example the ones that seem to be weaker (and usually less appealing) versions of Tobacco Vanille. Of course, we don’t know if these scents were created with that rationale in mind, so again some evidence is required to even make this modest argument. Instead, he makes blanket statements such as the aforementioned: “Fragrance blogs have always been a force in the industry…,” which do provide some comic relief, if nothing else.

What I think Mr. Ross should apologize for is making arguments that don’t seem to make sense in order to fit the narrative he apparently believes in, for whatever reason. I don’t see a need to apologize because one received a supposedly fake sample. In fact, if a person he interviewed, Mr. Dame, is correct (and Mr. Ross did not question him on this point during the interview), it’s very possible that the Royal Water had “turned” to “dreck” for one reason or another! He has argued against my observation that how one experiences a scent can change significantly in a short period of time; presumably there will be no apology for that, despite the scientific evidence I presented. Aren’t online reviews, advice, and claims usually quite limited in their usefulness? At best, you might find a few reviewers who have written many reviews and seem to share your preferences. And while a person’s ability to detect notes may increase over time (with diligent study especially), it may always be the case that at certain times particular notes “spike out” and seem stronger than they will during subsequent wearings, rendering any opinion a tentative one at best.

There’s no reason to apologize for this, in my opinion, and my guess is that “the industry” realizes that at present the best they can do is to “go with the flow,” such as by re-releasing scents like Patou Pour Homme (or creating “watered down” versions of popular ones, though that is an old, pre-internet idea, of course). Considering how little it can cost to do that, their “risk/reward ratio” should be very good. I’ve found that one always needs to consider what is the exception and what is the rule. Consider how many bottles are sold each year, mostly generic and “cheap” (in one way or another); are the opinions of a small number of people responsible? Is that how the overwhelming majority of sales are made? Beyond that small number, of course, the opinions vary too much for there to be any kind of “clear message.” Overall, aren’t there so many different sensibilities (as well as purchases made without any “forethought”) when it comes to scents that at most the internet can create a tiny ripple in a vast ocean ?

UPDATE: In the comment section to the FromPyrgos post, Mr. Ross wrote the following:

…I have to laugh at how confident people are, for example, that the grey market stock they buy from sites like Fragrancenet are guaranteed to be 100% legit. I’ve read several complaints from people who claim that they were sent fake Creed from Fragrancenet, yet their testimony goes right out the window because the majority of buyers feel they’ve gotten the real deal. The real issue here is, how discerning is the buyer?

This is a serious charge to make against a major online fragrance retailer, but again, if Mr. Ross believes that old scents can “turn” or become “dreck,” as is apparently the case, why wouldn’t he think it’s much, much more likely to be a case of “old stock?” Many have claimed that Creed scents have a more limited shelf life due to having more naturals, which certainly could be the case at least in terms of top notes, and I have no doubt he knows that such companies get their Creed bottles from a “gray market” that could involve poor storage conditions. Thus, why would Mr. Ross jump to this conclusion? Again, where is the evidence? Now this is something I think he should consider apologizing for, at least to that company if not to his readers as well !

UPDATE #2: Yet another revealing statement by Mr. Ross in the comment section to his post:

…a surprising number of discontinued scents that are lauded online are being re-released for no obvious reason, other than being well written up.

Once again, why is he unable to imagine the possibility that a lot of people have fond memories of a scent and would buy it again if they saw it at a store like Walmart (selling for fairly low prices, presumably)? Aren’t there plenty of products being marketed in a “nostalgic” way (or being produced again after years of “discontinuation”)? How about the Chrysler PT Cruiser? The internet probably generated more interest in many “forgotten” items, and without it I doubt I would have developed an interest in scents in the first place, unless perhaps there was a magazine devoted to the subject that I stumbled across in my library wanderings back in those days. However, Mr. Ross seems to be contending that a small number of people using online venues to voice their opinions are having a major impact on the industry, and for that notion I think he should supply us with strong evidence or apologize !


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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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