What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Friday, October 30, 2015


I have two perfume websites, the older one with a local hosting company, iEasySite, and a newer one on Shopify. Both of these websites, as well as my orchid nursery website, have a built-in e-mail feature. However, checking three clunky e-mail programs multiple times a day would be unnecessarily labor-intensive, so I have all mail from these addresses forwarded to a single gmail account that works quite efficiently, and from which I conduct all of my business.

My local website host leaves me alone, so my only communication with them happens when I contact them because of a problem. They are always very responsive, but then go back to their hands-off management strategy, which is how I prefer it.

Shopify, on the other hand, regularly sends me unsolicited e-mail “newsletters” with what they seem to think are helpful hints about how to run an online business. After reading a number of these, I can’t help concluding that Shopify caters to people who have absolutely no experience running a business, online or otherwise, who are simply trying to sell stuff as a hobby, who are running some sort of marginal business reselling other companies’ products, or who are trying to establish an online business so that they can quickly sell it to someone else. Most of them seem to deal in T-shirts.

Some of the hints may be slightly useful, especially for those with zero experience, but a lot of the others are what I consider really bad advice.  I’m just going to consider two of them here. On a regular basis Shopify warns people that if they use a gmail address they will be perceived as “unprofessional”. They justify this statement by saying that “anyone can get a gmail address”. What? Can’t anyone get a Shopify website? I don’t remember having to present any qualifications other than the ability to pay a few dollars a month. Anyone can do that. In fact, anyone can get a website or an e-mail account from any service that provides them, no questions asked.

Over the past few years, gmail has become the most convenient e-mail system to use, even for business, especially if one runs multiple branches of a business and wants to consolidate the output of multiple e-mail accounts into one. My prediction is that more and more businesses will forego the “support@yourname” e-mail systems and go to “yourname@gmail”. After all, it’s ultimately the quality of customer service and communication that counts toward a “professional” image, not the form of the e-mail address. However, in case my perception is wrong, which it could be, I’ll pose the question to you readers: Do you think using a gmail address makes a business look unprofessional?

The other day I received another “newsletter” from Shopify advising people not to ship items in standard brown cardboard boxes or plain bubble mailers because everyone wants a spectacular “unpackaging experience”. OK, I know how exciting it always is to receive a package in the mail, but is the excitement due to the appearance of the shipped package itself or the anticipation of what’s inside? Is it really better to wrap the outer package in bright colored, metallic, sequined materials, tie it with ribbon, and paste hearts and unicorn stickers all over it? Or make your package look like a velvet tuxedo with a satin collar and bow tie? Or ship an ugly t-shirt in a big metal canister that looks like an oil drum? Or ship a package of tea bags in a hand-carved wooden box sealed with sealing wax and sporting a calligraphy handwritten address?

I actually have had customers who ask me to be sure to ship their perfume in a plain brown box because they have received some of those gaudy, glittery special-interest packages in the mail and found them embarrassing. If nothing else, too much elaborate outer packaging is wasteful. The purpose of outer packaging is to protect whatever is inside from the bashing that inevitably occurs as the poor little package is tumbled and smashed with millions of others like it or bigger and heavier than it is. Can’t people wait to see the nice packaging on the inside after they’ve ripped away the outer protective layers? Again, I’ll post the question to you readers: Do you enjoy getting special external packaging even when the goods inside are wrapped and packaged nicely? Would you be willing to pay more for merchandise in order to cover the cost of fancy shipping boxes and mailers, which can get quite pricey?

I guess the bottom line of all this is that Shopify seems to think that everyone focuses entirely on factors that are completely superficial, and that no one cares about quality of goods or service as long as the delivery is flashy. A bad meal delivered to your doorstep by a musical drone with a pulsating laser light show, anyone? Maybe that’s what the world is coming to, but if so, it’s sad.

[Images are taken from various retailers' websites.]


  1. Hi Ellen,

    Did Shopify provide links where you could conveniently purchase glittery packaging? I imagine they are selling e-mail addresses too or are getting a cut from recommended service providers.

    G-mail works just fine and so does simple, efficient packaging. To me simplicity and honesty describe a true "professional". The word "unprofessional" has come to mean any number of things. These days if you speak your mind you are "unprofessional". If you expect people to be honest and straightforward in their dealings you are "unprofessional". If you concentrate on what is really important (the substance) and let the superficial take care of itself you are VERY "unprofessional". So whenever I hear or read the word "unprofessional" I understand it to mean manipulation by means of disapproval.


    1. Exactly - very well said. There is way too much manipulation by means of sneaky forms of disapproval. In any business there is a time and a place for paying attention to the superficial details, but in the end what is important is the substance. I've never been tempted to use Shopify's e-mail, but I imagine that Shopify would try to charge for it, or for "advanced" e-mail features to make it work smoothly. I know their "newsletters" are always pushing apps that they sell. They probably have some relationship with the purveyors of glittery packaging, too. Their MO seems to be to have people set up websites and then try to nickel and dime them to death with extras. It's too bad because I like the look of their basic website template.

  2. Nothing wrong with gmail. Everyone I know uses it and my sister-in-law who, runs HR for a huge corporation, says it is actually a huge turn-off in the business world to use other email addresses because Gmail is easy to remember, thus more professionally considerate.
    As for the packaging, I'm all for inexpensive and recycled rather than fancy. I feel like a company who is splurging on glittery bubble mailers is probably charging too much. Free shipping is the only shipping/packaging enticement that will make a positive impression on me. I'm far more excited about the gorgeous smellies in the box and whether they have shipped safely than what the package looks like.

    1. Liz K, thanks for your insights. I'm glad to hear your sister-in-law's comments about Gmail because that confirms what I thought.

      I try to recycle packaging as much as possible. I use recycled packing peanuts and recycle boxes whenever I can. I have mixed feelings about offering free shipping, because it would mean raising my prices to cover the cost and would not be fair to everyone given that shipping to some places is much more expensive than others. I've certainly considered it, though.

  3. Shopify is annoying and they send out newsletters at the drop of a hat. I certainly enjoy opening a box that has a nice interior: clean tissue paper and a sticker, but bubble wrap is fine. I just want my perfume and other articles to arrive in good condition. I think bubble wrap is standard. Anything else is an unexpected pleasure, but bubble wrap doesn't receive negative marks in my book.

    With Gmail, I believe you can use Gmail to host your webdomain email, if that makes sense. For example, I use Gmail to log in to and write from larkin@james-the-giant.com
    It's my boyfriend's website, and he set it up so that email uses Gmail, but uses his domain name. I think a lot of tech companies are doing it that way these days. I don't know how it's done though.

    1. Larkin, You're right that Shopify sends out a lot of newsletters, mostly full of plugs for the apps they want to sell.

      Thanks for the info on using Gmail to access another account that is not Gmail. I'll look into it because it might be useful.