Fastlane: Shirley Thal

Shirley Thal, free-lance fragrance model

Every family has its unique holiday traditions. But there’s one tradition we all share: Trying to avoid those crazy perfume-spraying ladies at the department store. “Look, we don’t spray someone unless they ask us to spray them,” says Shirley Thal, free-lance fragrance model at Dillard’s and Nordstrom. “I’m trying to make a sale, not an enemy.”

Do people get mad at the mere sight of you?

Most people are actually very nice. Sure, some walk by with their hands up like “back off!” Or they just cover their face. I don’t know what they think I’m going to do.

They think you’re going to spray them like a skunk.

The first thing I do is ask someone if they’d like to smell my fragrance on a card or a ribbon. If they like it, then — and only then — will I ask them if they’d like a little spray on the wrist.

How many spritzing ladies are in the aisle at one time?

During the holidays, it’s very busy: 10 or 12 of us.

Is it a catfight? Is it like, “Back off my customer, girlfriend. I saw her wrist first.”

Absolutely. Women are very competitive. I can hold my own, though.

How do you know what scent is right for someone? Do you smell them?

No, I ask them what sorts of fragrances they like. I’m not a dog.

What’s hot this year?

Lovely, a new fragrance from Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s wonderful.

When a customer is mean or ignores you, do you want to give them a little spray when they walk by?

No, never.

Never?

Almost never.

What is the best part of your job?

I love it so much, it’s not work. I get to dress up and talk to people all day long.

Why did Chanel stop at No. 5? They couldn’t come up with a No. 6?

Chanel has other fra-grances, but No. 5 is classic — although they have reformulated it recently.

What’s your all-time favorite scent?

I’d have to go with Lovely, the fragrance I’m representing now.

Suck-up.

No, it’s true.

Suck-up.

Maybe, a little.

Do you have a message for the perfumaphobics this holiday season?

Lighten up, people. We do not attack.

Unless it’s another fragrance model in your area.

Well, that’s a different story.

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