April 06, 2020

Mail-order perfumes may not always make good scents

Northeast CONTACT received a letter from Page Brown, a member of our organization from Aroostook County.

She wrote:

“After looking through one of the many catalogs that arrive at our farmhouse, I found an advertisement from ‘Parisian Nights’, located in Pasadena, California. They specialize in perfumes that mimic famous brands on the market today. The ad stated that there would be twelve vials of perfume for only $24.95. The ad challenged the consumer that if they did not find the scent of each parallel to the named brand, a full refund would be given.

“Being a farmer’s wife, I work around farm animals in the barn. I thought it would be so nice to clean up and put on a pretty scent. I sent a check for $28.95 which included postage and handling. I anxiously awaited the perfume to arrive.

“Two weeks later to the day the package arrived. The perfumes were in a sealed plastic container. I could not believe my eyes. Three of the vials (and I use that word ‘vials’ loosely) were broken. The mixture of those perfumes made the barn smell like roses in comparison. The smell was absolutely horrible. The vials were tiny test tube shaped items with corks in the end.

“It came to mind that I would send the entire package to Northeast CONTACT, so you will know that I am not exaggerating, but upon second thought, I would not wish that odor on anyone.

“I wrote a letter to the CEO of Parisian Nights and told him about the broken vials and the offensive odor of the perfumes. I asked for a refund of $28.95 within the next 21 days and went on to say that, if I were sent $4 for postage, I would mail the package back to them. I want it out of my house as I felt it was even more offensive than my garbage can.

“I received no reply from Parisian Nights after waiting the full 21 days. Can Northeast CONTACT assist me in receiving a refund from this company? Perhaps I was too offensive in my characterization of their products?”

A CONTACT caseworker got right on the case. She wrote a letter to Parisian Nights explaining the problem of the broken vials of perfume and the fact that a full refund was offered in their advertising, if the consumer was not satisfied with the scent of each perfume. We stated that was, indeed, the case.

“We expect you to keep your word and send a refund of $28.95 to Page Brown within the next 18 days. If you do as requested, we will drop this matter.” The caseworker sent a copy of this new letter to Ms. Brown and requested she notify CONTACT should she hear from the company.

“We will be back in touch with you if and when we hear from Parisian Nights. If you or CONTACT has not heard from them, we will write a much stronger letter.”

The deadline came and went and neither party received a letter of acknowledgement. The caseworker then wrote a second letter to the company. We reiterated the problem by saying, “We are sorry you have chosen not to reply to our request in which we asked that you send a refund of $28.95 to northern Maine consumer Page Brown for the perfume mailed to her. At this time we are requesting that a refund in the amount of $28.95 be sent within the next 14 days with notification of the transaction to Northeast CONTACT. If you do as requested, Northeast CONTACT will drop the matter. However, if you do not respond as requested, then we will have no choice but to contact the California Attorney General, your County District Attorney, the Federal Trade Commission, local Postmaster, the Mayor of Pasadena, and the Chamber of Commerce, requesting that they examine your business practices, check into the possibility of consumer fraud, and work actively on behalf of Page Brown by contacting you directly.

“We will, upon request, send a vial of your perfume to each of the agencies we will have contacted. The choice is yours.”

Ten days later, Page Brown, called Northeast CONTACT to say that a refund in full arrived at the farm. There was no letter of explanation. However, Brown told us a brochure advertising the makeup line was included with the refund. Brown wrote, “Can you imagine Parisian Nights having the nerve to send this brochure? I have learned my lesson. I could have purchased a lovely scent at a local store for myself which would have cost the same amount of money. From now on, I will buy locally. Thank you for caring.”

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT for Better Business Inc., Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit organization. An individual annual membership is $25; business memberships start at $125. For consumer help and information, write: Consumer Forum, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329.

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