One of the best things about having a blog is that it almost doesn't matter what you write - you're bound to piss somebody off. As an amateur fragrance writer, I'm entrenched in the fragrance world, without actually having to fight on the front lines. I'm not being paid by Fragrantica or some larger publishing organization, so I'm free to shake off the philosophies and ideologies of others, and instead write exactly what I think and feel. The down-side to this is that not everybody who visits From Pyrgos actually reads what I've written, which leads to misinterpretations of my posts, which leads to other problems.
But before getting too deeply into that, I thought I'd mention a recent thread on basenotes entitled "Carven Homme price gouging on eBay?" (And by the way, I'm not linking to anything in this post: I'm writing it on an iPad.) I have a few thoughts on the content of this thread. The OP writes that he sought a backup bottle of Carven Homme, which he purchased for thirty dollars, but comments that most of the stock on eBay was fifty dollars or more, with some bottles priced over one hundred. He asks if this is normal, or if he searched incorrectly.
This leads to a response by a member named "Zealot Crusader," who writes:
"There are 2 kinds of perfume sellers on eBay:-Folks looking to offload stock . . . they'll sell at a fair price . . .-Folks who know the zeal and sometimes deep pockets of fanatical perfumistas/collectors (especially vintage). They'll price as high as possible and just sit . . . They even end and relist higher if everyone else marks up or cancel/refund/relist auctions or use shill bids to get what they want. The predatory side of capitalism for sure."
I have been writing about this to varying degrees over the years, and it sums up the picture pretty well to me. It's almost impossible to cogently argue against this framing of eBay fragrance sales. Anyone who has dealt with sellers knows the "two kinds" that populate the site. I've encountered fair sellers who will answer any question and even offer samples if your knowledge of the product contradicts their listing details. Then there are the jerks who think a bottle of Jules by Dior is worth $300. Yeah . . . no.
But as long as basenotes exists, there will be members who can't handle an accurate summation of this sort of thing. Enter member "richfisher6969," who retorts:
"That's a very one-sided and biased opinion of capitalism (what America is all about) and on some eBay sellers. First, the eBay sellers are not charity. Nobody is putting a gun to your head to purchase any of their items. Why wouldn't they raise the price an additional $20 if the market dictates? . . . Sellers have to deal with crazy eBay selling fees, shipping/handling costs, post office fees and losses, flakey buyers who only have to scream the word "fake" and they get their item for free, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention they have to sit on their stock and absorb all that cost upfront . . . If a seller wants to sell vintage/discontinued items for $1000 and someone out there wants to buy it, God bless them . . . "
Here we have someone who begins his argument by singing an anthem about the wonders of capitalism, yet he immediately follows it with a litany of complaints about capitalism, the thrust of his point being that people should just accept ridiculous prices and market manipulation, because selling stuff is hard, though apparently there's an ass for every seat. This was written without even the faintest twinge of irony. Amazing.
He then adds an anecdote about selling a wallet for $400, even though he bought it on clearance for $50, and pisssed off the buyer by stuffing the clearance tag in the product when he shipped it. Again . . . no. Just, no. That isn't how capitalism works. Markets aren't created by speculators who hope suckers will come along and validate extortionate prices. That isn't what happens in the real world, and it isn't even what happens on eBay, but nice try to "richfisher6969" for making his case, and then using himself as an example of who "Zealot Crusader" was referring to when he described the type of eBay seller everyone should beware of.
This brings me to Badger & Blade, and another recent thread. I won't detail the thread here, because B&B is a relatively small community, and its members know the thread I'm referring to (it's under the "Fragrances" category, and asks if you're guilty of wearing "cheap" wetshaver scents).
I will simply sum up the gist of the thread. It started out as a fairly neutral topic, with the OP addressing "A Note To Newbies," which I wrote in August of 2016. In that post, I basically stated that newcomers to the fragrance world should keep an open mind, and not limit themselves to what they know. I used members of B&B as a very broadly stated example of what not to do if you're new to fragrance, and wrote:
"Another danger is what I call 'collection confirmation bias.' You have a fully formed opinion of a certain type of fragrance, and only partially formed opinions of others, and your collection is limited to your bias, and you automatically assume you smell terrific. Chances are only 50/50 that you're right. I see this all the time on Badger & Blade. That community is full of guys who collect cheaper 'wetshaver' fragrances . . . Many of these fellows wear this stuff exclusively, and they think they smell terrific. But do others agree? With such a limited range in their collections, it's likely they appeal to other people half of the time, and the other half they're actually annoying everyone around them. They've stopped on the one kind of fragrance they enjoy, and failed to diversify. A stopped clock is only right twice a day."
Now, had this been read ten years ago, my point would have been well taken on B&B. Back then the forum was almost exclusively older gentlemen in their fifties and sixties, and they had an unvarnished sense of collective self deprecation. But today, it was a bit of a flameout. Some members took my point in stride, having completely read it. Others just scanned a couple lines of interest, took offense, and contended that I was myopic, a "bell end," and completely off the mark.
To clarify for the slightly touchy members of B&B, my point was not that wearing wetshaver cheapies is a bad idea. My point was that wearing one kind of thing all the time is pretty evenly good and bad. By just wearing Pens Blenheim Bouquet, Florida Water, and Floid, you're appealing to an older set, and probably annoying anyone under thirty. That's more a reflection on the character (or lack thereof) of the millions of twenty-somethings out there, but it doesn't change the fact that you've limited your appeal. By wearing one category of fragrance on Monday, another on Tuesday, and so on, you increase your odds of having a positive impact on a broader range of people. The person who dislikes your Monday scent may love your Tuesday scent, and their love for your Tuesday scent may make them rethink your Monday scent. In short, treat your fragrance collection like a financial portfolio, and diversify.
If I'm going to start categorizing scents by the days of the week, I may as well wrap things up by mentioning some blowback I've received from my criticism of the new 2018 Guide. One guy on basenotes asked (rather rhetorically, and I'm paraphrasing), "Can you imagine how pissed people would be in 2018 if they released a book about scents from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s?" The general idea is that, as an enthusiast, I've subjectively prioritized the category of vintage classics over the content of the Guide. In other words, peppering in a few classics is ok, but publishing a guide about contemporary niche is more useful.
This is a legitimate argument. I would respond by asking, if niche is what really matters in 2018, why are only rich people wearing it? Why are 85% of the general public in North America and Europe wearing designer and classic designer frags? Why are only a small percentage of the general population interested in mainstream niche, like Creed, while an even smaller number possess the wealth to invest in large collections of obscure niche and indie bottles, each averaging $60 - $100 an ounce?
Turin recently commented that he thinks the original Guide has been discontinued. This is dismaying, and challenges the notion that any official "guide" for fragrance is useful. Still, an illustrated guide of at least one hundred masculine fragrances from the twentieth century might have a large, cross-generational audience.