Real Or Rubbish: Ether-Wielding Perfume Vendors

Reporter: Stefanie Silvey

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

It's an oldie-but-goodie that is causing panic among tri-staters. Most of us have received the e-mail warning of perfume salesmen knocking women out with ether. It's been circulating since the 90's, but now it's resurfacing with a local spin. Is it real or rubbish?

"In this particular instance, it's just not real. It's not happening," says Sheriff Brad Ellsworth. Not in the tri-state, not anywhere.

The original e-mail warns people of perfume street vendors who approach women to smell their product, but instead, knock them out with ether. "We can't verify that anyone has been knocked out by using this smell the perfume bottle trick," confirms Ellsworth. 

The e-mail is old and unsubstantiated, but got renewed life after sightings of perfume vendors in the tri-state. "There are companies that do use these type tactics. They approach people on the streets, or in parking lots."

Tri-staters started localizing the urban legend, sending it out to family and friends, creating a panic.

Ellsworth says, "We don't think this is real, that people are getting knocked out, but it is making people uncomfortable. I got the e-mail asking about this, just last week."

Sheriff Ellsworth says if a vendor approaches you and you're not interested in what he's selling then "just ignore them. You can make brief eye contact and then move on."

And he has some advice for those selling on the streets. "I wouldn't think that was good for business for the perfume street vendor, no. They may want to move on to sunglasses or Rolex watches."

Another reason people are believing this urban legend is because it's being passed on by local people, with local contact information, making the story seem more credible. Stefanie talked to some of those people Monday, who thought they were doing the right thing. She says to never pass on information without researching it first.

There are a number of web sites that specialize in separating urban legends from facts. Click here or here for two of them.

Another reason not to pass them along - people across the country have been seriously reprimanded by their employers for sending these warnings with their personal work information attached.