It was the high point of a weekend spent shopping in the city with Fia. She handled it beautifully, with only one meltdown, in the Oilily shop across the street from our hotel. The low point was a set of interactions I had with an SA at Nordstrom. Chicago's Nordstrom has this great little nook of classic and collectible perfumes, arranged in a little arc on the back wall of the fragrance section. When I approached I saw a locked display of four fragrances in colored bottles adorned with bronze statues. Two years ago I'd tested one of them ("Julia") and really liked it. I was certain it contained immortelle, that maple note I love so much in AG Sables. It was priced at $400 then, which stopped me in my tracks. But I'd thought about it a great deal since, and was hoping to meet it again someday. That day was Saturday.
K: Do you happen to have the key to this display? I tested this one a few years ago and would love to try it again before investing.
SA: Ooooh... you don't want these. *waves hands* These are, like, three or four thousand dollars apiece. They're for serious collectors.
K: Wha?? Naw, I priced them a few years ago at $400.
SA: I don't think so. Well, we don't have a tester and I can't let you try the ones in the display anyway.
K: I'm not asking to spray one, just to smell it at the atomizer to see if it's as I remembered.
SA: I don't know where the key is. Really, these are for collectors.
K: I've owned almost 400 perfumes. I currently have over 200. I'm a collector.
SA: *looks me up and down* Tell you what, why don't you give me your number and I'll call you when someone comes in with the key. Will you be here over the weekend?
K: Yes, we're leaving tomorrow, but I'll try back at 11 when you open.
Fast-forward to 11 o'clock the next day.
SA: *sees me, walks over excitedly* Well, well, well, it seems you knew what you were talking about! Yes, these retail for $400. I've got all the info you need.
K: Really, you know the maker and the sculptor and the notes in the fragrances?
SA: I've got EVERYTHING.
Fast-forward 20 minutes. She had no information I didn't already have. And she still kept telling me she couldn't let me spray them, and I still kept telling her I didn't WANT to spray them, I merely wanted to sniff the atomizer, for crying out loud. At one point our exchange went like this:
SA: No you see I can't spray them because air would get in the bottle and break the seal and that would be bad and you need to understand how perfume is made because every perfume has a year and a half before it goes bad once you break the seal and--
K: I. under. stand. I. don't. want. to. spray. them. That. would. be. stealing. perfume. from. whoever. buys. this. bottle. I. simply. want. to. SNIFF. THE. NOZZLE.
SA: Oh! Wait, we have testers of two of them. (WTF? Why didn't you say so? She pulls out testers, lets me spray. It's as I remembered, a good dose of immortelle. I am in love. The SA, in contrast, wrinkles her nose, and goes, "Ewww.")
At this point I started counting slowly to ten in my head to avoid losing my temper while she ran off to get me something. I relaxed when it turned out to be filled sample vials of both the women's scent ("Julia") and the men's ("Romeo"). So I get to try it on my skin and see if it's worth investing $400.
Nobody should EVER have to work that hard to see if a perfume is worth buying. You may wonder why I didn't read her the Poor Service riot act or just walk out. The reason is that I was no longer offended; it's hard to be offended when one is dealing with a person who is legitimately mentally/emotionally disturbed. I went into "kid gloves" mode with her. And I tried not to laugh when she gave me her card and assumed I'd buy it from her once I'd made up my mind.
I left Nordstrom none the wiser about the composition of the scent (I'm still certain it has immortelle), but Google informed me that 7500 of the bottles were made and that the sculpture is by Barry Shiraishi. Here's what the bottle looks like. It's much nicer to look at in person, and it's got a pleasing heft. In spite of the price, I might have bit the bullet and invested, except that I didn't want to reward the SA for poor behavior. I can get it cheaper on eBay anyway. We shall see.