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The Best Department Stores For Finding Fragrance Samples

If you're an indecisive sniffer, or if you just want to wear perfumes for a while before buying them, samples are your best friend. A sample allows you to live with a scent for a while, and I think that's the only way to go. Unfortunately, though, samples are not always easy to come by — but if you go to the right places, you'll have the opportunity to try before you buy, as they say. Keep in mind, though, that this isn't a free-for-all; it's best to ask for samples of only the scents that interest you, and even then, I don't ask for more than two at a time.

Without a doubt, the best places to find a sample are Sephora and Nordstrom. Both are happy to provide carded samples if they're available. And if they're not, a clerk will decant a perfume into a small vial for you. This is how I was able to explore YSL Elle for a week before figuring out that I didn't love it. And it's also why I'll be going back to Sephora to buy Narciso Rodriguez for Her.

For more of my findings,

After Sephora and Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's was the next friendliest. When I asked for a vial of Agent Provocateur, a clerk gladly produced one and showed me other scents I might like. Sadly, I was unable to get any samples at Macy's, even after a few visits. Neiman Marcus provided a couple of samples, as did Saks. Unfortunately, I don't live near a Sears or JC Penney, so perhaps some of you can weigh in on whether you can obtain a sample there. (By the way, the image used here is of If, which I tried yesterday. It wasn't for me, but — hey, if you're interested — Apothia offers samples through the mail for $5.)

Join The Conversation
puredesidiva puredesidiva 8 years
I have had to complaint to the the manageer of cosmetics in Macy's stores and they have usually made accomadations to get the samples when misrepresented. Ulta is also a great place to get fragrance samples and other products. They usually say if we have them we will gladly give them to you and if we don't we can't
puredesidiva puredesidiva 8 years
Macy's is the worst department store to get samples and always misrepresent what is in their advertisements and when you bring the advertisement to the store they deny even putting out the ad and make up any excuse not to give you a sample.
kitson1 kitson1 9 years
I actually was threatened with legal action when I was a Clinique counter manager, because we had about 25 boxes of the same 3 discontinued perfume samples about to be thrown in the trash--seriously, packed up and headed for the dumpster. A woman I know asked me what they were doing and I told her, and she asked if she could have some. I gave her a bagful since no one else was taking them and there were thousands of samples left. Apparently store trash is store property and even samples, which have ZERO retail value, cannot be given out. Which is total bullshiz!!!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
This is why I love Sephora.
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
Love free samples. One reason I love ordering from Sephora. I have about 11 fragrance samples in my perfume chest right now. I also have the Narciso Rodriguez For Her sample and love it; it is feminine however not too floral. The wo samples I really love right now are: Kenzo Amour and Cartier Delices.
emalove emalove 9 years
I love the free samples from Sephora...whenever I order from them, I almost always pick fragrances for my three samples.
colormesticky colormesticky 9 years
allenorton- thanks!
mischo-beauty mischo-beauty 9 years
Sephora is the best w/ samples!
allenorton allenorton 9 years
I worked as a vendor for Clarins Fragrance for a while (they own Thierry Mugler among others) so I know the ups and downs of fragrance samplings. Most people don't know this, but the fragrance salespeople that work at major department stores actually work for the company that owns the fragrances, NOT the department store. If they work for the dept. store, they are usually wearing a Macy's or Dillard's nametag and generally work the register, although they do help with sales on occasion. Anyway, the availability of these samples is based on how many samples are given to the vendors, and often times I was running low (or even out--yikes!) and I would only give samples to those who actually said they were planning on purchasing a fragrance. It was sort of a deal-closer. But, if I did have enough in stock, I would gladly hand them out to anyone who asked for them. However, from my experience, a lot of vendors can be rather witchy (especially when it comes to samples) so it can be difficult to get any sort of help unless you're waving your credit card in their faces. It sucks, but selling fragrances can get pretty competitive and some people just don't know when to lose the 'tude. Your best bet might be to send a male friend over to that Prada counter and have him get some samples for you. Honestly, I only buy fragrances that I've had a chance to try for a week or two and I wish it weren't nearly impossible to do so. Happy shopping! :)
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Nords is the best!
ModernGraceKelly ModernGraceKelly 9 years
I agree, Sephora is the best option. I have gotten some at Macy's, but they always claim "oh we only give those out when it's a new perfume". I don't really like SA's in beauty that much. I just want to say hand it over, you don't actually own this store. lol Belk gives out alot of samples, but Sears and Jc penney perfumes are not behind the counter. You just walk up and get your perfumes.
LaReveuse LaReveuse 9 years
A good excuse (for me it's true, so it always works) is to say you have allergies to "Fragrance Mix". I tested positive for this at the dermatologist, but it's very vague, so I have to test things before buying. (I'm also allergic to cinnamon, patchouli and rose, which are in a lot of fragrances and they don't always say what is in them.) Salespeople are pretty sympathetic, but they often only have 3 or 4 in stock, so don't get too greedy.
lemuse20 lemuse20 9 years
I got samples at Dillards and didn't even ask for them! Me and my mom were smelling the perfumes, and like always one of the girls zoned in on us and asked if we needed help, we just smiled and said we were just havin fun with the scents and she asked us if we wanted some samples. It was like, "Samples, what do you think we'd say no??? YES!" That was really odd though, because I remember asking for a sample of L.A.M.B. one time and the lady was acting like it was a big deal.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
I think the JCPenneys around me (I'm in the south USA) have beauty counters, as well as Dillards, another department store we've got. I'm not sure about Sears. I don't know if my experiences with Dillards and JCP were typical or not, but I've bought my man cologne at each one, and at JCP I didn't get any samples, but I didn't ask for them, either. At Dillards, I bought a cologne set, and asked the saleslady if she had any samples of other fragrances that might be in the same vein (my man loves cologne, and has more of it than I have perfume). She got kind of snotty with me and- again- I didn't get any samples. This is why I only buy online now- I don't have to deal with salespeople, and depending on the site, I can get some nice samples. And I love samples, I truly do!
Beauty Beauty 9 years
I think you're right about Sears, Brittanyk. I haven't been to JCP in a long time, but I remember the stores having beauty counters when I was a kid. Wonder if that has changed now that some stores have mini-Sephoras...
brittanyk brittanyk 9 years
I don't think Sears of JcPenney have beauty counters. I'm not positive about that, but the only time I've seen beauty products in the ones near me is during Christmas when they sell the boxed gift sets of fragrances.
em1282 em1282 9 years
I'm really not surprised about Macy's not giving out samples. (They should learn to not be so stingy here in Chicago, especially since sales are down since they took over Marshall Field's). Every time I've bought a fragrance from there, they don't offer any samples at all, even if you buy a big fragrance set (unlike Nordstrom's, where you seriously can walk away with a dozen samples, depending on the generosity of the SA who helps you :)).
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