Angry Reviews Of “No Smell” Candles Go Up With Omicron Surge

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

To forecast future surges in Covid, it seems like all we have to do is check out online reviews for Yankee Candles, or other brands of scented wicks.

In 2020, Terri Nelson, a painter and artist, first pointed out in a tongue-and-cheek Tweet that there were angry customers reporting their candles had no smell. The recent Omicron surge had people revisiting Amazon review sections for a recent wave of bad reviews for candles.

Kate Petrova, a research assistant at Bryn Mawr College, decided to further investigate by taking a look at the public reviews online.

“It is rare, at least in my line of work, to stumble upon an anecdotal observation that can be examined using such vast amounts of easily accessible data,” Petrova said to the Washington Post, who decided to scrape reviews out of personal curiosity. 

She found that before 2020, reviews of the top scented candles hovered between 4 and 4½ stars, year after year, but throughout 2020, reviews fell a full star. 

Focusing on reviews with terms like “no scent,” “no smell” and “can’t smell,” she found that the percent of reviews reporting a lack of scent tripled from 2 percent in January 2020 to 6 percent in November 2020.

Now, a year later, Drew Fairweather, a writer and comics artist, pointed out the trend, seemingly coinciding with the Omicron wave.

Nick Beauchamp, an assistant professor at Northeastern University, plotted “no smell” complaints in Yankee Candle reviews on Amazon, finding a rise in percentage of complaints similar to that of late 2020.

Beauchamp also pointed out that this trend persisted prior to Covid, and that his analysis also showed that there is a seasonal surge in “no smell” complaints around the holiday season.


In any case, the digital spectacle of the influx of angry online reviews over relatively less essential items are among the more light-hearted indicators of rises in Covid case counts. Researchers in a study released by the UK Health Security Agency have noted that loss of smell is a less common symptom of Omicron, though long-term loss of smell remains a symptom of “long Covid,” a condition that researchers are still trying to understand.

As one commenter pointed out, “Yankee Candle Index : Covid :: Waffle House Index : Hurricanes,” referring to another informal metric tied to something oddly but endearingly specific, and surprisingly effective, coined by Craig Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the 2011 Joplin tornado, when both of the Waffle Houses in the city stayed open.

“If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad,” Beauchamp said. The Waffle House Index is premised upon the chain’s reputation for effective risk management and emergency preparedness in extreme weather events.

These trend analyses, while done in jest, may also reflect one of the many more invisible ripple effects the pandemic has had on our lives, and the world at large. At the onset of the pandemic, fundamental shifts in how societies operated and people lived their lives broke many of the machine learning models that learned from historic data of the Before Times.
Some of the more-cited trends include increases in remote work, increased online shopping and purchases of essential home goods. What other trends will we notice of the ripple-effect changes of our lives?


Broke-Ass Stuart works because of reader support. Join us now.

Howdy! My name is Katy Atchison and I'm an Associate Editor for Broke-Ass Stuart.

I want to take the time to say thank you for supporting independent news media by reading Supporting independent news sources like Broke-Ass Stuart is vital to supporting our community because it amplifies the voices of a wide variety of diverse opinions. You also help support small businesses and local artists by sharing stories from Broke-Ass Stuart.

Because you're one of our supporters, I wanted to send over a pro-tip.

Our bi-weekly newsletter is a great way to get round ups of Broke-Ass Stuart stories, learn about new businesses in The Bay Area, find out about fun local events and be first in line for giveaways.

If you’d like to get our newsletter, signup right here, it takes 5 seconds.

Previous post

What's A Bodega To A Corner Store?

Next post

The 17 Jokes Your Server is Tired of Hearing

Jessica Z

Jessica Z

Listening, dancing, writing (in that order, mostly!) -- a product of the internet, always excited to talk about digital/algorithmic agency, fate, and selfhood, and looking for ways to contribute to cultural and artistic community/infrastructure in San Francisco and beyond. Say hi online ( or in the crowd of an upcoming show!