What were they stinking?

The other day the last of my holiday online shopping arrived from Amazon.com. I was thrilled that the box was delivered with time to spare before our scheduled Christmas Eve gift exchange, as it had been difficult to find one of the items enclosed.

I opened the box and was immediately hit with a good dose of a strong sweet cinnamon apple scent. My eyes, skin and nose reacted instantly to whatever was in the package. I know that a friend of mine, experiencing the same situation, would have reacted so strongly a hospital visit would have been necessary.

Over the years I have developed increasing strong allergic reactions to scents. When going to department stores I need to plan a route around the perfume counters and I always avoid candle or potpourri retailers. Magazines that arrive with scent samples pages must have the offending pages removed, and the publications aired out for several days, before I can read the issue. I'm even allergic to the scent of the ink used to print The New York Times - but still read it; scrubbing myself down afterwards as if I am going into a sterile surgical procedure. I have a limited selection of laundry detergents, bath soaps and deodorants I am able to use without reactions. When we have dinners, or parties, at our home we remind guests that these are "fragrance free" events. These are all situations I have learned to be prepared for in advance over time.

I was not prepared for an unexpected Glade scent promotional bookmark to be shipped in my package of purchases from Amazon. The congestion in my nose, constriction in my throat, headache and itchy skin were not in my plans for the day.

The little protective "condom" over the scent patch on the bookmark appeared to have been partially removed in shipping, causing the box to fill with the gaggy odor.

Far from being "A Little Holiday Joy," the advertising insert was a major annoyance and health issue. One the back side of the bookmark was the text "We'd love your opinion" - and both Glade and Amazon got mine.

I went to the Glade website and filled out the survey sharing my feelings. I also wrote to customer service at Amazon to explain the situation and suggest that they consider other methods of dealing with such promotional efforts in their packaging. From Amazon I got the following response:

I'm sorry for the problem you faced with the promotion we sent to you. I hope your health is fine now. Thank you for suggesting that we don't send promotions which may lead to customer health problems. Customer feedback like yours is very important in helping us continue to improve the selection and service we provide. I appreciate your thoughts and I will be sure to forward your suggestion to the concerned department. Rest assured that we won't be sending such type of promotions to you.

(To scan the promotion I had to handle it with gloves and be careful to not inhale while it was out in the open.)

What were Amazon and Glade thinking? I guess I'm surprised that a scented promotion would be sent in such a manner in the first place. It might have been wise to have it sealed in a secondary plastic bag - rather than loose in the box. I can't be the only person negatively impacted by the smelly promotion. Several days later my body is still a bit tweaky following a chain of allergic events started by the scented bookmark. Possible reactions like mine need to be a consideration when planning similar marketing or advertising pieces.

Update - 12.30.07: As Mark commented below there is always the danger of a "magazine ambush" in regards to scent. On Saturday the new Bon Appetit magazine arrived in my mailbox - with a scent page for Calvin Klein's Eternity fragrance. Huh? One of the most offensive colognes is always the first thing I think of when it comes to fine cooking. The magazine is banished from my reading materials until it airs out.

© 2007 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives


Jake said...

That is really crazy that they didn't do a better job protecting it. I can't imagine having to be the one packaging their stuff and smelling that scent all day. If one was that strong can you imagine a whole box of them?! Eek! Hopefully they are more careful in the future.

Hope your holiday was good and that the new year brings you much joy!

Mark said...

Unexpected ambushes from magazines are the worst. It's one thing when my wife's copy of Glamour arrives and she knows she has to rip out the pages before reading it...It's another when the fashion issue of the New Yorker arrives and is rife with perfume and cologne ads. The New Yorker. Where I read Gladwell and Packer and Hersh.

I also provide my parents a gift subscription to the New Yorker and my father's emphysemic. Imagine how it hits him. I've emailed the New Yorker before and expressed my frustration that a literary magazine would feature such content. They've assured me that we're on the list for copies sans stink.

Erica DeWolf said...

Wow. This is something really important that Amazon should take into consideration. As somebody who absolutely loves "smelly stuff," I would love to receive free samples such as what you received. I would have never thought it would cause such problems for those who have allergies. I hope you are feeling better...thanks for your post!