A few cents on scents

Communications & Audience Services Director Jason Rapp dishes on the most common audience complaint he receives.


14212752_10209084084691974_7834985104947566439_nAnybody who’s been in a position, line of work in similar positions, or just been involved with something (anything) for a period of years can say with certainty that, after a time, patterns and consistencies develop. Sufficient observation/data can then lead you toward an informed opinion or judgment.

I’ve been in my position at the S.C. Phil for 10 years, much longer than I imagined, and also long enough to notice a pattern develop in the audience services portion of my role. There is one audience complaint I get, more consistently and in greater number, than any other.

It has to be parking, right? Nobody likes the parking situation at the Koger Center: location, cost, availability, you name it. (Spoiler alert: not parking! And, for the record, you can always vent, but the S.C. Phil has no influence there.)

Wait, no … hall temperature, maybe? It’s always hot! It’s always cold! It’s always right! It’s always wrong! (Spoiler alert: not temperature! And, for the record, you can always vent, and the S.C. Phil will share your concerns with the Koger Center staff, who control such things.)

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Please, just don’t.

Enough guessing. I’m here to tell you, right here and now, definitively: the most common complaint I receive from our patrons is strong[1] fragrance worn by another patron.

Like many other orchestras (and other performing arts organizations, and child care facilities, and…), the S.C. Phil takes proactive steps to fend off issues, warning off fragrance usage via:

  1. the etiquette page on SCPhilharmonic.com (and linked in Symphon-E-Notes) and
  2. our program book (for next time, as fragrance is most often already applied before people read it).

And now, in addition to those steps, I’m using this medium to make a personal appeal on behalf of everybody who comes to sit down and enjoy a sonic experience in a confined space: please, be courteous and just don’t do it.

Yes, many people apply “just enough,” but all people think they do. And when they’re wrong, they’re really wrong. In the best case, they’re a distraction. At worst, they can be legitimately injurious. Not a one of us can gauge another’s olfactory sensitivity. Think of how many people are paying to sit within ten, or even six, feet of us at a concert[2]. Is it worth the risk?

So many of the patrons who raise concerns about this at concerts aren’t angry or rude about it – they’re simply asking for a little more consideration. On their behalf, it’s my job to ask as well for everyone who wants to enjoy the S.C. Phil without distraction or distress. Everything has a time and place, and just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I don’t wish to offend or insult, but I did want to … clear the air.


[1] This tends to be a sliding scale depending on the observer, but let’s stop and be honest: while sensitivity differs from person to person, this is completely avoidable and anything that causes a problem for one person is still causing a (completely avoidable) problem.

[2] Yes, you’re paying too. But I’m legitimately curious what fragrance usage in such a setting accomplishes when it’s widely known that it bothers people who can’t easily “escape.” In so many settings one can simply walk away, but not in such close quarters as a concert.

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