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Are we being scammed by advent calendars?

Caitlin Hall


advent calendar made of wrapped presents

When anyone mentions advent calendars, most of us think of cheap and cheerful chocolates behind foil doors that are opened every day in the countdown to Christmas. It isn’t just chocolates, either—one trip to the supermarkets during the festive season will introduce you to all types of edible advents: Pringles, gourmet popcorn, hot chocolates, gins, jams and cheeses. However, advent calendars are not just limited to food and drinks—the beauty industry has been hot on the advent calendar market for a few years, with affordable brands like Avon and Barry M releasing versions that cost around £50, to luxury brands like Dior and Diptyque, whose calendars retail for more than £300 each.

Earlier this week, Elise Harmon went viral on TikTok, when she unboxed the 2021 Chanel Advent Calendar—which costs a whopping £610—and discovered that it was mostly full of useless junk. Her first video showed that inside the first door was a sheet of Chanel stickers. Behind the second was a hand cream that retailed at £46, which was one of the few full-size products inside this 27-day calendar. The day after that, she was presented with an empty dust bag behind the next door, then a miniature body cream (which Harmon said would probably be ‘enough cream for [her] left arm’). The rest of the items continued in the same vein and included a flip book, a paperweight, a magnet, a keyring—and more stickers. Amongst the handful of decent products the calendar held was a couple of lipsticks and a bottle of Chanel’s signature No. 5 perfume, which was still underwhelming considering the item’s astronomically-high price tag.

Chanel No5 Advent Calendar items

Chanel No5 The Calendar

Chanel No5 Advent Calendar items

The Chanel website actually lists the contents of the advent calendar; however, Harmon claims she bought hers in store, where details of the items were not included. In all fairness, it’s unlikely that most people purchasing any advent calendar would read about its inventory, as this would only spoil the surprise each day.

Whilst Chanel has received a staggering amount of media attention since the video went viral, they are far from the only brand to include miscellaneous items in their advent calendars. Very few appear to be worth their money. Part of the problem seems to lie in the idea of spending so much money on unknown, surprise items. Spending a few pounds on chocolate or other food you know you’re going to enjoy is a fun and festive way to count down to Christmas…but spending upwards of a hundred pounds on random, miniature beauty products, when the same amount could be spent on things you actually want, seems wasteful and a little crazy.

The allure of these beauty advent calendars seems to come down to their professed value, which is promised to be significantly higher than the retail price for the sum of its contents. However, what really happens is that these brands add in bric-a-brac and unwanted knick-knacks to increase its perceived worth, but in doing so, the monetary value for the customer plummets. Many of the beauty items included in calendars are samples or mini/travel sizes, which often come free with larger purchases anyway.

Chanel has responded to the backlash by stating that the calendar was ‘directly inspired by the mythical silhouette of the No.5 bottle. This calendar, only available for a short period, has a unique design and original content, which makes it a true collector’s item whose value cannot be summed up by the products it contains alone’.

Unless you are a ‘true collector’, i.e. someone happy to pay hundreds of pounds for a limited-edition keyring from your favourite brand, it’s probably best to give these non-edible advent calendars a miss.

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