The death of Eternity for Men and the rise of the Annoying SA

Colorblind SA lamenting for her inability to properly distinguish the properties of perfumes she has to sell

The other day I decided to visit my nearest shop of the biggest cosmetics chain in Greece. I wanted to buy Eternity for Men for a friend who loves it. What followed is a trip to insanity. According to the chain’s latest death wish/policy most testers are kept locked and I have to ask for a SA to give me access to the bottle. This very eager, tall, blond SA came to my assistance, with her look screaming “I sell cosmetics”. She would have been pretty if it weren’t for an uncanny resemblance to ET due to the shape of her head and her pitch black, heavy, smoky eyes makeup accentuating the resemblance. This is the dialogue that followed:

SA: How can I help you?
Me: I would like to spray Eternity for Men on one arm and Eternity for Men Aqua on the other, please.
SA (reproaching look): You want us to perfume you….. We only spray bugs……!
Me (already on the edge of my tolerance threshold and showing it): You can spray whoever you want…….
SA (having caught the message and spraying Eternity for Men): This is very nice, fresh
Me: (Don’t say! After all it’s been around since 1990!!!!)
SA (spraying Eternity for Men Aqua): and this is fresher. You can tell by the colour of the bottle!!!!!

If it wasn’t for the shock of smelling the current reformulation of Eternity there is no telling how I would have reacted to the annoying , stupid, derogatory, ignorant tone of the poor girl’s approach to selling perfume and general lack of etiquette.  Although Eternity is often looked upon as a generic, bad taste fragrance for teenagers I love it. It was revolutionary in concept and, more importantly, it managed to revolutionize the tastes of men on perfume. A “masculine” that was sweet, floral, clean but without fearing to make a statement. Fragrantica classifies it as an aromatic fougere and I guess this is what it technically was but it never came through as one. It was less edgy, the lavender note was sweet, the citrus was round and everything smelled like an abstract flower. The current version is undoubtedly a fougere: dry, astringent, abrasive and has that “Oh so familiar” grey, wooly, synthetic musk note apparent right from the topnotes.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy it. I announced my friend the death of an American Classic and gave him my condolences. The way the market is going colour coding of the bottles will be the most useful tool to help make perfume decisions and the Annoying, Ignorant SA will excel at selling characterless perfumes in fast-smell chains to people too hurried to stop and smell the few decent perfumes that are still around, like Loewe 7, L’Agent, Hommage and all the classics that are wilting away in waves of reformulation.

Photo from piesonearth


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. Thanks for sharing this experience (memory!), Christos. It is partly because of those sorts of encounters that I find myself doing most of my shopping online these days. The other reason is the incredible convenience of “running errands” while sitting on the sofa drinking coffee in my pajamas. My UPS guy is so nice and friendly that he even hefts heavy packages up the stairs!

    I’d like to offer another take on the sorts of sorry souls of which your SA is representative: they are a bit like librarians in libraries facing the imminent demise of the physical book. Actually, they are worse because they have no particular education or expertise. They are often assigned to departments and do their best to act like the sorts of people who know something about the products beyond what they know from being consumers (which is really what they are, in many cases…). This is, I think, where the pseudo-snobbishness comes from. They are trying to cover up for the reality: that they don’t know any more than most of their customers.

    Basically, the brick-and-mortar retail profession is doomed, and the frustration of SAs comes through in nearly every encounter. So my general attitude is: forgive and forget. These people are paid nearly nothing, so what can we realistically expect from them?

    • You are so right but I do not expect anything more from an SA than being polite and listen. I do not expect them to be experts in perfume, only experts in sales and being polite and considerate is part of this. I guess the fact that they see a man in jeans in a shop like this gives them the notion that they know more than him (which is me in this case) or that they can make him (me again!) think that they do. I have always thought that admitting one’s shortcomings is the best way to rise above expectations. Another fact ruining SA personality is sales seminars which are great and very effective if you are selling to idiots. As a large proportion of the population are not idiots sales seminars are totally destructive!!!

      I guess I am still mad! (-:

      • Point well taken: you probably have much worse encounters, being housed as you are in a man’s body. (-; Let’s see which is worse: having everyone treat you like an idiot about everything but shopping or…? (little joke there…)

        No, in all seriousness: I hear you. Simple politeness would seem to be de rigueur in such a profession, but these people are just people, at the end of the day, with all of their shortcomings and foibles and insecurities. I know that when I enter a large department store and go to any perfume counter, my experience will be more or less like yours (probably not quite as bad, since I’m a woman, so fellow women assume that I must know something about cosmetics, if nothing else (-;).

        As you also mentioned, this obnoxious policy of hiding the testers–on top of the fact that samples are available nearly nowhere anymore–is just hastening the demise of these former capitalist institutions. I buy samples online, I buy bottles online, and I swap with friends. Through these means, I am basically able to satisfy my curiosity about nearly any perfume from the comfort of my own home.

        I do not mean to diminish your anger. You are right, but nothing that we do is going to change them, so I just shop online. The one exception is Sephora, where I go now and then to try brand new mainstream/designer launches. That store is one of the few mass market venues with well-trained SAs. (I mean in etiquette, not necessarily perfume…)

        Thanks again for your post–as always it was a pleasure to read, although the reformulation is a cause for mourning….

        • Your point on the general shortcomings of not being a man in jeans is taken and I agree with you: unfortunately we live through our preconceptions.

          Shopping online is great. It allows access to everything there is out there and at great prices. Provided you are not a man or a woman living in Greece. Last year I was working on a project involving essential oils and I couldn’t believe the prices and range available in the US. In Europe and Greece in particular buying online is not as practical nor as cheap. And had I bought that bottle of Eternity online I would be hitting my head against my laptop when I would smell the current version. And on a more personal level, I just love the tactility of entering a shop touching the bottle and talking to real, polite people.

  2. Jaakiem

    Are you sure that Eternity for men is reformulated? Maybe SA offered something like Eternity summer?

    • Eternity Summer was not available. The reformulation I am complaining about could have happened years ago, I haven’t worn Eternity for a long time. However I have a mini from around 2000 that smells exactly as I remember it and I was smell the new and the old side by side

  3. So true: here I am in a place where the national pastime is…drum roll…shopping! E-tailers go to unbelievable ends to secure our wallet share. Constant promos, permanent free shipping, samples and gifts thrown in, you name it! Maybe it’s a glass half empty, though, since, as you note, this system is not so conducive to fulfilling encounters with real people… It’s all quite thin and, well, virtual.

    • And exactly because the whole retail system is so thin and virtual people try to find reviews and opinions on perfumes online. And this is where our thin and virtual work comes into play, writing and commenting on the most elusive and hard to communicate sense of them all, trying to fill the gap between actually smelling a perfume and deciding to buy it.

      Extremely stimulating remarks as always sherapop!

  4. I’m sorry you had an unpleasant experience but hopefully you got it off your chest by writing it down.

    I wish companies were required to disclose the year of the formulation of perfume each re-issue. Similar to wine vintage.

    • As much as I hate to admit succumbing to petty feelings I did enjoy writing this and finding the right illustration for it.

      In fact a petition has already started about enforcing the display of a formulation number on the bottles of perfume. I have written a post about it linking to the petition which is in french but I tried to translate it as best as I could. The title of the post is “A cause worth signing for”. The idea of Dior labeling the current version of Dior Homme with the year of its formulation release is a step to the right direction. I think however we have to understand that reformulation is innevitable, especially where natural ingredients are involved: at some point the lot of an ingredient is exhausted and the new lot will never be exactly the same. There is nothing shameful about this. We just need some honesty.

      • I remember reading and “liking” that post.

        I’m not a purist, I understand that from time to time formulas have to change. But I think that a consumer has a right to know when a new bottle of her favorite perfume won’t smell the same. Those are our money (and our sanity!). I remember doubting myself in the past – before I knew about all those changes and tweaks.

  5. Το απέκτησα σχεδόν μόλις κυκλοφόρησε στην Ελλάδα, κάποια χρόνια πριν… Με είχε εντυπωσιάσει αυτή η σχεδόν μεταλλική αίσθηση φρεσκάδας που είχε αλλά δυστυχώς το άντεχα επάνω μου ελάχιστα (αντίθετα το obsession μου καθόταν καλύτερα). Προχθές περνωντας από ένα Χόντο, θυμήθηκα το άρθρο σου και μπήκα να το μυρίσω. Τρόμαξα να βρω κάποιες νότες ομοιότητας με αυτό που θυμάμαι, αηδίασα με αυτό που έφτανε τελικά σαν σύνολο στην μύτη μου και συμφώνησα αυτόματα μαζί σου για το “έγκλημα” που έχει γίνει. Οχι ότι ήταν ποτέ και κανένα αριστούργημα (κατά τη γνώμη μου πάντα) αλλά όπως και να το κάνουμε δεν επιτρέπεται να αντιμετωπίζεις έτσι τα “κλασσικά” σου. Αν το πρώτο ήταν έντονα “χημικό και τεχνητό”, αυτό είναι σίγουρα εξωγήινο!

    • Το Eternity ανήκει σ’αυτή την κατηγορία αρωμάτων που από την πρώτη φορά που τα μύριζες μπορούσες να το αναγνωρίζεις. Σπάνια πια κατηγορία. Αυτό και μόνο για εμένα το κάνει αριστούργημα, με την τεχνική και εμπορική έννοια του όρου βέβαια. Δεν θα με σθγκινήσει αλλά αν μιλάμε για εμπορικά αρώματα τότε τι περισσότερο να ζητήσει κανείς;

  6. Timothy

    I’m so happy that finally someone openly displays their frustration caused by the current (commercial) perfume-selling crowd. I’m sharing your pain for many years already now and I can’t help but eye rolling every time they say something ignorant (while they act like they know it all). Not too long ago, I had this incident in my nearest perfume shop where this blonde girl kept annoying me, asking me if she could help. Because the store was such a mess I asked her to smell Aqua Oriens by Van Cleef & Arpels (I wanted to smell the difference with the original Oriens). She looked at me like I was talking Chinese so I said ‘the one with the big turquoise flower on top’. After she heard that, she finally understood… Just to let you know that I feel your pain.

    And I share your opinion on Eternity for Men Aqua. Yet again they managed to turn a classic fragrance into a blended abomination. I never really liked the original Eternity for Men though (my boyfriend used to wear it but I talked him out of it), I found it too ‘normal’.

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