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Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: Do You Smell What I Smell?

By Tori Preston | Miscellaneous | January 2, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | Miscellaneous | January 2, 2018 |


Happy New Year, Pajiba-keteers! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already failed my resolution for 2018 (turns out making a three tier red wine & chocolate cake isn’t “healthy” — who knew!), so I’ve got nothing left to lose but your respect. Let’s see if I can whip up some advice better than I did that cake though, because let me tell you — that endeavor left me cleaning cocoa powder off the walls. Seriously.

I’m a wreck, is what I’m saying. So let me help you!

(Reminder: send all your messy life concerns to [email protected] and the Overlords will consume… er, uh, I mean, the Overlords will attempt to answer them. Because we love solving problems almost as much as we love other people’s drama)

This week’s question was a leftover from 2017, but don’t hold that against it because it’s really an evergreen issue. If you’ve ever worked an office job and NOT experienced it, count yourself lucky.

Dear Dears:

How does one tell a co-worker, whom you (mostly) like but have no social relationship with, that the perfume/cologne they have apparently chosen to apply to themselves with a firehose is a godawful fragrance that makes you wretch and has ruined your office for the whole day so please, get that shit outta here and never come back wearing it ever?

Your Truly,
Hoping for Fresh Air


Dear Fresh Air,

I feel you. I worked with a woman who absolutely DRENCHED herself in perfume — and we worked in an open plan office, so the scent would spread like a cloud across whatever side of the floor she was on. But I will say that in my experience, the person abusing that perfume or cologne isn’t doing it because they simply don’t notice the smell. They often are trying to mask something they’re self-conscious about. Body odor can be exacerbated by weight, certain medical conditions, and even diet (including spicy foods, so now I’m paranoid about my persistent Sriracha intake…). And for some people it can be a more pervasive issue than a daily shower can resolve. Hence: dousing themselves in perfume/cologne.

But you’re not here to get B.O.-splained, so let’s get down to it. How do you tell a co-worker that they smell? Answer: you don’t. That’s what Human Resources is for! Or if you don’t have a real HR department, then go to your boss. Explain that this person and their flowery miasma are distracting you, and impacting your ability to work. Say you’re especially sensitive to strong scents if you need to. And then let them take care of it. If they can’t figure out a way to get this person to take it down a notch in the scent department, they can at least work out ways for you not to have to be in an enclosed space with him/her for too long.


But if they suggest sending out a mass email to EVERYONE about refraining from using powerful scents in the office, don’t expect it to work. As our resident HR expert explained, the real culprits never seem to realize that those messages are directed at them — probably because they can’t even notice their own smell anymore. The ones who are bathing in Avon’s Roses of Grandma never think they’re the problem. Instead the ones who use Eucerin unscented lotion become paranoid thinking they’re bothering someone with their non-smelly stuff. So just realize that at some point, direct action will likely be needed.

Of course, that’s the logical answer… which means that’s definitely not where the Overlords stopped when it came to considering this dilemma. Other suggestions included:

- Bear trap! (honestly, I think “bear trap” might be tied with “burn it with fire” for most-given advice amongst Pajiba staff)

- Say loudly “IS SOMEONE SPRAYING PERFUME MY NOSE IS BURNING” and wait for a reaction

- Strike up a conversation with the co-worker, and ask what brand they use. Mention that you’ve noticed it and the smell just seems to last ALL DAY. Do it in a way that seems friendly, but also might make them super paranoid. If nothing else, you may discover a place to buy perfume by the ton

- Or wait until they’re nearby and apply your own as a subtle tutorial — then say, “Oh I’m sorry, is this too strong?”


- Make yourself sneeze uncontrollably anytime they walk by

- Give yourself a rash, and then apologetically mention that you think you might be allergic to [insert gawdawful frangrance]

- Wear an elaborate scarf, preferably one that smells like fresh laundry, and pull that up over your nose like a gas mask as needed


- Alternately: wear a gas mask as needed

- Microwave fish in the office kitchen — then say, “Oh I’m sorry, is this too strong?”

- Or apply the patented “Dustin Method” and suffer in silence. Note: this method is applicable to nearly any situation.

And there you have it: several ways to deal with obnoxious office odors. If none of those work, just remember — you can always quit your job and work from home, writing internet advice columns in your pajamas.

That’s it for 2018’s first nugget of wisdom! See you next week, when we’ll probably be answering another thoughtful question thoughtlessly.