Amazon reviews complaining about a 'lack of smell' from scented candles appeared to increase as coronavirus cases spiked

Amazon reviews complaining about a 'lack of smell' from scented candles appeared to increase as coronavirus cases spiked
Daria Minaeva / Shutterstock
  • After seeing a tweet about the recent rise of frustrated reviews on the Yankee Candle website, researcher Kate Petrova decided to see if if was part of a larger trend by visualizing her findings on scented candle reviews from Amazon.
  • Loss of smell is a common symptom of coronavirus, and it could be tied to a rise in candle reviewers complaining of a "lack of smell."
  • While this was just a fun project, these findings could be a starting point for those who want to research this topic further.

As coronavirus cases rose across the country, it appears that negative reviews of scented candles on Amazon increased too.

Kate Petrova, a research assistant for Harvard Study of Adult Development at Bryn Mawr College, did some quick data plotting during her free time that further explored the idea after stumbling upon a tweet that said reviewers on Yankee Candle's website were complaining about the candles lacking smell.

In her findings, Petrova said the number of Amazon candle reviews that mentioned "lack of smell" grew from less than 2% in January to nearly 6% in November, and satisfaction with scented candles was dropping at a much faster rate than unscented candles.

During an interview with Business Insider, Petrova stressed these findings are "just a fun exercise" and it would take a much more in-depth study in order to conclude if there is a correlation between the two factors or if it's just serendipity.

"We need to be careful in interpreting these numbers," said Petrova.


Regardless, Petrova said she is "excited about the power and potential of data visualizations" because of the traction this tweet has gotten.

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While loss of smell is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, some patients who have recovered from the virus have reported that their sense of smell was distorted once they recovered from the virus, which could also contribute to the influx of unsatisfactory reviews.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that 10-20% of those who lose their smell while battling the virus may find french fries "smell like putrid, rotting meat," and the smell of coffee might remind someone of "burning tires."

Petrova's entire thread is available to read here.