Thursday, August 18, 2011

Report - Car wreck at Avenida da marginal, Maputo..mp4

The LMC 202 entries: The scent of a man

I’d been looking at my shelf after my morning showers for a while, seeing my Davidoff - Cool Water Game perfume disappear slowly, spray by spray. This situation was anything but cool, my other perfume on my shelf was Giorgio Armani’s Armani Code, which I despised! Armani Code is a fragrance to be worn at night, it still has rave reviews and undoubtedly has gone done in history, but for me it is way too spicy, it’s so in your face that it constantly reminds me it’s there. I’ve had a 75 ml bottle for 3 years now, I doubt I’ve consumed even 20 ml. It has been my plan B for years, like the time when I went out at night with a bunch of shady characters I didn’t know, friends of friends of friends who bummed my ride all night. The following day was my friend with benefit’s birthday party, I was ready to go out all I needed was that magic touch, I opened my glove compartment and reached out for my Burberry perfume…nowhere to be reached. That wiped the smirk off my face, my Burberry was gone. It was no use trying to chase those random niggas that I drove around, I didn’t want them in my life anyways! Calling them would be exposing my number, I just imagined them on the other end, “Oh I don’t know about your perfume errr… but this is your number right? I’ll save it and we can chill again next weekend”. No thanks. So I didn’t bother with bygones, but I had an emergency. I ran back to my room and the Armani Code was there looking at me, I hesitated for a bit, “arghh … oh f*** it!”. Later that night the girl said I smelt sensual, mystical, yes it paid off, it usually does but I couldn’t stand it.

It was winter in South Africa, a time when your scent stuck better to the skin. So on a Saturday I left Summerstrand for Walmer park mall, buying a perfume was on top of my priority list. I walked in the mall and took a detour to the cinema, Captain America: The first Avenger was showing. I am a big fan of comic books based movies and I’m not the type that needs a date to watch a movie, so I bought a ticket for the 2:30pm session. In the half hour before the movie, I walked around the mall, bought a beanie, a magazine. Then I walked into Edgars. The perfume section in all these department stores is always seductive, bright yet comfortable lighting, a uniquely designed teaser bottle next to its perfume box behind glass, iconic images of the respective celebrity endorsers. So a clerk came up to me, “Can I help?”
-“I saw la nuit de l’homme in a GQ magazine, it just caught my eye”
-“You can try it”
She sprayed it on a testing strip, it was OK, just OK. Looking at Vincent Cassel’s pause in the ad you’d think this perfume is out of this world, it is night time, he wears an all black suit, black shirt, black tie, he is completely in command. Sadly the smell isn’t.
-“Nah there was too much hype about this one, either way I’m looking for something fresher”
-“How about the earlier version, L’Homme?”, she sprayed it on my other wrist
I checked the time and it was 2:25pm, I had to make a decision, “That’s much better, I’ll take it!”
- “It costs R670”
- “I’ll take it!”, did I stutter??
-“OK, which size would you like? There’s the 60 ml and 100ml”
-“I’ll take the 60 ml, the other ones would last forever, I like changing fragrances”

By then I was checking the time frantically, and I still had to stand in line for the purchase. By the time I finished the purchase the movie had started. I brisk walked to the cinema at 2:35pm. When I sat down to watch Captain America there was something wrong. It wasn’t the geeky 3D glasses I had on, it wasn’t the fact that Chris Evans who plays Captain America had already played the Human Torch (a character from the same universe) in the Fantastic 4 movies nor was it the Red Skull speaking English to other Germans in a horrible German accent, it was the fragrance of L’Homme emanating from my wrist. There was something bitter about the smell, kind of like overriped bananas… placed on a soggy wet wooden surface. I shook it off, after the movie I went home. At home I opened the plastic seal, removed the bottle from the box, admiring it’s aesthetic shape, it’s reflective cap, I couldn’t have been wrong. I sprayed it on my wrist. It is a daytime perfume, so it is fresher than say, the Armani Code, but it is so bitter!! I did some school work for about an hour then I brought my wrist back to my face, awful, there is something raw about it, it’s the type of smell Wolverine would have on. I surfed the web for some reviews. What I was experiencing is called purchase dissonance in the communication world, I found the product’s flaws yet I looked for stuff that reinforced my purchase decision. These were some of the ways L’Homme was promoted:

- “A purist’s classic scent, L’Homme is the one you wear for those introspective days when the allure of something greater keeps stealing your thoughts away. This is the scent of a successful man. It is easily worn with a suit or those moments when a suit will be too much, but you need to dress up a pair of wool slacks and zip-neck sweater over an oxford shirt for and afternoon stroll through the streets.”

-“Ysl l’Homme the epitome of Ysl mystic and heritage with woody undertones and a fresh first impression of citrus, followed by a spicy top note that lasts throughout the day” - (

What the hell were top notes? I asked myself. I dug a little more. So I found out that in perfumery there is a pyramid of smells where groups of smells can be sensed with respect to the time after the application of a perfume. This is due to the evaporation. The top notes are smelt immediately upon application and evaporate quickly. The middle notes compose the smell that remains when top notes dissipate, it is the heart of perfume and it is more mellow in relation to striking top notes. The base notes are heavy molecules that evaporate slowly, it is what remains after hours. In short, the teaser smell that you fall for in the shop is made of volatile top notes designed to give you a lasting first impression. It is a marketing scheme, that initial impression is so far removed from the actual personality of the perfume. Naturally the endorsers paint a pleasant picture of all perfumes, in L’Homme’s case with words such as “mystic” and “successful”. On the other hand, there were also negative reviews from disappointed buyers:

-“Perfumery is dead! Once the avant garde of perfumery, Yves Saint Laurent has run out of ideas, this is such generic and recycled fragrance, ginger top notes, spicy and wooden middle notes and forgettable base notes. What a disappointment”

-“Awful, the best fragrances died with the old man”

I second these negative reviews. Wearing the L’Homme felt like I’d given one of those disappointing performances in the movies where people boo and throw tomatoes and bananas on stage, and in this specific case a load of ginger. I even saw myself slip on a banana peel and hit the stage with a large thud to be laughed and pointed at. Holly s***! Exchanging L’Homme was the first thing I set out to do the following Monday. Once back at Edgars I spoke to the sisi at the counter, she took a look at the wrinkled plastic seal and just let out a, “Yu!”. Dubious. She took it to her superior and I could see his head shaking from across. I walked in his direction to confront him.
-“Are you the customer?”
This man that looked a lot like Clark Kent.
-“Yes I am”, I said
-“Unfortunately we can’t except an exchange as the seal has been opened, it is in our terms and conditions at the back of the receipt”
-“But everything else is intact, the receipt, the box, the perfume, this was bought two days ago”
-“Yes but you’ve opened the cellophane, it is our guarantee to customers that the product is brand new, we can’t convince a customer if the product is not in its original package”
-“Original package? this is a piece of plastic with a price tag!”
-“That is our policy”
-“The price tag is right here, the plastic wrapping is just wrinkled but I’m sure you can replace it”
-“Unfortunately we can’t do that”
I thought I’d screwed myself. He was about to turn away when I said, “Then what should I do?”
-“You can give it to someone as a gift”, he shrugged.
-“(sneering) I bought this for myself”

This dork was not going to take me anywhere, I charged towards the perfume section. There was an older woman there, I explained the situation saying that I understood the T’s and C’s and in all honestly, “I made an honest mistake, I was in a rush”
She kindly pointed to management, she was surprised when I said I was from Mozambique, she thought I was British, usually people in South Africa think I’m from the US. Anyways the manager was a tall 40-something year old brunette. I greeted her politely and explained myself.
-“I was in a rush and I have to commend Yves Saint Laurent for their convincing ads. But this perfume is just not there”, I said
-“We don’t return or exchange used perfumes, it wouldn’t be fair on our customers”, she said
-“It wouldn’t be fair on your potential customers but what about the existing unsatisfied customers?”
PR mode activated.
-“We have exchanged perfumes only twice before but with everything down to the plastic seal intact”
-“But to the naked eye that is just a piece of plastic, everything else is intact”
-“We’ve had cases where people have returned perfumes and replaced the content with cheap imitations”
-“(laughing) I can assure you I didn’t do that, you can try it out”
-“I’m not saying you did that but I’m sure you understand”
-“And besides I haven’t used this perfume”, I lied looking at her straight in the eyes.
She observed the contents
-“I had a teaser spray and I bought it on the spot because I was in a rush, but the smell went from bad to worse and at home I opened the perfume to smell the cap and it smelt just as bad”
-“How bad?’’, she asked.
I smiled, “Like root beer”.
She laughed, I had the upper hand.
-“I’m a student…” I said pointing at my NMMU bag, “I’m athletic and this perfume just does not complement my lifestyle”, I said with smile on my face and determinant eye contact. The ball was in her court.
-“I’ll let you exchange this, take both perfumes to Jenine lady over there”, then she addressed the lady, “Jenine, he’s going to exchange a perfume then he’ll come to you”
-“Thank you, this will not happen again”
-“Now you know”

We exchanged a smile and I took off to the perfume area. A pretty clerk assisted me, I told her I wanted something casual, it was a toss between the Cool Water by Davidoff, CH by Carolina Herrena and Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani. These perfumes form the evoked set of alternatives that I should have had before my first purchase I shortlisted these simply because those were the ones I’d seen in men’s magazines. I’d worn the Cool Water before, it was a breath of fresh air, exactly what I wanted, casual, cool and plain fresh. It was exactly what I needed but not what I wanted. The CH’s top notes are bergamot and grapefruit which I found to be too sweet. I then tried on the Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani, the top notes of rosemary and jasmine tinkled my olfactory. It was very pleasant but I’d leant not to judge a book by its cover, so I took a stroll around for a few minutes to allow the middle notes to settle. While I waited I checked out a few reviews from the web on my phone:

-“CH men, someone had put some time and thought into the thing. A big block of glass, half of which is covered in embossed leather. CHCHCHCHCHCHCH. It feels great running under your fingers. A metal CH pendant has been attached to a deep red grosgrain ribbon and knocks against the leather like a little drum...CH smells like damp earth and flowers, with some spice and stewed fruits thrown in. The notes are listed as mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit peel, saffron, nutmeg, jasmine, violet, wood, ambergris, vanilla, moss, burnt sugar and leather” - (

The smell didn’t live up to the impressive bottle, it was still too sweet to me 10 minutes in. Looking the comments for the Acqua Di Gio:

-“Acqua Di Gio - Giorgio Armani. This is one fragrance that never seems to go off the charts. Somehow this scent has managed to traipse the fine line between woody scents and marine notes which makes for a Mediterranean feel that is exhilarating to say the least. The earthiness of the perfume makes it one of the best perfumes for men.” -(

Some mixed reviews said:

- “ Acqua di gio is like a pair of Converse All stars, you have them, you best friend has them, your neighbour too but it is still trendy. A classic summer fragrance. You will not stand out of the crowd. It is casual and safe”

“…Middle notes - Persimmon fruits, marine notes. Base notes - Cedar, Patchouli, White musk, rock rose”

15 minutes later Acqua di Gio’s smell was still so fresh, I was sold. R749, I paid a R79 difference for a 50 ml bottle, 10ml less than the L’Homme. Sure it was overpriced, I know guys that just wouldn’t bother buying this or any perfume, saying it is too expensive and it drains your natural smell. These guys shower, put on lotion and go out feeling fresh, not me. I reckon perfume accentuates your swagger, your lifestyle. I used to get so many complements from girls thanks to the Davidoff, but that wasn’t the reason I once wore it, whether I’m in the pool, in the tennis court, paddling a bicycle or on a yoga matt, I exercise regularly and the Davidoff made me smell how I should fresh off a workout, it was a perfect match. Picture Daniel Craig as James Bond coming out of the sea in Casino Royale, he eyes a sexy lady and she checks him out, you know he smells salty from the water but it doesn’t register, to you he smells fresh like lavender, his toned body in that scene would make a perfect ad for any fresh eau de toilette. You are sold and he still looks good…and he feels like a million bucks. That is the feeling I have after exercising and this fragrance puts a scent to it. It is not quite vanity; it goes with a lifestyle I call borderline metrosexuality.

Anyways, I went back to Clark Kent’s area and had one of his colleagues call on the walkie-talkie. I saw him coming from across the store and waited for him to come to me.
-“Just for the record what is this piece of plastic called?”, I asked.
-“It’s called cellophane”
-“And this is what contains some sort of an encryption that guarantees the product’s originality, right?”
-“No, actually the encryption is on the barcode in the box”
So they give the piece of plastic wrapping a fancy name, attach a value to it but in reality it is absolutely worthless. It’s just another mousetrap to make it hard for the customer to return/exchange the good. F****** bureaucrats.
-“Well, I managed to exchange it”, I had to gloat.
- “yeah…cheers”
I left with a smirk on my face. I won, I didn’t care if it was dated or overpriced, what mattered to me was getting the right fragrance. At the end of the day did it Acqua di Gio make me smell fresh? Hell yeah.


Edgar Munguambe 18/08/11