The Smell of Bullshit, part 13: Lush and the living wage

The other day I made email address southsidesocialist@hotmail.co.uk available to people who wish to contact me regarding guest posts on the blog rather than commenting. Today I received my first email. I’m quoting it verbatim, other than removing one name.

Hello,

I am an employee of Lush who wants to anonymously speak out on behalf of employees who are having a battle on Lush’s staff facebook page about being paid a living wage.  Lush currently pay the London Living Wage but don’t pay a living wage anywhere else in the country (although they say they do), where by all accounts a lot of staff are living below the poverty line and putting up with it because they ‘love their job and the company and the ethics and the 50% discount’.  Blind fools!
All this is going on while Mark Constantine has just had a new swimming pool installed at his home.  Double standards or what.
I really don’t want to be named as the information I have could lead back to other staff and – knowing Lush’s ability to ‘get rid of people that don’t please’ – there could be repercussions for them and for me.  However badly paid I am I need my job.
Mark Constantine has responded to the post – after we had mentioned that a lot of the pay was profit related and that most shops don’t make a profit – by saying and I quote: ” Just thought I would say a couple of things. In my opinion there is a lot of scope for increasing salaries at the sharp end and [name redacted]  is leaving at the end of the month after ten years working for Lush.”
That’s not a lot to respond to 123 comments about lack of wages.  It’s not just the forum he mistreats.
Please don’t say who I am.
Thank you.

I’ve said it before and I will almost certainly say it again – Lush staff need to join a union.

The Smell of Bullshit: the comments post

There are lots of comments now underneath the various Bullshit posts, but if you haven’t signed up for notifications of new comments, you might have missed some of them. Some of them are very enlightening, so I thought it was worth re-posting them in an entry of their own just to be sure the people who are interested have seen them.

From the first post,

My experience of the Lush Forum is that the MD can no longer see past the end of his own nose. It is my opinion (from what he posts) that he is an egotist with a healthy dose of narcissism on the side. Anyone who has been reading the Lush International Forum of late will note he seems to have an unwavering belief that his company his infallible and it’s my opinion that such a blinded attitude will be to the company’s ultimate demise. The interesting thing is, any other company MD speaking to customers in such a way in a public forum would have been pulled up by the press by now – it’s interesting he hasn’t considering how predisposed he is to media hobnobbing.

As the company has increased in size, both in the UK and internationally, us forum customers have witnessed his ego growing exponentially. As flattering as that may be as a man who often touts that he made his way up from nothing, he has forgotten the golden rule that no-one is bigger than their customers – whether those customers are satisfied or dissatisfied. Everything a retail company does she be with the end goal of enticing, exciting and delighting their customer, whether in terms of service, product or overall value. Forget that the customer is key to the equation and you’re lost. I think that Lush has forgotten the fundamental core of its We Believe mantra, “…that we should make a profit and that the customer is always right”. Ignore your customer and you no longer deserve to make profit. What started off as sound business principles are now merely marketing, and if your customer doesn’t even believe your marketing, you’re in trouble.

and

May I add please, in terms of staff comfort and safety, I visited a Lush shop some time ago and a staff member was heavily pregnant. I knew her and went over to ask how she was and as she looked pretty much exhausted, suggested that she might like to sit for a while – there was a stool near the counter. I was horrified to find that she had been told that she could only ever sit down if no customers were in the shop. I have to do a risk assessment if anyone that I supervise is pregnant and I repeat this as needs change through pregnancy. All employers have the responsibility of ensuring that their staff are as comfortable as they can be in pregnancy and I found this unacceptable.

and

I am so glad that you have written this. I’m a Lush employee, and have been for about three years in two stores. I’m about to work my very last week.

At Lush I have seen stores remain open with no lighting or heating – simultaneously. I have seen snow literally blowing into a shop through the door. I have seen my breath while working. I have worked in a building where the only heating was on the shop floor and consequently staff areas were simply too cold to use. I have worked with people who were clearly too unwell to be at work, but who felt obligated to come in due to Lush’s ‘policy’ of finding your own shift cover if you can’t work.

They are also a very greedy company – and as time goes and the more ‘services’ they decide to offer, the greedier they get. We work for £6.33 – 14p over minimum wage. Only recently did supervisors get anything above this – they were previously expected to do it ‘for the love’. For sales assistants, the pressure to link sell is immense. Lush have always said that they didn’t do pushy sales, but in my recent experience that’s exactly what we do. We’re expected to sell as if we earn commission. In fact, I’ve been asked by customers on numerous occasions whether I’m earning commission. People are always shocked when I tell them ‘no!’ We are also expected to host children’s parties until all sorts of hours of the night (I got home at 9:40pm tonight after starting my shift at 8:30am), provide hand and arm massages and mini-facials, asked to rub and scrub peoples’ feet (yuck!), and give long in-depth consultations. That’s a lot to expect for 14p over minimum wage, and when any staff member points this out, we are told that “that’s just what Lush offers, so you have to do it.”

It’s a shame because Lush does seem to attract lovely people, but when they are hired they see the ugly side of Lush and all of the great experiences they’e had with products and demos in the past are tainted by the disinterest the company have in its people.

I have reached my limit working here and I’m glad that people are finally speaking up. It’s only anonymously that I feel I can express these things – it’s so sad.

and

I wanted to add this but have been frightened to say anything previously. I do work for this company in question and have recently joined the union after finding out more about what they do. Several colleagues have also joined and I am encouraging more. Any colleagues reading this, please see what I say below. I am frightened about posting this but I feel I have to, after reading all of the above.

Towards the end of our LushFest meeting last year, there was a question & answer with the board – they had been asking us over the week (although I was only there for a few days) if we had questions for the board and then they picked some and presented them on stage (they filmed people asking the questions). Someone asked about the company recognising trade unions. Now I didn’t understand much about unions at the time but their responses led me to find out more. They seemed so against them to the point of a really old fashioned & right wing point of view – which confused me as although I’ve only been here 18 months, I thought we were kind of ‘right on’. Our shop is run like that, I presumed it must have come from the top? They talked about unions as if all they do is demand employees for money or go on strike. I made an effort to find out more after that, then shortly after I joined. As I see it, in my opinion the company wouldn’t be so aghast at the idea of trade union recognition if they had nothing to hide. As a supposed ‘ethical employer’ it would be one step further towards actual ethical & fair employment. My experience is that they are neither. I love the people I work with, and I am slowly starting to hate the people I work for.

Don’t get me started on the “Best Companies to work for”. I read the entry in the paper when it came out and didn’t recognise it as the same company I work for. It’s an absolute joke. When you see the states of our shops, staff rooms (for those of us who have them), even basic amenities like toilets, it’s disgusting. Policies just don’t exist. My manager tries her best she really does, but she can only work within the parameters she is given – she does try to give us appraisals and such (there is formal thing for appraisals) but cannot give us pay rises or anything even if we are performing well, as there is no performance related pay for us in the shops. Not sure if it’s different in other bits of the business.

Regarding the issue you have talked about above – many of us like the customer forum (although it can be scary), enjoy reading it and have been on there for a few years, but feel too frightened to contribute. After several prominent figures who posted on there have suddenly vanished (no idea why) it puts people off even more. They say it’s not moderated – I am guessing it isn’t? – but as a member of staff you feel heavily leaned on to self moderate. Within unwritten rules, on hearsay. So what’s the point in contributing if it may lead to being told off or if you have no idea what you are doing is right or wrong?

Ever since I have joined the union I have been scared that they will find out but I do feel more protected. I urge anyone else to join Usdaw too (thats the one for retail workers), they are very good and the company doesn’t need to know, they promised me they wouldn’t tell the company unless they ever needed to intervene with something. I hope I never have to use them.

Some people may ask why not leave – the fact is I love the basics of my job and the team I work with are brilliant. For a shop job, it’s pretty good. However, I know that if I want an actual career in retail I will have to go elsewhere. Many people at the top are cherry picked on a whim, it seems (not all, but some), the proof of which can be seen below. Talent or any particular achievements are not pre-requisite, I can’t work out what some of them do.

A quote from the article I am linking says the following (direct from Mark)

“I’m not saying everyone at Lush gets that kind of personal development, it’s absolutely accidental and very patchy.”

Link to article here: http://www.seekernews.co.uk/2012/12/the-smell-of-success/

Right there is admittance that there is some kind of favouritism going on. How are the rest of us meant to move up? It seems the loud, silly ones are the ones who will prosper, really, the ones who jump up and down and catch their eye. I think it’s wrong. There are others, of course, who seem to have genuinely worked hard to get there and have actual talent, then they vanish without trace. It’s all very confusing. For an ‘ethical’ company on so many levels, it is my experience is that they do not look after their own people.

I finish with a quote from that article – from Mark himself – because I am feeling braver after writing all of that out:

“It reminds me of some 1990s business thinking – everyone knows the boss is a dick, but nobody will tell the boss why he’s a dick”

Mark, I am telling you you are a dick. You could have any number of reasons but the 3 I can give you here is a) You ignore your staff b) You ignore your customers c) You run a business on nepotism.

and

Thank you for this blog and the outlet. And @Squishy, thanks for your post, you gave me some bravery to post too, although I haven’t resigned (yet). Maybe I will build up the courage soon?

I feel the need to add, working within the company is cult like. If you are being treated well and enjoying it, you really can see no wrong. You may get current employees posting up “they’re talking rubbish, it’s ace”. And for them it may very well be. If you are in favour, it’s great, I’m sure. Until you end up ignored, downtrodden or on the ‘wrong side’ then you just do not realise how bad it can be. Or, maybe like me, just never one of the chosen ones, just a day-to-day plodder.

Many of us often liken it to being in an abusive relationship – a senior manager said it to me at the beginning of my employment and I was shocked but now I realise it’s true. It sounds like it is trivialising domestic abuse, but I shall explain the similarity, as it isn’t meant to be disrespectful. The bad times are bad – really bad. I have seen bullying, harassment and threatening behaviour. I have seen people be treated so badly they have had no option to resign. I have heard quite senior people badmouth others to the point of slander. You could complain, but where will it get you? There are no guiding policies in place. There is some kind of loose ‘support function’ but they are in Poole and I am not confident of confidentiality. People say ‘why do you still work there?’. Well, the good times are brilliant. The good times are what you stay for. Like a nugget of gold you find sifting through a muddy river. Those nuggets become less and less frequent and all you have left is the stinking mud. My confidence was so low at one point I felt I couldn’t leave and find another job, but of course I can, any of us can. We don’t need to work in this oppressive environment. I know other workplaces can be like that, but you just expect this company to be better. I think that’s what is most upsetting and why I keep waiting to see if it comes good.

I suppose this could sound really bitter but I promise it isn’t, I have no great plans to be a retail supremo, I just hate the hypocrisy. An ethical company with a genial boss on the face of it, but dig a little deeper and it’s rotten to the core, I think it really is. I think most people would be hugely surprised if they knew what it was really like.

and

As an employee who works at Lush I’m sad to say Jocasta is right. Lush dont want people to join unions because they are terrified of being held to account for their unethical behaviour. They know that they can get rid of people at whim if people are ignorant to unionising. Even the supposed HR (not sure they could call it that legally) is biased towards the family over doing the right thing by employees under law. The company makes people redundant every year even though they work so hard for little money and they do it because one of the family doesnt like them. No one speaks out because lush buys them off and forces them to sign agreements that they wont ever say anything about it. Lush is not the company you think it is.Many staff members are too afraid to speak out. I am trying to leave at the moment but its very tough out there.

and

I’d also agree with what’s said here – having not just worked for the company for a while (I got out fast – and was fortunately in a position where I could do so), but having been a member of their forum for many many years, too. I pretty much left the forum shorlty after I started working for them, as it became apparent to me from early on that their facade of ethics was paper-thin, and I didn’t want to be unprofessional in what I wrote about them while I was paid by them(!). I returned to the forum after I left Lush because I missed the community there, but it was never the same for me and I left it again. And yes, the essential issues are that they care not a hoot about either their customers (apart from their money, obviously) or their staff. Suffice, for now, to say that from my perspective, I was especially shocked to realise that their failure to ever get ‘fair trade’ labelling of any sort had a lot to do with the fact that they’d be very unlikely to be *able* to make the grade for any worthwhile labelling, and are terrified of any external scrutiny whatsoever, anyway – because they know, of course, that external scrutiny would bring to light a whole host of issues around the ethics they proclaim… And yeah, fwiw, I’m not especially bitter either, on a personal level: But I was *disgusted* at what I saw of the way they treated employees and spoke about customers as well as staff when I worked for them. It was quite despicable, and a workplace I was very glad to leave; I sympathise with those for whom leaving has not/will not be as easy as it was for me. I feel for you!

and

I too work for Lush, but in North America. The way that they treat there employees here is quite the same. I’ve been working there for nearly a year and have had one very small raise, I constantly don’t get scheduled enough to pay my rent, and they’ve been telling me that I’ll get promoted to a supervisor position for close to six months while instead promoting people who are less qualified or have been working there a shorter time then me. The only reason I still work there is because I have had trouble finding another job. The company’s ethical standpoints and the way they treat their employees are totally opposite, and working there was fun at first but has now become more of an extreme frustration than anything else.

and

Seconding the same treatment in North America. Employees being required to do more and more (yes, scrubbing feet) with no more pay than minimum wage. This article hits it on the head for being symptomatic of larger problems with the company as a whole. The lack of an HR department in either country is absolutely frightening.
Having previously been with the company for five years and seeing NA profits rise hugely, none of these profits are going back to the employees. Staff who were absolutely amazing and recommended for advancement/promotion were denied and positions were given to external hires repeatedly because seasoned staff have to jump through imaginary hoops while external applicants are hired on one experience with another company, with promises of a happy, healthy work environment. Would chalk it up to my own personal experiences had I not seen and heard it happen it countless times, in varying locations around the globe. Running on personal favouritism and constant turnover is not sustainable. This article’s points on staff treatment are the reason I finally left with a heavy heart after five years, having seen nothing change. There is no denying that this treatment of staff eventually trickles down to the customer. I loved my job (and was objectively amazing at it) and I loved this company, and it outright refused to love me back.

and

I left Lush just over a year ago after I had a huge wake up call. Lush is nothing more than a cult. When you are on the inside you can see no wrong and it’s all lovely and fluffy and caring but as soon as you speak out about something you feel is wrong they close ranks quicker than a bear trap (tho they’s probably start a campaign about bear traps). No wonder the top management call themselves ‘The Mafia’. If your face doesn’t fit you’re out, especially if all you want to do is get your head down and do a good job. If you say you don’t like the way the company has changed Mark says ‘well what have you done to make it go wrong then?’ his way of once again accepting no responsibility for anything that happens there – even tho it’s his name over the door.

I worked there for 7 years and was constantly put upon to do more and more work, all unpaid, because it would ‘stretch me and get me recognition and, ultimately, promotion’. All total bullshit! They just like to get something for nothing. If you’ve seen this link: http://www.seekernews.co.uk/2012/12/the-smell-of-success/ it mentions that Mira Manga (ex Retail Support with Lush) is writing a book about Lush. The reason she is doing this is because her job role was abolished and she would have been out of a job otherwise. This happened after a particularly nasty managers meeting where Mark Constantine stood there in front of around 250 managers, trainee managers and head office staff discussing whether we needed the Retail support department, what they actually did, how good they were and whether what they did was actually beneficial to the company. All this was in front of the Retail Support department themselves! In an ethical, caring company things like this would be discussed at appraisal with the department – in private. A hotel in Bournemouth with such a huge audience was neither the time or the place. The humiliation on the faces of the Retail Support department was painful to look at, but that’s how Mark works. Under his facade of hippy geniality he is a cold, calculating dictator who doesn’t care who he hurts as long as everyone knows he’s the boss. So if he has discussions in public like this he should have no problem with his staff doing the same on here!

After I left I could see that all Lush is is a soap shop that has got a bit above it self, that isn’t as ethical as it makes out, who treats animals better than people and that doesn’t listen to its staff or customers.

I have moved on. There is life after Lush. I now work for people who genuinely appreciate me and my hard work and effort has been rewarded with 2 pay rises in a year, more than I ever got at Lush in 7 years.

Thank you for the chance to vent. And I’m glad I’m not alone in my thinking.

and

I came apon this post because it was posted on Mark Constantine’s page and I have read this as well as part 2 and all of the comments. Since this is a space where we are telling experiences I thought I would respond

I always tell people that the more I find out about Lush the more I love them.
That being said I want to assure you that I read all of this with an open mind.

I have been a customer for 10 years and I have worked for Lush north america for 5 years

I want to first say that the opinion I am about to give is my own also that I do believe that all of you had these experiences that your feelings a valid.

So here is my perspective Lush creates some of the most amazing things I have ever had the pleasure of putting on my body. They have developed an artistry in cosmetics, they approach the making of their cosmetics with a love for every part of the process. They are making strides in the cosmetic industry that are un -like any other company out there. This being said they are humans, they are artists, They are experienced and older now, and in their hopes to grow and succeed (hopes many of you talked about here for yourselves) they are now the larger company standing before you all with more transparency then most asking you to judge them.

And judge them we do as informed consumers and employees. Lush is constantly challenging us to use our brain and to listen our hearts. CHALLENGE is the important word here. The ethical campaigns they do make us think about things that are not pretty or easy to see or feel. But these things are still reality.

Lush does ethically source all their ingredients and they do have the highest standards out there for cosmetics. They are supporting communities and positively effecting our world environmentally.

This still doesn’t change the way you all feel and I acknowledge that!

One thing that life has taught me is that you have to constantly force yourself to have perspective. .
Human interaction is the hardest thing we have to deal with as humans. (that’s why retail is so hard)

My perspective after reading all of your stories is that yes not every aspect of this company is perfect and sometimes the message is construed at times

.( i.e. Please manager of those stores where its snowing just shut the door yes the open door does work as far as drawing customers in but every location is unique” I know that if this was my store, my manager would have closed the door and sent a report to head office as to why during this time of year the door was closed complete with pictures. )

But every aspect of a human being is also not perfect, every aspect of things we make as humans therefore is not perfect.

Have you ever baked a cake and it came out shitty you did everything right but something just went wrong?
Have you ever gone into a situation with the best intentions and then it just went wrong?
Have you not understood where someone was coming from until later when you had more perspective?
Have you ever went to an art show and said I don’t get it?

As I age I keep having all these realization, when I re-watch movies from my youth I see so much more, when I re-read books I get more out of them because of my experiences have made me more aware of the world around me.

All I am saying is vent, get it out, do whatever you feel the need to do, but just make sure you have an open mind that is the only way we learn…….

There are soooooooooo many companies out there doing actual physical harm to animals, to communities of people they are exploiting. To their customers by not telling them what is in their products. Hiding the way they do business, hiding everything if they could. Why do you think they put their products in those pretty packages? In hopes that you will not look any further!!!

Lush is Naked!! literally, and sometimes naked is pretty and sometimes its not.

Love is easy sometimes and sometimes its hard.

I say join those unions, voice your opinion don’t be afraid don’t be worried. Life is hard, work is hard, just make sure that you keep your mind open and that you find something that you love and do it!!!!

sincerely,
Someone who just wants to contribute to the conversation

and

I think you really have to have worked in the UK to understand what its like in Poole with the senior mangement. With all respect to our North American Lush friends, the overseas teams have different directors. And yes, you really DO have to keep your doors open.
Since the Constantine children joined the business it has changed. One is pleasant but lazy, one is pleasant but silly and one is a complete dick. You can get fired for critisizing them. If Mo hears about you, there will be a way to get you fired. And people can’t be bothered to make a fuss, usually because they are nice people, which is why they joined Lush in the first place.
They belieev in paying as little as possible, so you have to work extra hard just to pay the bills. Mark has written on his facebook page that in his opinion only a financial bonus will get people to work hard, ignoring the many times that that TED talk about money as motivation not working got posted up there too.
Except with his children. He buys them houses. This is his right, and maybe that’s why they don’t work hard, but it is a bit hard on everyone else watching that happen.
Mark says he believes he gives people a purpose in their lives by including them in a campaigning company that wants to change the world and make it better for animals, plants and people. But he could help by keeping the shop doors shut and helping them to pay their rent.
He says he pays ‘market rate’ but really that means ‘as little as I can possibly recruit someone for’ which isn’t kind.
I was invited into a ‘mafia’ meeting once when he gave someone’s job to someone else without any discussion, just to give the first person a kick in the pants. They were both there at the time. It just went quiet, No one dared say anything.
You shouldn’t have to leave to restore your faith in yourself. I did. And true there is life out there.
One of the Mafia said to me that if your name is not Constantine then the family just think you are a hired help. They said that the Constantines think they are the most creative people on the planet but they don’t have time to do everything themselves, so they have to hire other people to grow the company. That is a financial drain on the family, so they want to pay everyone else as little as possible.
And I heard Mark say that if someone comes to him with a crisis, he gives them extra work because that always sorts them out and he gets more productivity out of them. He thought this was funny.
But I also still buy some products because I like them. And some lovely people work for Lush, which is why people stay there instead of leaving. I learned a lot, but it was nice to get back to a job where there is a structure and some hope for the future. At Lush you’d have to marry a Constantine to get a pay rise.

and

I agree Miss Terry, I have been at head office and have heard first hand the contempt with which top management hold their loyal hardworking employees. It is an elitist, out of touch and short sighted way of running a company. The Constantine offspring ride roughshod over the whole company and they don’t care who they upset because they don’t have to, daddy will always bail them out. and if he takes no responsibility for things that go on there then why should they?

During a managers meeting about 5 years ago they decided to allow managers to see what went on at a mafia meeting, so they had one on the stage. What a total waste of time! For around an hour and a half they wittered on about pointless stuff and made no decisions about anything. Everyone who loved the sound of their own voices had a say, but nothing was actually said, no issues were resolved. Definitely a case of too many engine drivers!

Take Lushfest too. At the first one in 2011 Mark told us proudly that it had cost 800,000 to put on. For what? What did anyone learn? It was Mark’s chance to polish his ego by saying he had put on a festival. As a manager I learnt nothing – apart from how Lush waste money when they could be paying their staff better. There were quite a few mutterings among staff that it was a waste of money but of course no one said anything as they would have been ousted from their job for disagreeing and not whooping with joy to be stuck in a muddy, smelly tent with a load of pseudo do gooders.

Lushfest 2012 was supposed to be bigger and better. It cost at least twice as much and the only thing that was different was the amount of mud we were expected to slosh around in. We put up with it because our jobs were on the line if we didn’t attend. We still learnt nothing.

But the Constantines enjoyed their weeks camping holiday.

and

Even those closer to the top have a rough ride a lot of the time, it’s not just shop staff. Working all hours for nothing, changes happening all around them (often last minute) without having a say, getting bullied, criticised and humiliated during meetings. I’ve seen carefully designed and created products kicked across the room when the boss doesn’t approve. People get set up for a bashing and no-one steps in to intervene, they’re too scared of being next. Ms Ethical Director is the worst. Comes across all caring when she’s got an audience, but a nasty bully in real life. And when that behaviour is accepted as the norm at the top, it filters down.

It’s so sad the number of people who leave Lush as a nervous wreck, often having given many years of hard work. Emails come round out of the blue, “it’s my last day tomorrow” and no-one has any idea why. No disciplinary procedure, nothing. Apparently it’s all about not wasting time and energy on ‘dead wood’ but often it’s just another poor unsuspecting scapegoat, someone whose spoken out of turn or just not up for playing the game.

Lush do many great things, which we should all remember. There are far far worse companies out there and perhaps there are bigger problems in the world right now than this. But for the people who are affected none of those things matter. You can do so much better Lush. It’s not hard to treat people with care and respect.

and

Lush UK employee here. Currently being bullied into leaving at Lush by my managers, which is not uncommon within Lush. Examples come down from “on high” all the time about people who have left the company because they’ve been forced out.

I don’t think posting this is going to get me anywhere, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone!

Oh also, our shop doesn’t have a door, it has a shutter so if we close it (to keep it warm) we close the shop. It reached -5 on the shop floor this winter.

and

I’d just add that, contra the NA post above, I don’t think the complaints voiced on this blog and elsewhere are ‘just’ normal venting about problems with an essentially sound company. In my experience and from what I’ve seen and know directly about others’ experiences, it was and remains pretty much the *norm* for very many – too many – Lush employees (at many levels, in Poole and in the shops) to face really nasty, truly unpleasant and job-threatening as well as genuinely stress-inducing workplace issues. (Fwiw, I’ve worked in several places, in differect sectors, and all have had their workplace issues. None were as pervasive and as consistently ‘unethical’ as those I experienced at Lush.) When such issues arise from a managment style typified by bullying, as well as from breaches of legal rights and obligations, that *is* a real problem – not some kind of legitimate ‘challenge’ for staff and customers.

Also, the notion that all ingredients are ‘ethically’ sourced is at least debatable; I do think customers (and staff, except of course they daren’t) should really *interrogate* why it is that Lush shies away from getting labelling (e.g. Fair for Life, Far Trade, or similar) rather than accept assertions about it being because Lush’s internal standards are somehow ‘better’ than that… it’s not entirely convincing, especially if one considers that part of ethical sourcing and labelling products as ‘fair’ and ethical involves treating factory and shop workers ethically, as well as producers and suppliers: the IMO, for instance, writes that ‘Fair for Life Social & FairTrade Certification guarantees that human rights are guaranteed at any stage of production, that workers enjoy good and fair working conditions and that smallholder farmers receive a fair share’ (see http://www.fairforlife.net/).

and

So much I want to say, so much I can’t say. I am just too scared.

Well done to others speaking out. I left the company some time ago and it wasn’t pleasant. People need to see this company for what it is. It’s not some hippy happy-clappy outfit, it is a capitalist company, and in my opinion, riddled with nepotism and based entirely on elitism. There is no equality. In fact, Lush makes me think of “Animal Farm”; what started out as a small scale, possibly very lovely company, with all the right intentions of equality and fairness has become an oligarchy with a few key people (the family and their confidantes) essentially holding all the power. Those who know the company won’t need me to tell them who Napoleon and Snowball are, or the guard-pig master-of-spin Squealer.

I am not saying there isn’t a good side to the company, there is, and you can see that good side walking into the shops, seeing the sales staff with big smiles ready to serve you and look after you. However, for me, all the bad stuff totally negates it. I am sure there are other equally horrid companies to work for, but they don’t crow about how wonderful they are either. My experience is that this company is very much a matter of style over substance, a great big wash of gloss paint over crumbling MDF.

Anyway, that’s all I can say. But anyone still in, get unionised and don’t become Boxer – carted off to the knacker’s yard – like me. There is a life out of Lush, I promise! There are green pastures on the other side, sunshine, blue skies, freedom. There are far better jobs, in terms of company culture, in terms of pay, in terms of progression. I know the good times are good, but the bad times are awful, and it only takes one step out of line (imaginary line, there are no fixed parameters, what is sauce for the goose isn’t necessarily sauce for the gander) for you to be facing one hell of a battle.

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I just had to say something on here, after seeing your post on Mark’s facebook.
I have never in my 2 years working at Lush (N.A.) experienced anything close to what you people have been experiencing. I am not a regular on the forum, but I am familiar with it. I also have never gone to lushfest. All I have to say, is that there seem to be some really bad things going on with your management, and it sounds to me like your managers are not raising their concerns within the company.
I have NEVER been told to keep the doors open to the extent you are saying you are forced to. If we feel its cold as a general store, we close the damn doors. That simple. To my knowledge there is nothing saying you have to leave them physically open all the time. Summertime, sure. Leave them open, it brings people in; but not if you are uncomfortable. I have heard of some pregnancy issues with a co-worker, that entailed her having to bend down for long periods of time to do foot treatments. At our store we would NEVER in a million years do this. Again, this is a management issue, that you would think people would be compassionate enough to avoid. There have also been a few issues between staff members. But at our store, we are a family. If you do not treat your family right, or act as if they are below you, it is a serious concern that receives serious action. We do not accept bullying or putting people down on ANY level. I have rarely if EVER received this sort of treatment from people higher within the company, and would say that generally everyone is extremely pleasant.
In my opinion, you are not working for the lush I work for. I do not blame you for leaving or for wanting to leave. You are not being given the lush experience you deserve as an employee. I think that what it also comes down to, is you as staff members standing up for yourselves, and going YOURSELF to upper management and telling them how you feel, and what you think is wrong about company practices. If you don’t do that, nothing will change. Do not expect your below par management to do it for you. They will not, if they are as passive as you are making me believe them to be. Any issues with scheduling, pay raises, etc. is up to your STORE manager, not the company. You seem to all be working at stores with shitty managers, and I hate to say it but I have seen quite a few before. My hope is that they do not last long, and that more compassionate, excitable people are hired in their place. I don’t know if you have ever filled out a survey when you exited the company, but I am sure there is an accessible document available. I wish all of you luck in the future, and I am very sorry to hear all of this. I welcome you to bring your concerns up to the people who might actually want to hear it, instead of ranting on the internet about it. I will be lush for life, as long as MY personal experience with lush never becomes something that I would not stand for. It never has, and I hope it never will.

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Quite true. I have been a trainee manager, a manager and have also worked at head office and it doesn’t matter where you are you’re not listened to – unless you’re saying the right things. You are lured to head office with promises of being able to ‘make a difference’. You go there with a vision of being able to make things better but they don’t want anyone to make a difference, they’re quite happy with the way things are already. They are not prepared to listen to anything constructive you have to say. Anything negative towards the company or the products or the directors or the offspring or the management and you’re earmarked for removal, placed on a waiting list to be disposed. Now, in a week, a month or even a year – you’ll be gone when it suits them. They’ll find a way and it will probably involve being told that they don’t think you’re happy there and would be better off somewhere else, in some cases being given a payoff to go quietly. Most who leave aren’t even aware of their rights as employees because they’ve never been told by their ‘ethical, people friendly’ employer.

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I find it sad that people who are enjoying working for the company are so distrustful towards those who are having a hard time, and how often the blame is shifted to the victims with comments such as “I welcome you to bring your concerns up to the people who might actually want to hear it, instead of ranting on the internet about it”. Why can’t we all support each other?

There’s no question some people have a great time working at Lush. If you’ve got a great manager who fights your corner and looks after you, you’ll love it. On a management level, if you don’t mind massaging the egos at the top, and happen to also be amiable, hardworking, talented and unquestioningly loyal (some of these interchangeable with being pretty or buddies with the family) you’ll probably be ok. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the 3 day stays in fancy hotels by the seaside several times a year. You just have to learn to turn a blind eye to the bullshit.

Bullying and unfair working conditions are common throughout the company. If your manager takes the lead from the top you’re in trouble. After all, if a company doesn’t respect and value employees enough to pay them properly, what does that tell management about how they should treat their staff? And the problem is, when you’ve been bullied it’s very hard to speak out, especially if it’s been going on a long time and you’re emotionally fragile, and when you know there are some quite fierce characters who will think nothing of bad mouthing and humiliating you, let alone the implications for future employment. They won’t let unions in either.

Lush will often give staff the opportunity to give feedback, through the best companies survey, three wishes and Mark is openly on Facebook etc, but action to rectify anything is very slow. They do want people to push the company to be as good as it can be, but are just very selective in what areas they invest in, they’d rather open new shops and new countries than pay staff what they deserve. It took years and years of shop staff complaining before salaries were increased. Often they just make excuses and point the blame elsewhere if people point out anything that threatens their view that they are the most brilliant, creative, ethical organisation the world has ever seen. Perhaps the fact that they are all so far up their own arses explains why they cannot see the discrepancy between what they say and what they do.

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I was one of the ‘lucky’ forum members who won a visit to the Lush factory as part of a competition. I was excited to go as I had become a brainwashed & sycophantic fanatic, much like many of my (now) real life friends.

I was invited to what they call a ‘mafia meeting’. Imagine a King, if you will, holding court with jesters and clowns and courtiers throwing themselves at his every utterance. I won’t compare Mark Constantine to a King as his ego is big enough, but you get the picture.
The meeting consisted of Mark telling everyone how wonderful he was, how great his inventions were, how lucky we were to be in his presence etc. There were some surprising revelations such as a senior ‘Mafioso’ slagging off staff members who wanted to fly down from Scotland to a meeting, which s/he declared was selfish and that s/he would rather they be sacked than increase Lush’s carbon footprint. “Wait!”, I hear you ask, “Didn’t Hilary Jones (Director of ‘Ethics’) recently fly to LA to collect an award for ‘Ethics’?” Yes, you’re correct.
Now let’s move on to one of the inventors and a founder, who stated that members of the forum were all losers, sat in their bedrooms being geeky on computers. S/he hated the forum, s/he said. That’s fine, s/he’s entitled to an opinion of course. But a) members of the forum were sat there and b) s/he was forgetting that it was the forumites who helped make Lush become so successful. Let us also not forget that they have used the forum to canvass opinion, do free market research, be a general money spinner and the ‘Don’ has often trumpeted about the special relationship with customers. Yes, a special relationship with what some in the Lush ‘mafia’ have called ‘fat and crazy’ customers. Oh, did I mention that some also voiced that people who use the Lush forum are all fat with mental issues? Yes, that was said too. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Lush – not only displaying completely unethical and immoral behaviour but pretty nasty about their own customers.

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So so so much to say. I’m an ex Lush employee. I was a supervisor at one of their major, major stores for nearly two years from 2004-2006. When I say supervisor, read Trainee Manager without the extra pay. I was working 50/60 hour weeks with about £5 extra for opening and closing the shop (which I was made to feel was an amazing perk!). I regularly had to walk through a busy tourist area to the bank carrying over £5,000 in cash, and I once had to transport a very heavy scale between our shop and another by myself, and just using a taxi. The other shop was in a pedestrianised area, so the taxi could only take me to the next street along.

As a supervisor I was put in a strange limbo, where I had no say in running the store, but was also segregated from the regular SAs, I was made to do all the jobs the managers didn’t want to do, including telling off the staff, sorting out lunch schedules, running parties, cleaning the office/toilet/staff room (which were all minuscule), payroll, cashing up, ordering stock, programming tills, telling Xmas staff we didn’t want them back – actually what did the managers do?

We had experience of all of the classic Lush health and safety – in winter the upstairs of our shop, where the doors were on two sides of the shop a few metres apart, was so cold that SAs had to be on a rota of an hour each up there. We would be told to “wrap up warm” with a laugh, and although there was a heater we were told off if we were stood anywhere near it. It’s always fun to see your breath while working, isn’t it? And even more fun to have numb hands while handling 12 inch knives. There was no sick pay – I was once guilt tripped into coming into work with conjunctivitis, once I was there they treated me like a leper & they tried to get me to work on the shop floor, but I refused.

There is so much more I could tell you. By the end of my two years there I was broken, and left to temp in an office. Here’s some excerpts from my blog at the time, I think they show how worn down Lush left me:

“Had the interview for trainee manager last monday, which went ok. Found out that both positions were now going, as C is leaving. But then found out that C is leaving because they sat her down and told her what a shite trainee she was being, and how no-one respected her, that all she had done was make mistakes, and she should grow some balls. And basically find another Lush to work in, but just as an SA. Lovely. Started me off thinking did I really want to work under two people who bottle stuff like that up until it’s escalated into massive proportions, and who laugh, yes, laugh, when they’re saying it to you. Answer is, not really.”

“I’m fed up of working hard for shite pay and not getting any credit for anything. I’m fed up of being in a company that doesn’t give a shit about it’s long-standing employees, with a bully for a manager. I’m very disillusioned with a certain company at the moment.”

“Just sick of it. Sick of tidying after people only for it all to be ruined five minutes later. Sick of talking to people who don’t care. or assume I’m stupid because I work in a shop. Sick of doing the same old thing, day after day. Sick of the elevated position that has no perks whatsoever and simply serves to separate me from everyone. Not a manager but not a lowly sales assistant either. Have to stay behind for longer but don’t get any bonus for it. Get made to feel like a child for following someone else’s instructions and daring to take initiative. Just feel unappreciated. And tired. So f*ing tired. Feel dirty and oily and low.”

A short while after the first Bullshit post, I did the second one. That didn’t attract quite so many comments.

I work well over my contracted hours every week. I get into work when it’s still dark and often leave 10-12 hours later. I don’t see my fiancee – whom I live with – for days on end because of the shifts we work. I approach every customer; I demo as many products as possible; I provide good advice; and I grit my teeth and deal with the obnoxious children whose parties we have to host, and through every pamper session we provide to a yummy mummy while she unleashes her destructive offspring and treats our shop like a creche. I smile, I’m kind, I massage (not that I’m even remotely qualified to do so), I link sell, and I offer till-point add-ons.

Since working at Lush I have developed both the physical and mental symptoms of stress and anxiety. I talked about my job with my GP and she told me I should leave. She told me my working conditions were illegal. I was never a negative person in my life before – and I’m near 30 so it’s not like I’ve got teenage angst issues!

I work my butt off. The reason I am stressed, depressed, and unhealthy is because I work in the cold for excessively long hours, often with inadequate breaks, because if I don’t I can’t afford to live. We can’t drink water, lean, or sit down on the shop floor, so we have to effectively leave the shop to do either. The problem with this is that if it’s a busy day, you don’t drink or rest because you can’t leave. I’ve actually been asked to “hold it in” when I’ve needed to pee during a busy spell! I was furious! I also work with people who have been asked not to go into university, but to work a shift instead because their availability no longer works for the shop. That is out of order!

And on the last post someone mentioned the hygiene. Oh my gosh, I could write a novel! We’re not allowed to use any proper cleaning products because they aren’t ‘green’. We are expected to use vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda to clean our toilets, sinks, and surfaces. Have you ever seen a toilet that is used by tens of people and has never been properly cleaned? It’s disgusting. We are also expected to use Lush shampoo to wash dishes and cutlery – with the same brush that we use to clean out customers’ mouldy returned pots. It’s really quite amazing that nobody has come down with dysentery! When someone mentions the state of the toilet, the stock response – whatever store you’re in – is “chuck a bath bomb in it.” I’m sorry but fecal matter is fecal matter – it doesn’t get any more hygienic if you coat it in glitter.

And let me tell you something else: the product quality has indeed declined. During the time I have worked for the company I’ve seen the number of recharges, recalls, and refunds increase dramatically. None of what I initially loved about Lush remains, which is why I’m moving on. Lush has done everything necessary to completely repel me from the retail industry. I am seeking a new career.

If the social justice bloggers want to see real, genuine exploitation then all they need to do is take a walk down their local high street. Lush is no different from anybody else, and in some ways is worse.

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Having commented on your previous post I had to comment here too. Firstly, thank you for bringing an outlet to what I believe must be 100s of frightened, downtrodden, and just damned miserable employees. I know there’s not only me – your previous post shows there isn’t only me. A search on google shows even more. I don’t care what the Best Companies survey says – Lush simply isn’t a great place to work for all of us, although – in the interests of balance – I know it is for some

The response from Mr Constantine truly saddens and disgusts me. No one at the top is remotely working hard to put policies in place, if they were why don’t we still have standard policies in place after how many (Wiki tells me 18) years of trading? The contracts (if you’re lucky to have one) are like a ‘contract by numbers’ – I am guessing the most basic that exist. There is no company sick pay scheme (just SSP), which means people drag themselves into work when they really should be resting – the basic wage is so poor as it is, SSP just doesn’t help. I don’t think that’s a sign of an ethical employer. There is no formal appraisal scheme, so it’s hard to move up or progress, and again you can work your behind off and know it won’t be for a pay rise or even for a promotion – it’s like treading a road to nowhere. In fact, he’s already admitted in the the post I alluded to earlier that progression is based on pot luck and is completely random. It must be lining someone’s pockets, though?

The people who are working extremely hard are those on the front line. I know, I am one of them. We are those who sell the (below par) products (not just my opinion, it’s all over the Internet and even on the company’s own facebook page). I feel ashamed when a customer comes back with a chemical smelling moisturiser that has gone off well before its use by – knowing full well it was recalled by head office but we are not allowed to put a notice up telling customers it was recalled (I asked my manager if we could and she said no, but she wanted to as well). How embarrassing was it to see children having their hands dyed pinky orange IN STORE when I gave them an “Enchanter” demo? Those at the top don’t see that do they? They don’t see a store full of low contracted hour part-timers scrambling for overtime like ants fighting over a crumb of cake. They don’t see the Managers & Trainee managers working 60 hour working weeks and forgoing a normal family life. I wonder if they have a good work/life balance? They see none of that. And me feeling sad about it and voicing concern is “fierce” criticism? Well I would love him to see the harsh reality of working in the company when you’re not right at the top. For those at us at the bottom the reality is different. Some of the most wicked individuals in history have had myriad honour, award and recognition bestowed upon them because one set of people were too afraid to speak out, and another set were so charmed, so utterly taken in, by the smoke & mirrors. I am not saying this man is wicked but I am saying just because someone wins an award doesn’t mean it is true, just because he doesn’t like what he hears, it doesn’t mean it is untrue. It is my opinion that the company believe what pleases them and the nay-sayers are dismissed as ‘negative’ or, in this case, ‘fierce critics’. Just because you don’t want to believe it, Mr Constantine, it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

My opinion of his response is that it is full of faux self pity which poorly covers the complete disregard and the utter disdain with which he views his customers and his employees. I am not a ‘fierce critic’, Mr Constantine, I am a loyal, dedicated & hardworking employee. I love my co-workers, I love my customers, and I want better, I hope for better. Your comment shows me it’s time to cut my losses and stop hoping because when you take genuine, heartfelt feedback (that has taken me real guts to post, and I am frightened) and label it ‘fierce’, there really is no hope left for any of us.

The third post was about health and safety and risk assessment.

Interesting stuff. I did once ask some of the ‘compounders’ in the Lush factory if they were provided with face masks (after I got a nose bleed in there and was told ‘sorry, that does happen with some formulas’!!!)… to my surprise, they said no; I also asked them if they had any equipment other than (admittedly copious quantities of) latex/rubber gloves to help them handle the often hot infusions and sometimes unpleasant ingredients they have to handle. (Ingredients that are nasty whilst ‘raw’ often go into perfectly nice products; this isn’t a swipe at the products.) Again, the answer was no. One of them asked me to raise a couple of related issues with some of my colleagues who had a more direct influence over how the factories are run. I did, but was essentially told it was not my place to do so. One can only imagine it wasn’t my place because in fact an up-to-date risk assessment had been done (and found that things such as face masks weren’t necessary), or was in hand to address concerns such as those I’ve mentioned and those the factory workers raised? But the factory workers who spoke to me were far too anxious about potential repercussions on them to raise the issues themselves with ‘management’. That didn’t seem right to me.

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The health and safety training that was done 3 years ago told shop managers to do their risk assessments and log them with head office. If this wasn’t done, or was done incorrectly the managers themselves, not the company, would be personally financially liable for anything that went wrong in the shops – and could be expected to pay up to 20,000 (more than most managers annual salary). So it was always in the best interest for shop managers to do their risk assessments!

However, prior to my leaving last year there had been no further health and safety training done, so new managers were expected to be liable with no training at all. So it’s little wonder that some managers don’t have a clue when it comes to pregnant women etc. And highly likely that risk assessments are no longer up to date. Although common sense should dictate, in most cases fear of reprisals from head office would mean that managers can’t use their gut instinct and must abide by the rules.

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Having worked in a lush shop where 3 people gained injuries which left them with chronic pain despite Lush being told NUMEROUS times over several years that there was a problem and it being flagged in all health and safety reports as ‘almost certain to result in a serious accident’, I can categorically say that Lush could not give a flying fuck about their staff.

I have had to give up a career I trained for 10 years for as a result of my injuries and not once did Lush apologise or offer to help in any way.

After a post about maternity rights which didn’t attract much comment, we moved on to look at competition prizes and limited edition goods.

On the forum in late 2011, I won an all-expenses-paid buying trip. According to the prize description, I would be travelling with the Lush buying team in Spring 2012 to visit one of their fresh ingredient suppliers outside the UK. This was a creative competition so I spent time and effort writing a poem for my entry and was absolutely thrilled to hear that I had been chosen as the winner.

After emailing my details to two particular members of staff (I’ll call them #1 and #2) as requested, I heard nothing back at all. A month later, having carefully checked my junk email folder and the forum and finding nothing, I assumed I had been forgotten. I therefore contacted both staff members on the forum. Staff Member #1 replied, apologising and explaining that they had both been busy. I was assured by this person that I hadn’t been forgotten.

I heard absolutely nothing from anyone at Lush after that, which was very upsetting as I had been so looking forward to my trip of a lifetime. The idea of chasing it up a second time felt degrading and I just felt too embarrassed to say anything.

Over a year passed, life got in the way etc. and I eventually plucked up the courage to bump my initial thread on the forum and enquire again about what happened to my prize. I received an apology from Staff Member #1 (still nothing at all from Staff Member #2) and was assured that it would be looked into. A few days later, I was informed that some headway had been made with the buying team. I was also told that Staff Member #2 (who, to this day, has not acknowledged a single message/email of mine) had left the company. According to Staff Member #1, nobody knows why Staff Member #2 never sorted out my prize. So it seems the blame is on Staff Member #2.

A few days ago, I was asked for my details again and given a provisional date via email. I was told that my details would be forwarded to another member of staff, who would be contacting me. I’m still waiting to hear from Staff Member #3, but I’ll try to post an update when I hear something. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath and after reading the posts on this blog, I am a little apprehensive about dealing with people who have potentially labelled me a fat, crazy weirdo.

I do not feel like I have won a prize; I feel like I have been promised something lovely and then ignored and given excuses. It’s a horrible feeling and it’s left a really bad taste in my mouth. I’m prepared to give them this second chance to put things right and deliver the prize that I put time and effort into winning fair and square. If nothing happens this time around, I will be contacting Trading Standards.

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I’d like to tell you about my prize experience as a staff member. In the spring of ’09 I was an SA in a US Lush shop. The North American shops are run out of Canada. At that time Lush Canada were putting a lot of pressure on the US shops to increase their sales figures. Canada setup a 30 day contest between just the top producing US stores, and the store I worked in was one of them. The goal was to see which store could bring in the most dollar volume within 30 days, and which store could increase its sales percentage by the greatest amount overall. The prizes were to be a large quantity of Lush merchandise from the UK and B Never products, divided amongst the staff of the winning stores. During that 30 day period, our store was assigned two individuals who worked in Lush regional management in a different sales region of the country. They were put up at a hotel and their meals were paid. (This was in a worldwide tourist mecca.) They came in and ran roughshod over the entire staff and violated every company policy that we were ever trained to uphold. They said that there tactics were on the instuctions of the Canadian owner of the rights to Lush. Their only goal was to make as much money as possible and upsell every customer, making sure they left with a basketfull of merchandise whether the products met their needs or not. (The level of returns within the subsequent 30 days set new records.) The amount of stock ordered bordered on the ridiculous and was literally piled to the rafters in the store room. Instructions were to move the merchandise in volume by demoing literally every minute of the day and try to sell each and every person entering the store the trio of Dream Cream, Ocean Salt, and Lemony Flutter. We were instructed to grab baskets and follow the customers around the store, placing items in their basket regardless of whether they chose them or not. Lying to customers was rampant and the staff was totally demoralized by the public humiliation, ridicule and abuse these “ladies” doled out. They fired the manager who stood up for her staff and tried to uphold what we understood the Lush values to be. As the end of the 30 days drew near and it was clear that our store would place second rather than first, the regional managers spent fewer and fewer hours in the store, and the rest of the staff had to make up their man hours on the floor. At that point the management assignees spent the rest of their days partying (this is a MAJOR tourist town) until the wee small hours and only came in extremely hungover for an hour or two before dinner. They did stupid stuff like hiring a stiltwalker that they met at a bar to come in and perform on the shop floor. Their disdain for us was palpable and the only consolation the staff had was that these two contracted bed bugs in their hotel. Ultimately our store placed second in the contest and these two witches flew home on their brooms. But the store and the morale were never the same, and a series of assigned temporary managers came and went, all the best SA’s had been fired or left in disillusionment. There was no mechanism set up to claim our prize, and no one around at a level higher than SA to push for it. I was bound and determined that after the agony we had endured that we at least would get our rightfully earned prize. I kept pressing it with each new temporary manager we got.
Ultimately, after 6 months of demanding, we finally got our shipment of goodies from the UK. Unfortunately, a third of what we were due had been subtracted out and sent to the two regional witches. (As upper management they weren’t supposed to share in the booty.) One day I’d had enough and hung up my apron and quit. My eyes were opened by this horrible experience and I have neve looked at Lush the same again. (I was a customer since 1997 and an SA for a year.) If there is no ethical behavior in how staff are treated, it is impossible for me to believe that ethics abound in any other area of the company. I continue to buy the odd product that suits me, but no longer wearing rose colored glasses.

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It happens in shops too. Whilst manager of a UK store I won a premiership trip. The shops used to be arranged in leagues and if your shop did very well and took lots of money, got good mystery shop results and increased sales from the year before you moved up a league. If your shop was in the top (premiership) league for three out of four quarters of the year you got a prize whereby you could go and work for a week in a Lush shop anywhere in the world all expenses paid. What a fabulous opportunity! My shop did so well in its first two years that I won a trip. I wasn’t sure who to approach about my winning them and eventually asked a member of the then retail support. I was told to await further instructions. I waited. And waited.

At each managers meeting you would hear from ecstatic managers who had been to Japan and far flung places on their premiership trips. These managers were ‘in the loop’ managers who had good ‘Lush Mafia’ connections so it was hardly surprising that they got their trips. I continued to wait for my trip.

A year or two later I was approached by a member of the retail support/mystery shopper team and told that I should have asked about my trips earlier but now they had got my place sorted and they would like me to go to a new shop opening the following week in Budapest! Just like that! I had been told that you got to choose where you wanted to go but this person just told me where I was going. It was too little notice and I had to say that I couldn’t just up and leave my shop, kids, family at such short notice and that my passport had recently expired and I hadn’t got the money to renew it at that time. She said they would sort somewhere else for me to go in a couple of months.

I informed her that in the meantime my shop had again got into the premiership and that I had won another trip. After this she said that I would definitely get a good trip and would probably get to choose where I would like to go but that long haul trips were now outlawed because of Lush’s carbon neutral stance and it’s ban on unnecessary flying so I would have to go somewhere in Europe. This was fine as I didn’t want to go too far anyway. She said she would get in touch with me by the end of the week. To be fair tho she didn’t say what week.

Three years later I had still heard nothing so i assumed that I wasn’t getting my trip.

The store structure changed and the premiership idea was changed. It was supposed to be made fairer but there were never any prizes on offer after this. i wonder why?

I have now left the company, having never received my prizes. I guess it was Budapest or bust!

The data protection post caused a lot of comment.

I’m coming back later to make a bigger post but I’ve heard from a head office employee that one of their web designers warned them that the website wasn’t secure but he was ignored and quietly shuffled out at the earliest possible convenience.

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The developer in question was part of the website team. He expressed concerns about the security of the website. However the website is Jack Constantine’s baby, and as many commenters have said, if you criticise one of the Constantine brood, you’re likely to find yourself out of a job.

Obviously this is hearsay and you are free not to believe it. But the same goes for most of the comments on here.

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I had someone’s else’s invoice emailed to me, I saw their address , name and phone number, this was very recently, (within the last two months) I told them but to be honest they didnt seem to overly bothered! Human error apprerently! Great…….restores all faith!

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I had my card details stolen in 2010 during the Lush Website Hack – I was upset, and angry, but forgave Lush – This had happened with Amazon, it happened with Paypal – I saw it as a one-off and directed my anger at the hackers. We were told lessons had been learnt, I got my stolen money back and thought that would be the end of the matter.

A few months later, we had the secret@lush incident, myself and hundreds of others had our email addresses sent to each other – at the time, I rationalised (like some of the others), that “Thank god it was only other forum members” – at that stage, I was still very much blinded with Lush Love and believed that it was a friend making a monumental cock-up – friends makes mistakes, and you can forgive your friends, not a multinational company, and Lush was our friend (I know, stupid, right? But that’s how a lot of people felt about Lush). We received grovelling apologies, explanations and further assurances that lessons had been learnt…

After over a year of avoiding signing up of giving my details to Lush, a new store had opened in 2012, which was local to me, so I signed up to their mailing list. Just a few months later, in late April, I received my first marketing emailer from one the store – unfortunately, I also received the names and email addresses of every other person on the mailing list. I emailed the store to notify them of the error – No response, no apology, no acknowledgement, no attempt to recall the message – thank god there was no assurances of lessons had been learnt, because to compound it all with lies would have made the situation much, much worse.

I simply have had enough – I cannot trust Lush with any of my information, they haven’t learnt their lesson, they are still slapdash with people’s personal information – so I sent the offending emails to the Information Commissioner and submitted a formal complaint.

Lush’s customers, their fans, their online forum had been telling them for years about this problem (and many others, which go on without a viable solution), and Lush are simply refusing to listen. I am glad that this blog is here, because the issues raised have been stuff that Lush know about and customers have been trying to tell them for years, and all that we get is lip service – but no action, and no guarantees that they have been taking notice.

If they won’t listen to their customers – then we have to find other ways to make them listen!

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After the hacking incident all managers received PCI and data security training. This was a 3 hour training session which we all had to travel up to London for and basically involved sitting listening to some dreary girl telling us all to lock our personnel files in the safe (safes not big enough and can be accessed by about 8 people so therefore not secure) and to never ever ever ever touch a customers credit card. That was basically it. We all got given a big form to read and sign to say that we understood it (even tho the girl training us didn’t seem to understand it either) and we then had to convey the information back to our staff and get them to sign to say that they understood too. Therefore Lush have told the managersband it’s down to the staff to take responsibility for Lush’s actions again.

In the shops all the customers credit card slips – even those with numbers on if they were ones that were signed – were to be treated exactly the same as before the hacking incident. They were kept with all the till receipts, placed in an envelope with the date and shop number written on the envelope. The envelope couldn’t be sealed – especially at Christmas when there were too many receipts for the envelope to contain, in fact we were told not to seal them as they might need to be looked at. These envelopes were kept in a box in the staff/office area, accessible to all and sundry and then, as always, were sent back to the accounts department by royal mail in an archive envelope in what is called the ‘end of month pack’. These then get filed and looked at if there is a problem with the shops sales figures etc.

We asked if all shops could be issued with a strong box that only the manager could have a key for so that all this information could be kept safe. We’re still waiting. I don’t suppose it will ever happen as Lush just don’t care enough. I hope they do get caught and fined as it is the only way that they will ever learn that they are not above the law, it DOES apply to them and that no one’s teflon coated, even them.

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Curious comment about the strong box. I work in another store, we didnt have one and were ordered a full lockable filing cabinet without asking. I have also been working in another store recently who also didnt have one, but we were told to buy one asap. I think you need to follow up on that as I dont believe in this instance it is Lush at fault. At least in regards to the lock box…

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And why am I not surprised . Oh maybe because when I called up on the perfume round and I was talking on. the mobile on way to work and he member of staff said are your last number xxxx and said yes . confirm last 3 numbers and I said yes thats right . Got off the phone and realised all card details were on there computer even the cvv are saved .only had to confirm last numbers on card means only one thing. Card changed not using for lush shopping no more . So all the hassle people had after Xmas this year with there cards charging after December lush knew what they were doing . But even copying the cvv number is wrong on every level.i have contacted my bank as the fraud squad did contact me and send a new card during the original data web hack the previous time .and i have today asked them to look into this further as the company are clearly at fault and not keeping security maxed up.so far not impressed at all .lush have learnt nothing from this .nothing at all .i don’t trust them to not to get hacked again as there systems are clearly wide open for anyone to pop in and nick.so much for the promises of it never going to be a problem in future.and i sure as heck will pay cash if i do shop inshore in future .seriously sloppy security .in store and online.and via mail order.just my feelings posted but I’m evidently not alone .great blog posts as well.

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In late February this year I had a chunk of money come out of my bank account for Lush Mail Order. I hadn’t purchased anything from Lush Mail Order since December 2012 (when I ordered Christmas presents). Confused, I called up Mail Order who confirmed I hadn’t made an order since December and confirmed the payment was for that order, as it had not come out in December. They didn’t know why, I was never ever given a satisfactory response. They were actually rather evasive and rude to me. Now I had received the goods and therefore owed the money, fair enough, and I understand payments can come out a week or so after the transaction. But months?! If Lush did their accounting properly, they would have known this money was owing (I was one of many apparently) but they didn’t think to tell customers this was the case. I paid for it on debit card and my account is always good, there was no reason from my end for it to happen, the fault WAS entirely with Lush to my mind. Being Christmas, I hadn’t noticed that it didn’t come out at the time I just presumed that a normal retailer would take the money when you handed the card details over, but Lush aren’t really a normal company are they? They seem to sidestep normal procedure.

At the time I saw on the forum that it had happened to other people. Lush’s Ethics Director – Hilary Jones responded in her usual patronising manner. She said the following (which can still be found on the International Forum):

“As I said, we do not keep any details on our system – they are typed straight into a handset that belongs, and is linked via phone line, to the credit card company. For us to be able to re-take a payment, we would have to phone the customer and ask them to read the number to us again, so we could type it into the hand set again”

Well, nobody had called or contacted me, and it was months since I originally called to make my order. I was very very worried and the people I spoke to at Lush were really very unhelpful and I felt rather rude. So naturally, I rang my bank to ask them about it. Like I say, I had no problem with the money being taken, I owed it, but how had they processed this transaction several months later? My bank said they were confused – the money had not been ‘pending’ out of my account for months, but it had been freshly taken in the February. That’s right, there had been no PENDING payment, as would usually be the case in a delay between processing transaction and money leaving the account. The bank told me that the payment had ONLY been processed in the past few days. As I say, no one had called me up to tell me this, or re-take details. Now I originally called Mail Order to make my December purchases (I didn’t go through the website) so had they kept my details somewhere? They must have. My bank thought they had and advised me to call the police as they felt there were data protection issues at hand. I still haven’t plucked up the courage to do this as I am scared of Lush, maybe I will do now?

I did receive a call from their customer care department to talk about the issue; they read some standard response off a piece of paper and offered to send me a box of products. Silence products?

Incidentally, with the big Lush website of 2010, I never used the website (only ever rang up MO on a rare occasion) but I was a victim of internet fraud (for the first & only time) in December 2010. Again, I have no idea how anyone got hold of my card details but I feel it was one hell of a coincidence.

I have no faith that my details were ever safe with Lush Mail Order. This was my genuine customer experience.

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I left Lush around a year after the hacking and there was no strong box provided in this time, tho they may have finally got their act together now and provided them. After the training I asked if I could buy a box and was told that it was not necessary and that my shop didn’t really have the budget for it. In my head office position I visited around 15 shops and none of them had a strong box. Most lush staff room/offices wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate one anyway. In some of the shops I visited the paperwork was all over the place, with card receipts spilling out of envelopes in full view of all staff and customers too if they did not close the door between the shop and the staff area which many didn’t.

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My experience of having worked at Lush (for a fairly long time, in a few different positions) is that they look after number 1. If they can ignore a problem they will, if they can’t, they will try to throw money at it to make it go away, and also spin it to their advantage. It’s a mixture of pure laziness, lack of experience, stupidity and arrogance. I also believe that they also see things like not having proper legal employment procedures as something akin to ‘sticking it to the man’ – if they don’t have to do something properly, or they won’t get found out, they find utter childish delight in dodging it. I believe this is, in part, due to the owner’s belief that he runs a glorified corner shop and that as a privately owned firm, they are not accountable. If Lush doesn’t stand to profit from it, or believe it’s one or two ‘troublemakers’, they will not take notice. Want proof? Look at the continued ignored customer pleas over the years, look at the results of the web hack, look at the upheld ASA complaints, look at how the owner (“BIG” aka Mark Constantine) used to speak to his customers on his own forum (and when he didn’t like it, or couldn’t handle it, he ran away with his tail between his legs). It’s all out there for anyone and everyone to see. Google a few choice words and you can see it all in black & white.

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I have been uhmming and ahhing about writing here, i am a very scared member of staff. i want to say as far as a locked box or whatever goes we have NEVER had one and still use envelopes kept in the back room. i have worked in a few stores and i have never been told about the locked box so it cant just be my current store. also if you believe anything changed after the hacking crisis, you would be kidding yourself

Next came a post about Lush, thrush and rashes. It seems that several people have had problems they believe are caused by Lush products.

I feel it’s necessary to leave a comment to this post as I have just had what can only be described as 12 days of hell with my vagina. Last week I decided to use a bubble bar, Gingerbread House, from my Lush stash. I have used this bubble bar on many occasions before so didn’t anticipate any problems. About a hour later. after exiting the bath, my vagina started to tingle, and not in a good way. 3 hours later I found myself smothering my vagina in Canesten Combi Cream to try and relieve the itching that was starting to overwhelm me. After a very restless nights sleep and difficultly peeing the next morning I went to see my GP. I explained my symptoms and he requested that a swab be taken for analysis. Upon spreading my legs the pain was 10x worse. It actually felt like my flaps were on fire. I was so embarrassed and mortified, especially when he said it looked like the skin was burnt and it was weeping through open sores. After a very painful swab was taken he prescribed me antibiotics for infection prevention and said that I should soothe the area by having luke-warm salt baths.
This week I received a call from my GP to tell me that I had in-fact contracted bacterial vaginosis. I have never had this before. Yet more antibiotics have been prescribed and it’s fair to say that I feel like shit. Not only is the pain unbearable, it makes you very drowsy. A to 4 yous a motherng children, I feel at the end of my tether most days and I can feel depression starting to creep in.
Not only has it affected my health greatly, I am now £16 out of pocket due to prescription charges. My sex-life with my husband is non-existant. We can’t even cuddle, as getting into an aroused state makes me cry with pain. We had to come home from a friend’s birthday party early as I couldn’t pee without trickling water onto my bits and I have had to purchase new underwear as I am so concerned that the bacteria will never go away.
Needless to say, the rest of my Lush has hit the bin. There was around £100 of unused items. I will never, ever use another of their products ever again. I am still experiencing some really horrible symptoms and I’m now starting to think I will never be the same again.
The icing on the cake? My bath smelt of fuck all.

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I’ve had no issues with Lush products and I think I’m one of the lucky few. However, my husband who has psoriasis behind his ears, says that Lush shampoo aggravates it. I used to buy him Reincarnate which I thought would be soothing but it made him itch. He now uses only L’Occitane Five Essential Oils shampoo and he has no problems at all with it. I don’t use Lush shampoo anymore as citrus oils and SLS are hair colour death. Blousey seems to be overpriced for what it actually is – a primarily banana based product – and I’ve just had to bin a mostly used pot as it’s gone off.

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We are another bunch who have been hit by Lush Thrush. Namely with Snow Fairy. I used it on my lady bits and within a couple of hours I was itching and burning like you wouldn’t believe. The idea of using a cheese grater to itch it even seemed appealing. I didn’t think much of it at the time until my husband and daughter also both used it. My husband’s privates turned a vicious shade of red and itched to high heaven. His itching became so bad he slathered Sudocrem all over. My daughter sadly suffered the worse. She is only 6 (5 at the time of using this) and she itched her girl bits red raw to the point they bled :( She said it burned and itched…eventually making her cry. The only thing which would alleviate it was Sudocrem.

The only thing which had been used on my daughter was Snow Fairy but I reluctantly tried it again to see if it really was this pink, harmless looking gunk in a bottle causing so much discomfort. Sure enough, it was. This time it took 5 days to clear completely.

The remainder of our Snow Fairy has been used as toilet cleaner. I have to say it brings the toilet up very well. The thing I wonder is what the hell is in the stuff to make the toilet so sparkly clean?

plus all the forum comments in the original post.

The blog entry about problems with evaporating perfume because of substandard bottles didn’t attract many comments, probably because all the complaints had been aired on the forum.

I have experienced nothing but problems over the years with the packaging of the lush fragrances. I returned 5 just after Christmas due to leaking and some being under filled by amounts up to 10ml. 3 being HQ which I had bought from the perfume gallery in London, which I had taken a trip to buy,not just for me, but for friends, sharing a bottle of something special. However I was sent two packages, one containing two party replacements and products (to compensate for my return postage – something which annoys me greatly, the customer having to pay to return their products and then being sent random items to make up for it, so yeah I got a box of stuff I do not use…useful eh. Given I had paid special delivery postage to ensure it was received) the second contained only 2 bottles of HQ, I had returned 3. I was then made to feel like I was lying about this as the member of staff was adamant they had put three in the box. The box which was barely big enough for two…)

It’s long been the norm that they will give free random products to compensate for postage, yet most of the time I’ve ended up with something I do not use. Some times I had not been able to afford the postage, and had to just leave it and not sent things back, as even stating that I could not afford postage did they say they will refund it. Only really pushing over a number of days did they say they would refund. Now they have the free return postage label, but you have to email or phone to get it.

They seem to make it as difficult as possible to return items, and being told to take a special perfume to a store really takes the biscuit. Yes I do have a local, but currently it is exceedingly difficult for me to get there due to health reasons.

It’s all a bit of a joke really, a really unfunny joke.

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When I was sent an incorrect perfume by another company they offered to send me all the ‘dangerous goods’ labels and other instructions so that I could send it back to them for a refund. From this I’m guessing that if Lush really wanted the perfumes back through the post there is a way to do this (apart from the obvious option of using a courier).

There are also concerns about how fresh the products really are.

Aaah the old ‘freshness’ claims. A fabulous USP if only it was true – can four month old product really be called ‘fresh’. Doesn’t that mean that ‘fresh’ IS just a marketing term? (Because, in their oft quoted ‘We Believe” mantra, it does have the bit at the bottom where they say they believe that “‘fresh’ and organic’ have honest meaning beyond marketing”, doesn’t it?). It is my believe that this is another case of their gross hypocrisy.

Looking at why they hook onto ‘fresh’ with such a dear hold, what is the benefit to the customer? Why does freshness matter – is there any proof that ultra ‘fresh’ product with minimum of preservative is more efficacious on the skin & hair? Is there even any proof that fresh masks are ‘nutritious’ for the skin? (I’ll get on to that later). Do Lush even question why it is important? It works fabulously on a small scale and is a great selling point, but on a large scale we – as customers (or ex-customers) can see that it just doesn’t work. Exploding pots of cream, mouldy face masks, product that just doesn’t work…

Let’s also talk about the “Everything else – 4 months on the shelf, use within 14 months since manufacturing date” – how fresh are the ballistics and bubbles coming out of the factory? I have a feeling that the reason that ballistics (for example) no longer do what they used to (i.e. smell and fizz) is due to them being made en masse in the factory and stored until being shipped out. I have no proof for this, it is just my personal theory, but it must be noted that the rapid expansion of the company over the past 5 years goes hand in hand with the deterioration in product like soap, ballistics & bubbles. Apart from when it comes to Retro… which is made in small batches. It is also worth mentioning that the Dorset factory not only serves the UK but also other markets.

Soap is something else that worries me. One morning in my local store, a staff member was unwrapping some soap from its container (they had just had their delivery and were putting some of it out). The soap was the green one in trough moulds (pale green with fruity slices throughout – Miranda I think). It was still wet, and she said “look how fresh this is!”. Now my soap making knowledge is fairly limited but I have dabbled – isn’t soap meant to ‘cure’ for a while, which helps with later shrinkage and fixes the scent a bit more? All this nonsense we’ve had over the years about people being sent out underweight soaps in gifts, and the moisture evaporating from the soap being the cause of the loss in weight… perhaps this wouldn’t happen if they let it cure first? Again, fast turnaround isn’t everything. I would rather have a cured soap that lasts than a wet mushy one that evaporates in a week.

Also, what is the fresh policy to gifts? Next time you’re in store, look on the bottom of the gifts to see when they were made up, and also to see the age of the product contained within. It’s usually not that ‘fresh’ in my experience.

My last issue to do with ‘fresh’ and food ingredients is to do with what I feel are dubious claims. Look at the website for the following issues:

– H’suan Wen Hua Hair Moisturiser. This contains “Fresh free range eggs and soya lecithin for protein to restructure the hair.” Can eggs and lecithin restructure hair? Are they allowed to claim this?

– Ayesha fresh face mask. A couple of problems here!

a) This has “kiwi for vitamin C”. They don’t elaborate as to why this is necessary to have in a face mask. Is there any proof that topical vitamin C application does anything for the skin? Doesn’t vitamin C deplete greatly from fresh fruit once it is open to the air? Why are they telling us this?

b) ” We then chose regenerative essential oils of patchouli, rosemary and rose absolute”. Regenerative in what sense? They can regenerate skin? Stimulate cell renewal? Again, why are they telling us this, what is the proof for their claims? BBSeaweed face mask also claims to have “Rosemary oil to regenerate the skin” – again a lofty claim with no proof or source for the claim.

– Turkish Delight shower smoothie. The copy on this claims it will leave your body “smooth and nourished”. NOURISHED? Really, Lush? Washing with a highly scented shower cream is going to nourish my body? Or am I meant to eat it? Actually, do type “nourished” into the Lush.co.uk search engine, several products claim they can do this including:

a) Sophisticated Eyeshadow (it has a ‘nourishing’ base)
b) Vanilla Dee-Lite (it has butters and kiwi to ‘nourish & treat’ the skin. Does ‘treat’ amount to some kind of medical claim?)
c) Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner has – wait for it – “ingredients to feed and nourish the skin”. What, FEED and nourish the skin? FEED it? How, just… how?
d) Cupcake face mask – it has linseed in it to ‘nourish’ the skin. Linseed is excellent when eaten, and I think the oil is used on cricket bats to keep the wood supple. Not sure about it nourishing the skin from topical application…
e) Oatifix face mask. Apparently this is a ‘nourishing mask’ and key to its success are “Bananas are a very rich oily fruit – so are perfect for a mask that is trying to get goodness into dry skin”. Again, a lofty claim!

I won’t go through them all but all in all there are 56 entries on the Lush.co.uk website when you type ‘nourishing’ into their search bar. Again, if one looks at the definition of ‘nourishing’ it is:

“(of food) Containing substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition: ‘a simple but nourishing meal’”

(source: Google definition under the search ‘define: nourishing’).

So as an ex-customer my issue is not only with the freshness but the marketing of it, why they perceive it as important, and some of the (in my opinion) misleading claims they attach to the use of ‘fresh’ ingredients. I was always under the impression that the vitamins in fruit & vegetables (especially water soluble ones) degenerate upon oxidation and also need to be ingested in order to nourish the human body. I may be wrong, but I am not the one making the claims. One for ASA perhaps? It wouldn’t be the first time Lush has come up against the ASA for misleading claims:

(http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/5/Lush-Retail-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_134880.aspx & http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2010/6/Lush-Retail-Ltd/TF_ADJ_48632.aspx)

Whilst I’m on a roll, something else which really boils my piss is the claims some of the products make for PMT. PMT is not some wishy washy bad mood that some women have once a month. PMT can be debilitating and the effects can range from mild anxiety to severe depressive moods, not to mention unpleasant physical symptoms. It’s not something to be joked about or taken lightly. Therefore, I ask how Lush can claim that some Flying Fox shower gel (which smells like manure mixed with honey, due to their trademark vulgar use of jasmine) can possibly have an effect on such a personal condition as PMT. From their website:

“You can use Flying Fox at any time of the month, but it’s especially good at The Time of the Month, because we’ve added the top essential oils for calming PMT”

Then, interestingly, go further down the page and this claim is also made about the gel:

“There are times when you want to feel sexy in body and mind.
This magic gel is crammed full of specialist honeys from around the world that will make your skin feel great. We then added the sexiest perfume we could, packed with aphrodisiac essential oils to set you on the rampage!”

So not only will it ‘calm’ your PMT, ladies (yes, a pungent shower gel can help with all that bloating, migraines, breast tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, dysphoria etc) it will also magically turn you into some rampant sex beast, much nicer for those around you, no?

The website also makes a lovely little joke about PMT in the copy for their “Vibrance” lipstick. I quote the following:

“How glorious that VIBRANCE is your strength. This will get you a long way in life. Who doesn’t like to be around someone who has VIBRANCE? Only someone who has PMT or a hangover, perhaps? They might see it as a weakness until you share your secret with them.”

Oh yes, because PMT can be equated to self inflicted alcohol poisoning, can’t it?

What utter misogyny. It really makes me so angry, I cannot tell you. Who has the audacity to make such claims? Oh yes, it’s that wacky, family-run friendly hippy soap shop Lush. My arse.

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On the subject of un-cured soap, it is true that cold processed soap does indeed have to cure for 4-6 weeks for the nasty caustic soda (sodium hydroxide – it’s in all Lush soaps) it contains to saponify and become safe and inert. BUT…. Lush don’t actually make their own soap! They buy it in, in huge bulk, from a soap base manufacturer. When it comes in it is in pellet form (noodles) and it is already saponified and cured and is effectively extremely natural soap. When this soap is made is unknown, it could be years old, you’d never know.

What Lush then do with it is melt it down in huge 4′ high saucepans (vessels), add loads of water to make it runny, add their bright colouring powders and fragrance and oils (to make it ‘nourishing’) mix it up with huge hand held industrial size blenders and then pour it into moulds where it sets quite quickly, but now it has loads of liquid in it that it didn’t need so, as it’s turned out and hits the air, it starts to shrink. It will shrink anything up to 20%, depending on which soap it is and how much water or juice or honey or oil or oats have been added to it.

Lush know that it shrinks, but instead of leaving the soap to evaporate first, or giving you a chunk that is bigger so that once it has evaporated it weighs what you wanted it to, they send it out the next day ‘fresh’ and then sell you 80% soap 20% water. The amount that shrinks they call the ‘Angels Share’ but what they really mean is ‘an extra 20% profit on top of what they’re already making’.

How can they sleep at night, and how can they claim that their stuff is ‘handmade’ when they buy it in and mix it up in huge vats? It was maybe handmade once upon a time but now it is mass produced on an industrial scale. Time to re-think their marketing.

As well as concerns about the perfume bottles, customers have complained for a long time about the Lush black pots.

The lush black pots are manufactured locally so that they can cut down on transport and use the ‘closed loop’ recycling system that they so loudly go on about. All very commendable except that the pots are not fit for purpose. Not only are they not tamper evident (and therefore open to contamination by any customer who wants to open a pot, stick their finger in it and put it back on the shelf) but the pots sweat in the summer and get condensation on the inside (which turns to mould in a lot of cases). When I was a manager I constantly had battles with head office over pots of Mask of Magnaminty which would repeatedly arrive with green fluff on it even tho it was only made that month. At one point the stock room looked like a penicillin factory! The product couldn’t be sent back to the factory so it just had to be scooped into the bin and then the pots washed up and sent back to the factory for recycling. As long as the pots are recycled they don’t care about the product. Also sometimes the lids don’t fit the pots and just spin round and there seems to be little or no quality control taking place.

The products expand in the heat causing the pots to leak and ooze in the summer and we were constantly wiping fair trade foot lotion from around the edges and down the sides of the pots, not very hygenic at all. Some days you’d have to open every pot and release the gas that had built up inside them, then sell them with a smile. Don’t forget to smile!

A few products would react with the plastic and take on a ‘surgical spirit’ odour which, when you’re spending 15-40 quid on a moisturiser, you just don’t want.

But with all their ‘ethics’ about using recycled materials what I never understood were the ballistic moulds. These items are used just once and then sent away to be recycled. When I used to do ballistic making parties in store we used the moulds indefinitely and always got great results as ballistics leave no residue when they are unmoulded – apart from a bit of bicarb, which they all contain.

Considering the amount of ballistics that have been made (millions) it’s hard to understand why they don’t reuse the moulds at least 10 times. The waste produced at the factory bears no resemblance to the values Lush spout on about in their ‘green hub’ – sadly out of date since the green team was disbanded, and although their plastic disclosure document http://www.hamiltonadvisorsltd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/LUSH-disclosure-Plastic_Disclosure_Project_kate-2.pdf states that ‘up to half’ the moulds are used ‘up to 4 times’ this just isn’t done. Up to4 actually means used once!

When massage bars and body butters arrive in the shop they are in their moulds and it is down to the shops to unmould the product and send the moulds back to the factory to be recycled or to get them recycled themselves so these are never reused. Ballistics get unmoulded in the factory and the moulds are recycled never reused. Soap is made in moulds and then recycled.

it’s all very well to say that 46% of products are unpackaged but they fail to disclose how many % of products were encased in plastic during their creation – most of them! Once again Lush are giving a rose tinted view of events, only telling the good bits. Half truths.

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It’s not just the grotty black pots that are faulty. Their bottles are pretty crappy at dispensing non-liquid products. I have binned a bottle of No Drought as I got sick of wasting so much powder every time I used it. I tried sprinkling it onto my hair, shaking it onto my hairbrush, tapping it gently onto my brush and it would still go everywhere, so much so I would tap it onto my brush over my loo to catch the mess. You don’t get that problem with Batiste.

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I remember the way the black pots were *before* they had the screw tops, when you had to “burp” the lids to get a seal, which never really worked, and they were a nightmare to transport anywhere unless you taped the lid down. Which of course is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if you just want to pop your handcream in your bag for use during the day…

One of the things I’ve tried to do with these Bullshit posts is make clear to Lush employees that they are allowed to join a union and that they cannot suffer detriment if they do. This also attracted some comment.

I cannot recommend USDAW enough. Don’t be afraid – current employees please join today. If Lush truly care about ethical business they will ditch their 1970s views of Trade Unions and get on board with what ethical practice actually means. Of course, whilst the current leader is in situ it may not happen soon as I believe he is a complete bigot (as are several of his sycophant circle) but one can only hope.

The union rights post didn’t attract much comment, perhaps because it affects staff far more than customers, but I’ll say it again anyway – everyone is allowed to join a union and their company cannot make things difficult for them because of it. Join today!

I hope readers have found it useful to have so many of the comments together in one place for easier reading. I’ve quoted most of them, other than the ones that weren’t germane to the subject, or the ones that were repetitive or didn’t add anything useful. I have not left out all the positive comments in favour of the negative ones – there just weren’t many positive comments. Seeing all these comments here together in one post makes it seem so clear that there is something very badly wrong within Lush.

If any employees or ex-employees would like to post on this blog as a guest poster rather than via the comments, feel free to email southsidesocialist@hotmail.co.uk and we can discuss it. Anonymity will be guaranteed if you request it.

Frankie

I’m just watching the first episode of the new BBC drama Frankie, with Gwen from Torchwood as the eponymous district nurse. And it has Eve from Casualty too. And so far, it’s terrible.

The performances are ok, it’s the terrible understanding of health and social care services that is bugging me. A district nurse decides to refer a sick child to a consultant. Right, ‘cos that can happen. Not. She asks the GP to refer a dementing elderly man for an occupational therapy assessment and the GP refuses. But she doesn’t bother to do it herself, even though she could. The elderly man is badly confused one day and thumps her. She refuses to record it, and neither does her colleague, even though he knows about it but she asks for “an assessment” for him. She takes the pregnant mother of the sick child to hospital for her scan, because of course district nurses have time to be a taxi service. On the way back, the poorly child goes into cardiac & respiratory arrest, and although the DN calls for an ambulance, after she has performed resuscitation and the child’s heart and breathing start up again, she sticks her back in her car and takes her to hospital herself instead of waiting for the ambulance. The next day, she spends hours in the hospital with the mother while the little girl has surgery. And then “they start the assessment” for the old man and section him by taking him away in a social work transport bus. Oh, and she forgoes her birthday party when she gets a call from the sick girl’s mother on her personal mobile, and ends up helping to deliver her baby (still wearing her party frock) even though she’s in the hospital surrounded by midwives. Wtf?

Do the BBC think that anything starring Eve Myles has to portray her as some sort of super-heroine? Are they trying to encourage the patronising view of nurses as angels? Or do they just not give a shit about basic accuracy? I get that the point of the show is that she puts her work ahead of anything else in her life, but surely they could write it in a way that actually reflects the realities of health and social care rather than this half-arsed over the top nonsense.

The Smell of Bullshit part 12: union membership

Somebody on the Lush international forum has just said that Lush UK contracts state that union membership is void. I haven’t seen a Lush contract and I have no idea what the exact wording is, or what Lush might mean by that (if their contracts do indeed say something like that). So let’s just go over the law as it applies to trade union membership in the UK. Again, as in previous blog posts, I must point out that Lush is not above the law.

This is what the Government says about trade union membership.

You have the right to:

  • choose to join or not join a union
  • decide to leave or remain a member of a union
  • belong to the union you choose, even if it’s not the one your employer negotiates with on pay, terms and conditions
  • belong to more than one union

Your employer isn’t allowed to:

  • offer you a benefit to leave a trade union
  • threaten to treat you unfairly if you don’t leave a union

An employer or employment agency isn’t allowed to insist that you:

  • join or leave a trade union
  • leave one union for another

Your employer isn’t allowed to dismiss you or choose you for redundancy because you:

  • are or want to be a union member
  • aren’t or don’t want to be a union member
  • took part or wanted to take part in union activities

Your employer mustn’t treat you unfavourably (for example refusing you promotion or training opportunities) if you:

  • join a union
  • take part in its meetings
  • leave a union

So, no employer can treat you unfavourably because you are a union member. If they do, you might have grounds for a tribunal, and your union would assist you with that.

And let’s have a look at what the law says.

137 Refusal of employment on grounds related to union membership.

(1)It is unlawful to refuse a person employment—
(a)because he is, or is not, a member of a trade union, or
(b)because he is unwilling to accept a requirement—
(i)to take steps to become or cease to be, or to remain or not to become, a member of a trade union, or
(ii)to make payments or suffer deductions in the event of his not being a member of a trade union.
(2)A person who is thus unlawfully refused employment has a right of complaint to an employment tribunal.
(3)Where an advertisement is published which indicates, or might reasonably be understood as indicating—
(a)that employment to which the advertisement relates is open only to a person who is, or is not, a member of a trade union, or
(b)that any such requirement as is mentioned in subsection (1)(b) will be imposed in relation to employment to which the advertisement relates,
a person who does not satisfy that condition or, as the case may be, is unwilling to accept that requirement, and who seeks and is refused employment to which the advertisement relates, shall be conclusively presumed to have been refused employment for that reason.
(4)Where there is an arrangement or practice under which employment is offered only to persons put forward or approved by a trade union, and the trade union puts forward or approves only persons who are members of the union, a person who is not a member of the union and who is refused employment in pursuance of the arrangement or practice shall be taken to have been refused employment because he is not a member of the trade union.
(5)A person shall be taken to be refused employment if he seeks employment of any description with a person and that person—
(a)refuses or deliberately omits to entertain and process his application or enquiry, or
(b)causes him to withdraw or cease to pursue his application or enquiry, or
(c)refuses or deliberately omits to offer him employment of that description, or
(d)makes him an offer of such employment the terms of which are such as no reasonable employer who wished to fill the post would offer and which is not accepted, or
(e)makes him an offer of such employment but withdraws it or causes him not to accept it.
(6)Where a person is offered employment on terms which include a requirement that he is, or is not, a member of a trade union, or any such requirement as is mentioned in subsection (1)(b), and he does not accept the offer because he does not satisfy or, as the case may be, is unwilling to accept that requirement, he shall be treated as having been refused employment for that reason.

(8)The provisions of this section apply in relation to an employment agency acting, or purporting to act, on behalf of an employer as in relation to an employer.

Refusal of service of employment agency on grounds related to union membership.

(1)It is unlawful for an employment agency to refuse a person any of its services—
(a)because he is, or is not, a member of a trade union, or
(b)because he is unwilling to accept a requirement to take steps to become or cease to be, or to remain or not to become, a member of a trade union.
(2)A person who is thus unlawfully refused any service of an employment agency has a right of complaint to an employment tribunal.
(3)Where an advertisement is published which indicates, or might reasonably be understood as indicating—
(a)that any service of an employment agency is available only to a person who is, or is not, a member of a trade union, or
(b)that any such requirement as is mentioned in subsection (1)(b) will be imposed in relation to a service to which the advertisement relates,
a person who does not satisfy that condition or, as the case may be, is unwilling to accept that requirement, and who seeks to avail himself of and is refused that service, shall be conclusively presumed to have been refused it for that reason.
(4)A person shall be taken to be refused a service if he seeks to avail himself of it and the agency—
(a)refuses or deliberately omits to make the service available to him, or
(b)causes him not to avail himself of the service or to cease to avail himself of it, or
(c)does not provide the same service, on the same terms, as is provided to others.
(5)Where a person is offered a service on terms which include a requirement that he is, or is not, a member of a trade union, or any such requirement as is mentioned in subsection (1)(b), and he does not accept the offer because he does not satisfy or, as the case may be, is unwilling to accept that requirement, he shall be treated as having been refused the service for that reason.

145AInducements relating to union membership or activities

(1)A worker has the right not to have an offer made to him by his employer for the sole or main purpose of inducing the worker—
(a)not to be or seek to become a member of an independent trade union,
(b)not to take part, at an appropriate time, in the activities of an independent trade union,
(c)not to make use, at an appropriate time, of trade union services, or
(d)to be or become a member of any trade union or of a particular trade union or of one of a number of particular trade unions.
(2)In subsection (1) “an appropriate time” means—
(a)a time outside the worker’s working hours, or
(b)a time within his working hours at which, in accordance with arrangements agreed with or consent given by his employer, it is permissible for him to take part in the activities of a trade union or (as the case may be) make use of trade union services.
(3)In subsection (2) “working hours”, in relation to a worker, means any time when, in accordance with his contract of employment (or other contract personally to do work or perform services), he is required to be at work.
(4)In subsections (1) and (2)—
(a)“trade union services” means services made available to the worker by an independent trade union by virtue of his membership of the union, and
(b)references to a worker’s “making use” of trade union services include his consenting to the raising of a matter on his behalf by an independent trade union of which he is a member.
(5)A worker or former worker may present a complaint to an employment tribunal on the ground that his employer has made him an offer in contravention of this section.
145BInducements relating to collective bargaining(1)A worker who is a member of an independent trade union which is recognised, or seeking to be recognised, by his employer has the right not to have an offer made to him by his employer if—
(a)acceptance of the offer, together with other workers’ acceptance of offers which the employer also makes to them, would have the prohibited result, and
(b)the employer’s sole or main purpose in making the offers is to achieve that result.
(2)The prohibited result is that the workers’ terms of employment, or any of those terms, will not (or will no longer) be determined by collective agreement negotiated by or on behalf of the union.
(3)It is immaterial for the purposes of subsection (1) whether the offers are made to the workers simultaneously.
(4)Having terms of employment determined by collective agreement shall not be regarded for the purposes of section 145A (or section 146 or 152) as making use of a trade union service.
(5)A worker or former worker may present a complaint to an employment tribunal on the ground that his employer has made him an offer in contravention of this section.

(1)worker has the right not to be subjected to any detriment as an individual by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer if the act or failure takes place for the sole or main purpose of—
(a)preventing or deterring him from being or seeking to become a member of an independent trade union, or penalising him for doing so,
(b)preventing or deterring him from taking part in the activities of an independent trade union at an appropriate time, or penalising him for doing so, F15…
[F16(ba)preventing or deterring him from making use of trade union services at an appropriate time, or penalising him for doing so, or]
F16(c)compelling him to be or become a member of any trade union or of a particular trade union or of one of a number of particular trade unions.
(2)In subsection [F17(1)]F17“an appropriate time” means—
(a)a time outside the [F18worker’s]F18 working hours, or
(b)a time within his working hours at which, in accordance with arrangements agreed with or consent given by his employer, it is permissible for him to take part in the activities of a trade union [F19or (as the case may be) make use of trade union services]F19;
and for this purpose “working hours”, in relation to [F20a worker]F20, means any time when, in accordance with his contract of employment [F21(or other contract personally to do work or perform services)]F21, he is required to be at work.
[F22(2A)In this section—
(a)“trade union services” means services made available to the worker by an independent trade union by virtue of his membership of the union, and
(b)references to a worker’s “making use” of trade union services include his consenting to the raising of a matter on his behalf by an independent trade union of which he is a member.
(2B)If an independent trade union of which a worker is a member raises a matter on his behalf (with or without his consent), penalising the worker for that is to be treated as penalising him as mentioned in subsection (1)(ba).
(2C)A worker also has the right not to be subjected to any detriment as an individual by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer if the act or failure takes place because of the worker’s failure to accept an offer made in contravention of section 145A or 145B.
(2D)For the purposes of subsection (2C), not conferring a benefit that, if the offer had been accepted by the worker, would have been conferred on him under the resulting agreement shall be taken to be subjecting him to a detriment as an individual (and to be a deliberate failure to act).]
F22(3)[F12A worker]F12 also has the right not to [F23be subjected to any detriment as an individual by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer if the act or failure takes place] for [F14the sole or main purpose]F14 of enforcing a requirement (whether or not imposed by [F24a contract of employment]F24 or in writing) that, in the event of his not being a member of any trade union or of a particular trade union or of one of a number of particular trade unions, he must make one or more payments.
(4)For the purposes of subsection (3) any deduction made by an employer from the remuneration payable to [F20a worker]F20 in respect of his employment shall, if it is attributable to his not being a member of any trade union or of a particular trade union or of one of a number of particular trade unions, be treated as [F25a detriment to which he has been subjected as an individual by an act of his employer taking place] for [F14the sole or main purpose]F14 of enforcing a requirement of a kind mentioned in that subsection.
(5)[F26A worker or former worker]F26 may present a complaint to an industrial tribunal on the ground that [F27he has been subjected to a detriment]by his employer in contravention of this section.
[F28(5A)This section does not apply where—
(a)the worker is an employee; and
(b)the detriment in question amounts to dismissal.]

Some of that looks quite complicated but in a nutshell, no employer can treat a worker unfavourably because they are in a union. No employer can try to compel a worker to leave or to not join a union. No employer can treat a worker unfavourably or punish them for seeking advice or assistance from a union on a matter for which it is reasonable to seek union advice. You cannot be disciplined for being in a union. You cannot be refused work for being in a union. You cannot be sacked for being in a union, and you cannot be selected for redundancy because you are in a union. If any employer tries any of those things on with you because you are in a union, get help from your union. If any employer tries any of those things on with you because you are thinking about joining a union, join the union and get their help.

Click this link to find out which union is right for you. And here is a list of unions. If you work for Lush, USDAW is probably the relevant union for you to join. You can join online right now!

So, those are your individual rights. But the power of unions comes from strength in numbers. It’s much easier to treat one person badly when that one person is scared to stand up for their rights. It’s much harder to treat 500 people badly when those 500 people aren’t prepared to put up for it. If you haven’t seen the film Made in Dagenham, you really should.

Since 2000, new legislation came into force about how employers must recognise unions for collective bargaining. What does the law say?

The statutory procedure may only be used in respect of employers with at least 21 employees. In making an application to the Central Arbitration Committee, the union must show that it has at least 10% membership within the proposed bargaining unit and that a majority of workers in the proposed bargaining unit are likely to favour recognition. Joint applications by two or more unions are permissible if they show that the unions will cooperate effectively and, if the employer wishes, conduct single-table bargaining.

 

Lush has at least 21 employees. What else?

Disagreements between employers and unions on scope of the proposed bargaining unit will be determined by the CAC, taking account of a range of factors and subject to the overriding need for it to be “compatible with effective management”.

The CAC will then decide whether a ballot is needed. If the CAC is satisfied that a majority of the workers in the bargaining unit belong to the union making the application, it will issue a declaration of recognition without a ballot unless it considers holding a ballot would be “in the interests of good industrial relations” or if there are doubts whether a significant number of union members want the union to bargain on their behalf. Where there is less than 50% membership in the bargaining unit, the CAC is required to order a secret ballot, to be conducted by a qualified independent person.

If a majority of the workers voting and at least 40% of those eligible to vote support the union in a ballot, the CAC must issue a declaration that the union is recognised as entitled to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of the bargaining unit.

Bargaining units aren’t always straightforward. For a big employer like a city council, there might be several bargaining units – one for the social work department, one for education, one for the housing department etc. For one independent shop, which only has one outlet, that would be one bargaining unit. For an organisation like Lush, manufacturing might be one bargaining unit, retail might be another, etc. If Lush and the union couldn’t agree on how to set up the bargaining units, the CAC would decide. Now here comes the good bit.

If the CAC is satisfied that a majority of the workers in the bargaining unit belong to the union making the application, it will issue a declaration of recognition without a ballot unless it considers holding a ballot would be “in the interests of good industrial relations” or if there are doubts whether a significant number of union members want the union to bargain on their behalf. Where there is less than 50% membership in the bargaining unit, the CAC is required to order a secret ballot, to be conducted by a qualified independent person.

If a majority of the workers voting and at least 40% of those eligible to vote support the union in a ballot, the CAC must issue a declaration that the union is recognised as entitled to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of the bargaining unit.

This means that if a majority of the people in the bargaining unit are members of the union, the employer must recognise the union. Majority doesn’t have to mean 3/4 or 2/3 – it means 50% + 1. On the other hand, if less than half of the workers in that bargaining unit are members of the union, at least 40% of them must vote for the union to be recognised, and if they do, the employer must recognise the union. If a bargaining unit was “the Lush factory” and it had 200 employees, and 101 of those employees were in a union, Lush would be obliged to recognise that union. If only 99 of those employees were in a union, but 39.6 (let’s call it 40) of them voted for union recognition, Lush would be obliged to recognise the union for collective bargaining. Lush would not have the option to not recognise the union, they would be legally required to do so.

There’s lots of information here about recognition procedures, but don’t worry too much about that for now. When things get to that stage, the union will help. There’s info here about the types of recognition, but again, unions will help. Most unions are used to dealing with intransigent employers.

Remember, even if you work for an employer, such as Lush, which does not recognise trade unions, if you are a member of a union, you have a legal right to be accompanied by a union steward to any disciplinary or grievance hearing.

And remember, you cannot be disciplined, punished, threatened or treated unfavourably for joining a union, for encouraging or assisting others to join, or for seeking recognition for your union.

So, what should you do now? You should join the most apppropriate union for your employer/workplace. You should encourage everyone else to join as well. You should contact your union for assistance if you get any hassle for any of that. And you should think about why any employer would want you not to have the support and protection a union provides.

 

 

 

The Smell of Bullshit, part 11: the stupid black pots

People who shop in Lush will know that many of their products come in black pots with screw-on lids. For the purposes of this blog post, whenever I refer to the “black pots” I am referring specifically to the black pots with the screw-on lids, in any or all of their sizes. The black pots come in small, medium and large versions, which are more or less the same, just differently sized. The problems I am blogging about in this post apply to all the sizes.

The lids are screw-on, so there has to be a groove in the lid which the top edge of the pot fits into. As the majority of products in the black pots are creams, mousses, masks etc of varying consistencies from very liquid to very thick like whipped cream, they tend to slop about a bit. And the contents get into the groove (ah, the days when Madonna was fun!) and get stuck there. As you can see.

Lush Marilyn hair moisturiser

Lush Marilyn DSCF3108 DSCF3116 DSCF3117

Product gets stuck in the groove and congeals and goes quite horrible really. Also, it gets wasted. It’s sitting there, in the groove of the lid, where the customer can’t reach it and therefore can’t use it. Waste of product, waste of money.

Obviously Lush makes toiletries, which are used in bathrooms, where people often have wet hands. Sometimes wet hands slip and drop what they’re holding. Unless you’ve done it yourself, you can only imagine the pain and irritation you experience when an open pot of Lush product slips out of your wet hand and lands in the sink, in the bath, on the floor and spills its contents across the room. Then you’re left with a dilemma – do you scoop it back into the pot, contaminating it with the grebbies and eech of whatever it landed on? Do you just scoop it up and bin it or rinse it down the plughole, wasting product and money? Or do you scoop it up and apply as much of it to yourself as you can?

And, to expand on the theme of grebbies and eech (a phrase I borrow from my friend Morna who originally used it to refer to the things that inhabit a dirty plughole and which need to be cleaned out with a chopstick), to use the products in the black pots, you have to stick your fingers into them. Lush make much of their minimal use of preservatives. It’s pretty well understood that solid products are more stable than liquid products and therefore require fewer preservatives. Credit where it’s due, Lush have been reasonably innovative over the years in making solid products (eg shampoos, conditioners, massage bars, bubble bars) where other companies make liquids, which require fewer preservatives and less packaging. But they do still make a lot of liquidy creamy products, which need to be scooped out of the pot in order to use them, and that generally means sticking your fingers into them. I suppose you could use some sort of applicator, thoroughly washed between uses, but how many of us can be arsed with that?

So people stick their fingers into the pots, and even if their hands have just been washed, bacteria gets into the products. And then the products get stuck in the grooves in the lid, where they go a bit congealed and sticky. And then you stick your fingers back in and then you rub the product on your face. And then people wonder why the products are going off.

Unsuprisingly, people have been complaining about the black pots for several years, Shall we have a look at what people have said?

2008

  • I do like the tubs as you can see exactly what you have left and how much to get,but on the other hand bottles are more hygienic,and you can still just pump a tiny bit out
  • I just opened my fair trade foot lotion and it had wierd [sic] dark pink/yellow bits on the top (unfortunately all the words rubbed off the date sticker so I don’t know if it has gone out of date). i dont know what it was but I scooped it out with a spoon and used the nice stuff underneath.

2010

  • This occurred to me today when I slopped half a pot of Enzymion down the sink trying to open it. Those big flat black pots are nice but for “thin” moisturisers like Enzymion they’re awkward to open (hard to hold) and when you do, there’s a good chance the pot will tip and chuck the cream all over the floor. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pots in general, but only for thick products like the face masks – back when my skin was dry instead of oily I had this exact same problem with Skin Drink! Basically I’m asking – is there any chance of Lush offering moisturisers in those pump bottles? They do the in-store samples in those bottles, and they hold the same amount of product (45g). Obviously only for the watery ones, but it would be a big help. It would also make them a lot easier to take on holiday!

2012

  • I must add that the pots drive me nuts. I love creme anglais and it is expensive however in that pot, it does not look it. I know generally it is what is inside what counts but if I wanted to give it as a gift, it looks awful and may never be used. I have these things leak on me all the time.

2013

  • Moisturisers in pots that don’t leave half of the product in the rim of the lid. Having to keep my products upright all the time makes it difficult to travel with them.
  • The product, if it’s a thinner cream, gets trapped in the hollowed out section of the lid, so that when you thread the lid back onto the tub, several full applications are squeezed out of the tub. As fun as it is contaminating it by scooping it up with ones finger and putting it back into the tub / wasting it off / using a clean cotton bud to clean out the inner of the lid every single application / spending 20-30 minutes carefully decanting into a 45g pump bottle, I’m growing really fed up and bored to the point it’s making me consider using alternative moisturisers.    My new tub of Enzymion has taken a considerable hit with the amount of product I’m having to just rub into my hands that has ended up outside of the tub (I decided to try not doing any of the above in favor of seeing how long the tub lasts me as a mini-experiment).
  • My Celestial does that as well and it’s really bloody annoying.  Honestly I think all of the packaging needs to be looked at and sorted out because it is clearly not working.
  • I just can’t think how these tubs will work if the products have no preservatives, I mean so many of them go off early anyway…
  • The point is that you shouldn’t have to use an applicator for face cream. I always apply mine with clean hands and yet all my Lush ones went off. And don’t get me started about product inconsistency. That’s why I eventually had to give up with Lush face care. At first it made my skin better but due to inconsistency, my skin just got a whole lot worse
  • I have to admit I got so fed up of leaking and messy moisturiser tubs and continual acne that I switched to another brand (aromatherapy associates) and am 100 times more satisfied. clean prescise application, no mess, no contamination and no more acne…
  • Yes I always had this problem too. If I ever sold a moisturiser (or anything in those black tubs really) in the swap shop I felt like I had to wipe a whole load of product away from the grooves of the lid before it looked presentable, and I always kept my tubs upright. It just always seemed as if loads of air was getting in there and pushing the product out
  • I’m in agreement, they are not good enough for a product that could contain £40 worth of skincare, I understand the lack of fancy packaging but they need to be fit for purpose.
  • I think you have a good point here, I would much prefer them in pump bottles for ease of use and no contamination with fingers and bacteria
  • I was told years ago they won’t use pump bottles because of the extra packaging and recycling of the pump unit. They clearly know it’s a problem as the testers have often been in pump bottles.Why?
    They don’t want contaminated products (fine at home though!)
    They don’t want people to tip it everywhere (fine at home though!)
    They don’t want people to use too much (fine at home though!)
    They don’t want things leaking (fine at home though!)

    Pah!

  • i think subconsciously this is why i have been moving away from lush skincare. i used to be a ‘lush snob’. everything was lush…cleansers, toners, moisturizer…in fact the only one skincare product i still buy and use and love is ocean salt. i don’t use the toners because 8/10 times, the sprayers on my bottles stopped working and it was just too much trouble to switch to a different bottle – well, not trouble.. but we shouldn’t have to. i used up the last of my lush moisturizer a few months ago, and have made no effort to buy more. i’ve been trying a few different things (non lush) i’ve had samples of and my skin is better for it.    and god forbid you don’t clean the pot right away, the stuff stuck in the grooves turns a crusty grody brown. right next to the product you’re supposed to be putting on your face…it’s very unappealing.    i’ve found a skincare line that my skin loves, and the packaging is functional and inoffensive. sorry lush.
  • This happened to my last pot of Vanishing Cream. Will not repurchase.
  • I haven’t bought lush face moisturisers for a while but I do remember my vanishing cream having this problem even though it was kept upright, the enzymion just got a weird clear/yellow layer around the grooves that I guess was old moisturiser. Since then I’ve used different companies for face moisturisers in tubes and in pots and not had any of the same problems. Even all the steamcream pots I’ve had didn’t do it and I think that’s thinner than the enzymion I had.     There have been a couple of pots of dreamcream I’ve had that had the same problem though it’s thicker, don’t know if anyone else has with the bigger pots?
  • That is exactly how my last pot of Imperialis arrived brand new from Mail Order. It was disgusting so I binned it and switched to Elemis.  If it is made and packaged like that I don’t want it anywhere near my face so didn’t even bother sending it back.
  • I had so much of an issue with my lush products in black tubs getting wedged into the rims (I couldn’t even open my ocean salt some days as a result of it) that I have stepped away from the skincare completely. I use a lot of clarins, origins and nivea and my skin is so much better as a result. My acne is almost completely gone and my oily skin is under control.

It seems pretty clear that people are switching to other brands because of what the black pots do to the products. People have complained about the black pots for at least the last five years. Any ideas why Lush aren’t doing anything about a problem that is obviously losing them customers?

The Smell of Bullshit, part 10: fresh products

Lush make much of the “freshness” of their products. These are their official guidelines for how long stock should remain on the shelves of the shops.

Fresh face masks and Hair Doctor – 1 week on the shelf, use within 4 weeks from manufacturing date (keep in the fridge)

Roll cleansers – 1 month on the shelf, use within 3 months from manufacturing date

Liquid perfumes – 23 months on the shelf, use within 31 months from manufacturing date

Solid shampoo bars – 23 months on the shelf, use within 31 months from manufacturing date

Dusting powders – 23 months on the shelf, use within 31 months from manufacturing date

Everything else – 4 months on the shelf, use within 14 months since manufacturing date

These are the current guidelines we have (and the stores should adhere to).

Fresh?

The Smell of Bullshit: part 9 – the smell is evaporating because the perfume bottles are crap

For as long as I have known about Lush and used their forum, customers have complained that the perfume bottles aren’t fit for purpose. They leak, the lids were prone to breaking, the pump action things would break, they weren’t sealed properly so perfume evaporated – numerous customers have complained about problems with (I think) every type of bottle Lush have used.

Last year Lush did some forum specials perfumes, in black bottles. Customers complained that the bottles leaked and perfume evaporated. One person reported that she had stood the perfume bottle on her dressing table (hardly unusual) and the bottle leaked and the perfume destroyed the surface of her furniture.

Let’s have a look at what the people on the forum have had to say about the perfume bottles. The earliest posts I’ll be quoting are from 2008, right through to this week.

  • well it arrived, but its leaked, the label was sopping with perfume.
  • Same happened with mine yesterday and I have less than half a bottle of SWTWC gorgeousness. I took a pic and sent it to customerservice@lush.co.uk and they sent it off to MO. They don’t know what to do about it because they don’t know if there was any made ‘just-in-case’
  • well i dont know what to do really, since i didnt loose much, but at the end of the day i have paid for a full bottle, and there is probably a good few months worth in the bubble wrap and in the label.
    ( i am only a 1/3 of the way through my snowcake and i use that at least 3 times a week)
  • one of my Tramp fragrances leaked as well, the top just wasn’t tightened properly, it was quite loose. I haven’t lost a lot but the label is ruined. My other one didn’t have a label at all! I think there’s been a few leaky bottles from what I’ve seen so far
  • I have a white chest of drawers in my bedroom (Aneboda by Ikea, I don’t think they make them anymore) which I keep my perfumes on. I had a bottle of American Cream perfume on there which at some point has been knocked over and I’d not picked it back up. Yesterday I was doing some dusting and when I picked the bottle up I discovered a horrible black stain underneath it! It seems that the perfume has leaked out and somehow reacted with the black varnish on the bottle and ‘melted’ the varnish, which is now a huge horrible stain on my white chest of drawers. I’ve tried scrubbing it with a washing up sponge (the spongey side and the green side), then I left some Cilit bang to soak onto it for a bit and scrubbed some more but the stain is still there.
  • These bottles are seriously shit. All three styles of liquid perfume bottle that I’ve had has leaked, and they stain everything they come in contact with 😦 If you find out a way to get it off, please share as I’m sure tons of us have stained furniture from these bottles!
  • I checked one of my bottles and it is oozing all around the base of the cap. Not great! It’s twlight so it’s not like I can get a replacement when it evaporates everywhere (as I think it must be doing because I keep getting whiffs of lavender!)
  • However, we have had major issues with the spray bottles leaking. As soon as you use them the first time, they ooze liquid every time you spray. God forbid you hold the bottle anything other than upright … it just dribbles out.  We have already mentioned this to our local Lush shop and they wrote out a form to Customer Services while we were there, to report the problem. However the next day we left for our holiday and true to form, once we were there and the bottle had been started (brand new bottle) it leaked everywhere, to the point where we couldn’t bring it back with our luggage because it would have just emptied into everything. The spray bottles aren’t exactly easy to clingfilm to prevent leakage… If Lush are going to keep this product going, PLEASE PLEASE fix the leaking! The Lush perfumes are such good quality and the price reflects that, but if the bottle wastes almost half of the product, it really isn’t worth coughing up for. That includes all the new black bottles.
  • Actually I think my rose jam must have been leaking/ evaporating because there seems to be twice as much gone as in my twilight bottle and the twilight is the one I use most. Oh well.
  • So on top of the two openly leaky perfumes I got from the gallery, a third hq, is no way near full, and two perfumes I have just had delvivered today are the same.
  • only ordered perfumes this time as I spoke to Customer Services and they assured me the leaking problems had been fixed, yet I end up with a leaking bottle again. Not buying anymore until this problem is really resolved
  • Make sure that you check the replacements when they arrive Miniminime. I had this last year with some of the 10ml sprays. The first ones I recieved had between 3 and 4ml in each, I returned them as told and was sent replacements with the same amounts in (between 3-4ml) returned them again and was getting rather annoyed by this time and asked them to check them before they sent them out ….you guessed it I got ones back again were between 4-6ml each, even after all the hassle. Again I returned them and was sent replacements which were finally full, the MO lady said she actually went and did them herself?? It really was appalling and I felt like they thought I was lying about it especially after asking them to check, just think if I got 6 bottles with less that half in on consecutive occassions how many hundreds of people have been ripped off in the same way. I only realised they were underfilled because I was decanting them into a different atomiser, otherwise I never would have known……
  • I would like to see the black perfume bottles done away with. The leak something chronic, you cannot see if the bottle is full or not. I happened to buy leaky and under filled HQ that I had gone all the way to the gallery for. I am most upset. The fragrances are super but the black bottles let them down so much.
  • I have just had a leaking cocktail perfume and an underfilled one before that.
  • I’ve had a hideously leaky Imogen Rose and a non-spraying Cocktail! I’m sending that one back to CC as soon as I can get round to it
  • Ah a tuca tuca leaked in my bag.
  • I’ve only ever had two leaky black bottles where it was smothered in perfume stain and the noticeable lightweight bottles.i did ring mail order and they were replaced as soon as I sent the leaky ones back.they were polite and swift to recify,i was a happy customer.
    I’ve had a whole [but a drop in the bottom] of a glass snowcake evaporate before that.this pissed me off greatly and I sat silent about it.i should’ve drop m.o. a line,but I wasn’t sure how to prove it.i guess a lot of people feel like that and don’t speak up.
  • I have had a leaky HQ, 1000 kisses and recently a dear John. Forum special wise I have had 3 leaky comforters :/
  • Customer Care told me that the leaking issue was only with the forum specials and the regular black bottles were all okay – seems they are telling porkies again. Lush – please please just get rid of the black bottles!
  • I have had an Imogen Rose virtually empty on arrival, a very leaky orange blossom (all the black paint came off the top), a leaky Lust, a Smell of Weather Turning which only leaked a bit, l would say the majority of my perfumes have leaked to a degree and l have 14 of the black bottles. The Comforters l got had stains on the bottle and stains on the paper bag, but still appeared to be full, this seems to be the most you can expect from these bottles, l have only had one or two that have not leaked at all.  To be honest, every time l order perfume, l cringe hoping it won’t leak, and now, as long as it hasn’t lost a significant amount l don’t bother with a replacement, although how much l lose in time by evaporation is probably worse.
    They just need to go, it must cost a fortune to keep replacing leaky bottles. It must be losing them sales, l know l would use mine more if l felt secure in putting them in a bag or travelling with them, which sadly l am not.  No other company selling perfume would think their customers would find leaky bottles acceptable.
  • I opened a bottle of Vanillary I bought 6-8 months ago that arrived wet with perfume around the sprayer… as it was full, I didn’t contact customer care. The bottle was sprayed about 8 times; 10 at the absolute most so it should have been almost full. Imagine my shock when 1/5 of a bottle or less poured out into the clear bottle!
  • I had to decant two perfumes in the glass bottles into new bottles with stoppers as they evaporated. Lost about a quarter of a bottle of Skinny Dip.
  • Weirdly I never had a problem with the black bottles but the glass ones prior to those leaked like buggers. My Snowcake was half empty when I got it.
  • The way they somehow manage to leak when they’re kept upright is so annoying and means the top looks all blistered and weird, I’ve never had that happen to another perfume.

Seems obvious there have been problems with several styles of perfume bottle for a long time, doesn’t it? In November 2011 a Lush employee Bebe Blonde said

Hello everyone – I’ve been following this feedback, as well as that coming into the Customer Care office and Mail Order, so thank you everyone who has contacted us directly too
About the perfume bottles: back when we first launched the new Gorilla perfume range (in August last year) we initially experienced teething problems with some of the bottles (mainly the 30ml ones) leaking, causing the black paint to flake and generally cause a mess. Since then we have looked at the equipment we’re using to crimp the seal at the top of the bottle, as well as consulting with the company that supplies us in order to address the problem. Since then, we have observed the incidences of bottles leaking really reduce.
The recent spate of perfume bottles with forum fragrances leaking suggests that something else is going on – quality control procedures show that we haven’t changed any processes dramatically recently, so we’re currently trying to find out what might have happened here. While trying to sort it all out for you all, of course.

So you can see that even though Lush knew in August 2010 that there were problems with the bottles, in 2011 they launched a range of perfumes using the problematic bottles. Perfume is probably the most expensive thing Lush sells, but they’re knowingly selling it in bottles which they know leak. I think that’s shoddy behaviour.

Then, last week, after more complaints on the forum, Gabbi at Lush posted this

Hello everyone,

I’m Gabbi from the Lush Buying team if we haven’t met before. I’m sorry for the delay in posting this, I was hoping to get this up yesterday.

I wanted to update you on behalf of myself and Maria on what has been happening with the 30ml black Gorilla bottles.

When we first heard of the problems with the Forum specials leaking last year, we got a technician down immediately to have a look at the crimping machine and adjustments were made to it, but from further feedback we realised that this had not completely resolved the issue.

So, what did we do? Firstly, we hired an engineer in February to work with us in the packaging buying team to help with a review of packaging and QC of packaging items. His first priority was the 30ml Gorilla bottles. We identified some problems and have taken steps to rectify these.

One of the issues we found is that there was quite a variance in heights within the specs (and sometimes these variances were beyond the tolerances of the specifications) for the bottles.

Giles, the engineer, worked with our supplier to review the specs and tolerances. A go/no go gauge has been introduced that easily and clearly shows whether bottles are to specified heights and allows easy sorting of bottles into different height categories within the acceptable height range. Every bottle the supplier had in stock (and those we had on site) was tested and those outside the specs taken away. For future stock bottles will pass through the go / no go gauge and be sorted into height groups within the range of tolerance so that batches of bottles of the same height are filled at a time and passed through the crimping machine.

We also reviewed the process of filling and crimping of these bottles. Giles has made modifications to the crimping machine so that it can work with the bottle spec tolerances and he has worked with the team to retrain them on using the crimping machine and resetting it.

We are closely monitoring customer feedback to Customer Care, continue to work with the room to see that they are happy and will keep checking the Forum to make sure we know immediately if any further problems arise.

Please feel free to email me on gabbi@lush.co.uk with any concerns or comments.

So, the bottles were made in a way that meant they were of different sizes. The machines used for filling and sealing them couldn’t cope with the different sizes, and so the bottles were filled to different levels and the seals weren’t always competent. Those all seem like pretty basic things to sort out before you start selling the product, to be honest. I wonder why they didn’t do it.

Further comment from Gabbi

The varying heights did indeed cause problems with the crimping machine. The variances are (mainly) within the acceptable range for these glass bottles (there is always a tolerance for a certain amount of difference from the “perfect” drawing) but we needed to sort them and finetune the crimping machine to work as we need it to.

Everyone involved (supplier, Perfume room etc) has put a lot of effort into the quality control (QC) at every stage to ensure it reaches you in top condition.

Regarding the design – we are not currently looking to change it to the best of my knowledge.

Hope that helps and thanks for the positive responses.

It’s worrying that everyone involved has put a lot of effort into the quality of the product, but people have had such problems with leaky bottles ruining their furniture. It makes you wonder about the state of the things they don’t spend so much time and effort on (more about the black pots later).

After some discussion about the posts from Gabbi and the information they contained, this was asked

Gabbi, are lush going to do something about the defective bottles customers already have, and the ones already on the shop floor?

and this was the response

Thank you for all the feedback and suggestions. If you have had any problems with your perfume or other products, please do contact Customer Care.

Wouldn’t you think Lush would recall all the potentially faulty bottles which are already in the shops? If they don’t do that, customers will still be buying them and more people will see their money evaporate all over their dressing tables.

Some people who have contacted Lush have been asked to return their faulty perfumes to customer care. The thing is, many people have bought perfumes which were one-off specials and cannot be replaced. If they return those bottles, they won’t get a replacement perfume because the perfume can’t be replaced. Yes, ok, it’s only perfume, but it’s a shame for them. People really do like having the one-off perfumes and they’re prepared to spend a lot of money on them. I think it’s horrible that they either lose it through leaking or now lose it by sending it back.

One of the forum users who has had issues with the perfume bottles has given me permission to quote from the response she got from customer care. The response was

If you can get the faulty bottles back to us as soon as possible we can then take a further look at the perfumes. There has been a recent tightening in the law regarding the shipping of dangerous goods (the shipping of perfume is affected as it is considered a flammable liquid) which means that perfume often cannot be posted domestically. With this in mind can you please return the perfumes to your nearest Lush store at your earliest convenience as they can return it with their delivery driver.  Please let us know which store this would be so I can let them know to expect the pickup of your perfumes.  Once we have inspected the bottles we’ll drop you an email so that we can arrange to send you alternative replacement perfumes or other products of your choice.

How many people live near a Lush shop? Some people are several hundreds of miles from a Lush shop. Some people live on Shetland, Orkney, Uist. But they’re expected to make a lengthy round trip to return their faulty bottles to a shop? Some people are disabled, or are at work when Lush is open. Lush deliver by courier; why can’t they collect by courier also?

So then I had a look at Royal Mail’s list of things you can’t send by post. If you are business or contract customer, and you are posting within the UK, perfume and aftershave are absolutely fine. The list says

Perfume and aftershave (including eau de parfum and eau de toilette but excluding non-flammable perfumed creams, gels, oils or lotions)
UK destinations:Yes
International destinations:No
Follow these packaging guidelines:
Volume per item must not exceed 150ml. No more than four
perfumes or aftershaves can be sent in any one package. The
perfume or aftershave must be within its original retail packaging
and then placed in strong outer packaging. The inner packagings
must be packed, secured or cushioned to prevent breakage or
leakage of their contents into the outer packaging. An ID8000
label must be applied (see page 40). The sender’s name and
return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging.
These items may only be sent using our 1st Class or 2nd Class
products paid for via franking or on account (VAT exempt 1st and
2nd Class Account Mail), Special Delivery™paid for via franking or
on account, Royal Mail Tracked® and Royal Mail Sameday®. Please
note Royal Mail Tracked Returns®, Business Response, Freepost™
and all variants of Packetpost™and Packetsort™ are excluded.

But of course customers returning things to Lush are probably not business customers, and Royal Mail definitely prohibit individuals sending perfume through the post (I checked). Although I do wonder if returns could be classed as business post if Lush sent out return labels. I’m sure they would have thought of that though and would offer it if it was possible. But still, expecting people to take perfumes back to shops so they can be sent back via delivery drivers? It’s almost like they’re making it as difficult as possible for people to return them.