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How to Spot A Fake Perfume or Cologne on eBay

I consider myself one of the least gullible people around. Last week, I purchased a counterfeit perfume on eBay. Read on for tips so you won't get fooled again.

$28 is what I paid for a 3.4 oz bottle of Vera Wang's Princess eau de toilette. I've been wearing the stuff since it came out in 2006. I've gone through 1-2 bottles a year, always paying full retail price of $55-$75, depending on the size of the bottle. By the way, that $28 "great deal" on eBay included free shipping. I was fully aware that there is a lot of counterfeit stuff on eBay, but perfume? It didn't even cross my mind, nor did the very true adage "if it's too good to be true, then you'll get what you pay for" put on alarm bells. Oops, my bad.

How to Spot a Fake Perfume or Cologne on eBay

How to Spot a Fake Perfume or Cologne on eBay

The eau de toilette was shipped out last week and I received it promptly. I opened the mailing box and pulled out a shrink wrapped box of my favorite perfume. I didn't open it at that point because I still had some left in an older bottle. I left the seller positive feedback, something to the effect of "wow, what a great deal; fast shipping!". Last night, I decided to open it. If I hadn't of sprayed the perfume, I would've had absolutely no idea it was counterfeit. I knew for certain that something was wrong when I sprayed some on my wrist. Here is what I noticed upon further inspection:

Bottle Differences

While the bottle was a fantastic reproduction (and I held it side to side to an authentic perfume bottle!), it had little striations through the glass.

The label on the bottom which says the city of origin, the size and some other information was identical, except spray was capitalized as Spray on the fake version and the little round sticker was off center.

The font was exactly the same on the bottle. Exactly. I'm not sure how the counterfeiters do that.

The spray mechanism on the fake had a gold hole where the perfume comes out, the real version had a white hole.

Scent Differences

The biggest tip off was the scent. It didn't smell right. It didn't "stick" on my skin. The color, which is usually a very light purple was a slightly darker purple.

Tips for Not Getting Ripped off When Buying Perfume Online

Is it too good to be true?

Unless someone is selling 1/2 a bottle, paying $28 should have been a major tip off.

Another red flag: does the seller sell lots of perfume?

In my case, the seller had 48 positive feedbacks from selling 30+ electronics and 5-6 boxed perfumes, 3 of which were Vera Wang Princess. For older sellers that get away with this, look at their feedback and really look - do they have retractions or does the seller respond to negative feedback with comments such as "this isn't fake; it got hot in the mail and that altered the scent, or "it must be older than I thought". Expensive perfume is not altered to the extent where you can't smell it or it doesn't linger on your skin. That is why it's expensive, it's high quality.

One more tip: While I definitely advise against purchasing any perfume or cologne on eBay, if you absolutely must, at least purchase a kind that you are familiar with. Since I've been wearing this sent for 4-5 years, the real scent is forever imprinted in my "scent" memory and I was easily able to tell it was fake, without even examining the box and bottle. Just remember - caveat emptor (buyer beware!) 

What to Do If You've Been Had

First off, never leave feedback until you smell and use the perfume.

Take note:

  • Is the perfume color right?
  • Is the scent correct?
  • Does it stick on your skin like the original?
  • Is the box different?
  • Labels crooked? Different fonts?
  • Is the bottle a slightly different shape or does it feel lighter?
  • Is the hardware and atomizer different quality?
  • Do you get a headache from the smell?
  • If something is off, sorry, but you've been had!

Now, what to do? Don't leave negative feedback...yet. Wait until you get your money back.

Contact the seller, let them know that you know for certain it is a fake. Be assertive. I told my seller that I've been wearing this perfume for years and knew it was a fake. I demanded a refund. I was lucky - I had already given positive feedback, but I did let him know that he committed mail fraud by mailing a counterfeit through the U.S. Postal Service and that I could easily contact their investigations unit. (They probably wouldn't have done anything on such a small scale, but be assertive!) eBay might not do a lot, but USPS might investigate and you can always dispute via PayPal. My seller promptly answered back this morning saying he had stopped selling perfume after realizing it was fake (in his defense, he hadn't sold or listed any since I purchased mine). He said he'd never sell it again and he issued me a full refund.

You'll probably get a different response, such as "the heat altered the smell", or "I had no idea this was a fake". If they've been selling hundreds, they know. They might offer to send you another, please just get your money back, they're not going to send you a real one. My seller? I think he really did just catch on so I'll give him a break. I got my money back and learned my lesson. Somehow, when I'm forking over $75 later today at Macy's perfume counter, I won't feel so guilty; I'm getting the real thing.

Video: The Dangers of Fake Perfume

Comments On How to Spot a Fake Perfume on eBay

scentbro on December 03, 2011:

Awesome Hub, great tips on avoiding bogus colognes and perfumes, there are so many people online waiting to take your money.

I would suggest a couple of other reasons your new scent may not smell like the frag you remember. One reason I’ve seen over the past couple of years is the fragrance has been reformulated by the fragrance house meaning they’ve changed or altered the materials used to make up a perfume. This could be because the scent component is now rare or just too expensive. Enter the synthetics.

As an example, I sold a lady a new bottle of Chanel Coco Mademoiselle to replace a bottle she had for a couple of years. A few days later she called to tell me I sold her a fake. I know supplier is legit so I thought it was either the stuff in her original bottle slowly changed over the time she had it or the way it was made changed.

Like any decent seller would do, I worked with her to prove my stuff was legit, we went to the mall with the promise that if my bottle didn’t match what was in the store I would lay prostate on the floor in the middle of the mall, kiss her feet and give double her money back. My pride was spared, the testers matched what I had sold her.

Sorry for this long winded comment. Keep up the great Hubs!

princess on November 08, 2010:

Wow, I bought a bottle of Versace Bright Crystal that was used a couple of times. The bottle is heavy and immpecably beautiful, but after spraying a few times I am getting nothing but a warm sensation where I had sprayed. Ughh I tried to smell it through the bottle and really nothing, thinking it was in my head I smelled my other bottles of parfum and its sad...but maybe the seller got one that was fake and passed along to me? I spent way more than thirty dollars. ):

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on July 20, 2010:

I had a similar experience but with a seller on Amazon. I bought a bottle of Nina and as soon as it arrived you could see it was not the real thing. The bottle was a different colour and size and the colour of the contents were different.

I never bothered sending it back as I live in France and the product had been shipped from America and it would have worked far too expensive to do that -it wasn't worth the hassle.

advisor4qb from On New Footing on July 13, 2010:

Wow! Interesting and informative hub!

girly_girl09 (author) from United States on July 13, 2010:

very true! I do love eBay for vintage ephemera that I use for some art projects, but I definitely will never buy perfume on eBay!

sagebrush_mama from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound! on July 13, 2010:

Great hub...I've had mostly good experiences with eBay, but right now, am waiting for a refund on a Bluetooth that didn't work...should have known when I went for the lowest price. Lessons learned.