Monday, May 16, 2011

Scent Etiqutte

Remember Kramer and his beach perfume? Today's question came from a loyal reader with a perfume problem....

Dear Grace,
I've appreciated your wisdom on Gracious workouts, and hope you can help with some locker room etiquette.

I enjoy going to the gym in the morning, and I shower and get ready there because the gym is half way between my home and office. There are a number of regulars in the locker room who keep something of the same schedule as I do. One of them has a job that is more flexible about start times than mine is, and she sometimes gets into the locker room earlier than I do and sometimes later, so it's hard for me to plan to avoid her. I was taught that if someone more than touching distance from you can smell you, you are wearing too much scent, and if your scent lingers, you are definitely wearing too much. I also work in a fragrance-free workplace. This makes it a problem that several days a week, Ms. Flexible Schedule sprays on so much perfume that the entire locker room smells (which I know, because I've tried to get ready in far, unscented corners of the room but can't find any), and I smell of her perfume all day at work. Since I can't predict her schedule so I can plan to avoid her in the locker room, is there anything Gracious I can say to her to suggest she cut back on her scent use so that I can continue to comply with my workplace policy?

Thank you for any insights on this!

Grace Says:
This is a tough one. Because people are grooming in the locker room, there is a wide array of scented items that may rear their aromatic heads so it may be difficult to limit them. For example, hair spray, antibacterial gel, even some body lotions, may have strong scents and people could justifiably object to a ban on them. But, this is clearly a problem for you in the workplace so we must at least attempt a Gracious remedy. As I see it you have two options.

1. The indirect approach: Alert the gym's management. This keeps you out of the direct discussion while hopefully addressing the problem. They ought to have a policy that deals with this issue. Assuming the club management is willing to work with you, posted signs could indicate a policy that requires a cease and desist of perfume spray--or at least a restricted zone on one side of the locker room. I know you said that the aroma carries, but if Fragrant Frances were required to spritz in a far and remote corner and you could set up on the opposite end, it would certainly mitigate the amount of smell that clung to you.
2. The direct approach: When you see Fragrant Frances wielding her atomizer, say, "Sorry to bother you but would you mind waiting to spray that [until I'm out of here/when you get outside?]. I work in a fragrance-free office and I've been reprimanded for coming in to work with scent on me--which can only come from other people b/c I never wear perfume to work. I have to be really careful. I'm sure your perfume smells great, and I hate to inconvenience you, but I end up in trouble at work if the slightest aroma, even a pleasant one, migrates in with me."

Neither of these is fail safe, but definitely worth a shot. The truth is, Graces are aware that, like flirtation, plastic surgery, and designer logos, perfume should be subtle. It should not precede your entry nor linger after your exit from a room. But as we see every day, the world is full of Grunts.

Good luck!

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