The recent arrest and conviction of two importers charged with bringing over 30,000 bottles of counterfeit perfume into the US is a great reminder that knockoff fragrance is far more common than you'd think. And the ingredients in fake perfume are sometimes extremely suspect and include lovely additives like human urine. So where is it safe to buy your perfume? To find out, just keep reading.
Where it's probably safe
- Large retail chains and department stores. These businesses buy directly from the company. So Sephora, Macy's, Target, Ulta, etc. are all good places to get your perfume.
- Licensed online retailers like beauty.com, Luckyscent, or soap.com, who buy from US distributors.
- The brand's own shopfront or website. It's the most direct and guaranteed way to make sure you're getting a legitimate product.
Where it's not 100 percent safe
- eBay, Etsy, and other online bidding or small-shop sites. Anyone can open up an auction or "store," and the company isn't responsible for the actions of the people whose shops it hosts. Though you can sometimes score the real deal, counterfeit goods are extremely common on these sites, so buyer beware.
- Trade shows, fairs, and flea markets. The two importers who just got convicted were bringing all their knockoff fragrance in to sell at a Las Vegas trade show. Like websites, these are venues where anyone can buy a stall, giving you no guarantees or protection.
- Drugstores, it pains me to say, are sometimes havens for stolen and counterfeit goods. I want to support local businesses, but a few owners are dishonest, and you'll find counterfeit fragrances, makeup, and even personal care products. If you're at a store and it carries a bunch of hair care that has those "not to be sold outside of a salon" labels, you should also be wary of any fragrance it carries.
- Small boutiques and shops. If they're carrying niche brands, it's probably fine, but if a corner dollar store is selling Armani Code, for example, you may need to look elsewhere.
- Discount chains like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods have been sued several times over the last few years for selling counterfeit or unlicensed products. Most recently, parent company TJX Companies was sued by Burberry and Limited Too. In one case, they were getting items from the manufacturer that hadn't actually been made during regular operating hours — "gray market" fakes with legitimate branding and packaging. That means the stuff you get may be made at the same factories, but it could also be of lower-quality materials.
- The street. This one should go without saying, but if you see someone hawking Chanel No. 5 for $5 on Canal Street, it's probably not anything you'd ever want to spritz on yourself.