I don’t need no stinkin’ magazines

That’s a literal statement, one that Conde Nast would do well to pay attention to.

A couple of days ago, a thick issue of Conde Nast Traveler arrived–one of my favorite travel magazines, but my wife (who suffers from asthma) doesn’t read it partly because the paper/ink combination is a bit odoriferous.

This issue was different: As I unwrapped the wholly pointless resource-wasting plastic bag (not quite wholly pointless: It let Conde Nast bundle in full-sheet ads for other magazines that I have no intention of subscribing to), I nearly gagged: The magazine stunk.

The culprits were predictable: Two full-page perfume ads, with those foldover strips that supposedly release just a hint of the wonderful expensive perfume if you open up the strip.

Except, of course, that what they really do is shove the stink down your throat immediately, making it a whole lot worse if you’re stupid enough to unfold the strip.

I ripped out the two pages and took them out to the garage (and then to recycling). The magazine will eventually return to its normal low level of paper/ink smell. If my wife had opened the magazine, she’d be running for her inhaler.

Bad enough that Macy’s, which we sometimes shop at (for lack of better alternatives, and neither of us will shop at stores that regularly advertise fur coats), has taken to including perfume inserts in their Sunday flyers. Usually, it means that even after removing the insert, I just have to take the whole flyer out of the house; my wife can’t cope with the flyer.

I suspect there are a lot more asthmatics than there used to be, thanks to the chemical saturation we all deal with. Relatively few people around here wear heavy perfumes, fortunately (in 25 cruises, we’ve had one, but just one, case in which my wife had to leave the table during dinner because she couldn’t breathe, thanks to a perfume-soaked woman at an adjacent table). We really don’t need to be assaulted by perfumes in the magazines we buy. If it happens again with Conde Nast Traveler I’ll cancel the magazine, much as I like many of its articles and features. It’s just not worth it.

I wonder about these scent-heavy magazines in public libraries; I assume that “women’s magazines” have a lot more of these stinky ads. Maybe ventilation is enough more aggressive in public libraries that it’s not an issue? (Yes, my wife uses the local public library; no, so far she’s never had a problem there.)

12 Responses to “I don’t need no stinkin’ magazines”

  1. I’m trying to recall how my public library used to deal with perfumy magazines…I suspect that a library assistant removed the pages.

    Interestingly, the magazines I purchased recently (all of the girly sort) didn’t seem to be very heavy on the perfume samples. I can’t recall there even being one in Elle, Vogue, or Marie Claire this month.

  2. Mark says:

    Amen Walt! I’m not asthmatic, although it runs in the family, but I find they still cause me severe problems due to my allergies. I also have to be careful out in public situations too. Maybe that’s one reason I watch most movies at home anymore.

  3. walt says:

    Mark–That’s what I didn’t add: I’m not asthmatic, but the stinkiest magazines give me trouble too. Amanda: Interesting–that perfume peddlers would stink up travel magazines rather than women’s magazines.

  4. Lynn says:

    Walt – At MFPOW in a smallish public library in South Texas I made a point of requesting that our magazine vendor (EBSCO) request no perfume pages for every magazine to which we subscribed. I also made this request for each newspaper. I was always accommodated and only once did I have to pay more for the subscription. I make the same request for personal subscriptions as well. Perhaps Conde Nast has a similar service? — Lynn

  5. Miss Molly says:

    You guys who are getting knocked out by your mail are all using fragrance-free laundry detergent, shampoo, and household cleaning products, right? That’s the thing I wish I had learned before the perfume/ink problems I had went south. I had to get rid of all my books; unless my mail is a bill it goes straight to the recycling bin.

    And stay out of car exhaust, too.

  6. walt says:

    Lynn: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll try that out.

    Miss Molly: Yes and no. It’s certainly a good point. There are different levels of sensitivity. My wife’s nowhere near the level you appear to suffer (fortunately). “Knocked out by our mail” considerably overstates the case; I’m talking about perfume strips, which are deliberate offenders–many times worse than normal paper/ink problems.

  7. Kelly G says:

    I can sympathize with your wife! More than once I’ve been sent gasping for an inhaler. Yes, I do use perfume – free soaps, detergents etc. However, those are for the itch more than the scent. I’m thankful that I am not as sensitive as some. I find I am ok reading magazines that one would expect to have those inserts at the doctor’s office. Some, I suppose order the no perfume versions. Some look like they’ve ripped out advertisements so I’m not so sure. Perhaps a few months after the stinky paper is ripped out the scent dies down?

    I was a serials manager once upon a time — but it was in an academic branch library that only housed technical & computer engineering, library science, and education materials. Thus, we did not have scent invasions. None-the-less our staff tore out all of those space wasting thick advertising pages.

    Of course, it doesn’t help the person doing the ripping out — nor is it usually worth the wait

  8. walt says:


    I don’t think it takes months; I think that the scent will die down in a day or two in a well-ventilated space.

    Whew. I have to admit that, as a library user, having ad pages ripped out in general would bother me a little, at least in some areas. I did a series of articles on the history of personal computing at ome point, and most of the raw material for that series came from ads in the bound copies of PC Magazine in a nearby small academic library. Always a set of tradeoffs.

  9. walt says:

    Lynn–May I just say thank you! I sent email to Conde Nast on Saturday or Sunday; I received a response today saying they’ll put me on the special “no scent strips” subscription list. Without your comment, I would never have guessed that magazines have special “no scent strips” subscription lists.

    I guess when you really need to know, it pays to ask a librarian.

    Thanks again.

  10. ekeby says:

    This months’ (December) Gourmet and the November 27 2006 New Yorker are now carrying perfume ads that stink. I have always requested perfume-free magazines from publishers. I called Conde Nast and was told that they no longer offer perfume-free magazines. Several years ago the New Yorker ran a perfume ad and the response from readers was so great they cancelled them. I can’t believe they’re doing it again. I predict a similar outcry.

  11. Nancy Michelli says:

    I have written/called Macy’s regarding their perfume inserts in Sunday ads. They basically told me “tough s__t! They care at all about whether it bothers a lot of people as long as their sales are high. I also was unsucessful with my local newspaper. They were only concerned with the money they receive from Macy’s to include their ads.

    For someone like me the smell never dissipates. You have to burn anything that’s contaminated in order to get rid of the smell. Then I would have a 55 gallon drum burning out in my driveway 24/7 like the homeless.

    If the idiots that use the nasty stuff can’t figure out that they are poisoning everyone they come near as well as themselves, than it ought to be regulated as strictly as cigarette smoke.

    I have never had any magazine offer scent free versions. And also have battled some companies due to their perfumed bills even though there are no inserts.

    There shouldn’t even be a question that no toxic chemicals should be sent to your private home without your consent.

  12. walt says:

    Nancy, I hear what you’re saying about Macy’s–and it’s getting worse, as the stripped ads are now bound into the inserts instead of being separate pieces. Most Sunday Macy’s inserts go directly into the recycling bin, so that my wife can handle the rest of the paper. Funny how none of the other stores feel the need to stink us out.

    And, yep, ekeby, the December CNTraveler once again had perfume ads. My wife doesn’t read Conde Nast Traveler anyway because the paper itself stinks a little–and I now believe I’ll stop subscribing, given the company’s attitude regarding the health of its subscribers.