Smells like a big mistake

Chloe Quinn

I could not waste time dabbling in petty small talk with salespeople paid on commission; crunched for time, I was in no mood to be distracted from my mission: to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Knowing better than to fall into the trap of money-grubbing people, I continued forward pretending not to notice the two loitering salespeople glaring at me with hungry expressions, on opposite sides of Nordstrom.

The salespeople eyed me like I was a long lost prize, with the yearning look of a predator ready to attack its prey. They acted as if intently consumed with the task of organizing their counters of goods, but every now and then, they’d steal a glance at me tracking my every move throughout the store.

I made an effort to appear uninterested in their products, strolling through the clothing racks and appearing enamored with an ugly pleather jacket here and a downright unattractive Hawaiian shirt there, but my efforts did not deter the salespeople from their mission: to lure me into purchasing something I didn’t even want. To make me a sucker.

The man from the purse section with shiny, slicked back hair gave me a cheesy smile displaying his overly bleached teeth on his excessively tanned face. Able to sense my irritation of in-your-face salespeople beneath my shield of indifference, he started to walk towards me, the golden chains around his neck and hairy wrists clinking to the rhythm of his steps.

Anxiously, I glanced to the right in hopes of locating an escape route, but instead was greeted by the short, stocky perfume saleswoman waddling towards me. I was trapped and left with only two options: the creepy greaser who sold purses, or the perfume lady faintly resembling a penguin who was waving reeking scent samples in my face.

She grabbed my arm with all the power of a hardened sales veteran and proceeded to drag me away from the salesman, a look of defeat on his orangish face, toward her counter of crystal bottles and scented lotions.

Ignoring my feeble excuses that I was in a hurry, she asked in a thick French accent what my mother’s “personal identity scent” was. Seeing the look of incomprehension on my face, she launched into a well-rehearsed sales pitch for twenty brands of perfume.

Spraying my face with the cough-inducing concoctions, she babbled thickly accented, incomprehensible spiels about the smokiness, citrusy elements, the sweet bases, the sensuality, the crisp top, powdery middle, and mellow bottom layers.

She was very insistent on “cleansing the palette” so I could “enjoy the full richness and flavor of the scents.” Following her strict regimen of “smell, absorb, and detox,” she’d shove a can of coffee beans under my nose with every perfume I tried in order to “refresh the nasal passages.”

After twenty spritzes I smelled like a stink bomb, but the French woman got her money and I bought the Versace.

It so happened that the Versace did not turn out to be my mother’s power scent, so I came back to Nordstrom the next week to return the perfume. As I walked up to the counter, Nordstrom bag in hand, the saleslady started ranting in French, saying something about my lack of taste for fine things and how ungrateful people like me made her want to quit. Glancing over my shoulder I saw the macho man from the purse counter seeming to laugh at her antics–a smile of victory on his baked face.