The Smell of Bullshit, part 22: Sexual Harassment is Part of the Job

In this post I briefly mentioned a Lush PR stunt/world record attempt. This was an attempt to flog more lipstick, sorry, I mean to celebrate International Kissing Day (wtf? no idea) by attempting a world record by collecting the most lip prints in 12 hours. Because that’s not a total waste of time and money. You can read a bit about it here but for the non-clickers, it’s an advert for Lush lip products, with a bit at the bottom saying that Lush want to celebrate International Kissing Day by setting a world record for the most lip prints collected in 12 hours. The Lush facebook page says

We believe all kisses should be cruelty free. In celebration of International Kissing Day on July 6th, we’re raising awareness in our fight against animal testing in cosmetics with a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™official attempt for the most #crueltyfreekisses collected in twelve hours! To kick off the campaign, we headed out to the press armed with two rather cute models and a kissing booth…

Now, I was unaware of this because I no longer shop in Lush (apart from one product which I only have to replace a couple of times a year) and I don’t use the forum, despite numerous comments in the past two days telling me to take my vicious hate-mongering back there. But I was contacted by a current Lush employee who asked me to blog about it on her behalf. She wrote up her experiences and I am copying her words here without changing them.

I was part of Lush’s ‘Cruelty Free Kisses’ campaign this Saturday and I want to write up what I saw and experienced on that day, because I want the public to understand just how dangerous and unethical the entire day was.

The concept is simple. Promote the use of cosmetics not tested on animals in a ‘fun’ and ‘quirky’ way whilst simultaneously pushing sales on all lip related products (there’s a competition for the winning store to have an all expenses paid trip to Poole to make lip products as a reward for whoever sells the most). So far, so good. The problem occurs when staff members are required to wear t-shirts that serve not only to promote the day, but also to act as evidence for the Guinness World Record attempt. What this meant was that the customers would be kissing our bodies for the entirety of the day. I could have opted out, but I would have been the only one to refuse and would have stuck out like a sore thumb on top of not participating in the store’s effort to win. Interestingly, the stores were only sent medium and large size t-shirts, so larger members of staff (they do exist, Lush) were spared the ordeal.

It was a busy Saturday and we had many people willing to help out. The majority were lovely. Unfortunately, as time went on, the mood changed. Large groups of drunken men were passing through the city centre on their way to the local bars and were drawn in by our display. From then on, they donned lipstick and kissed the most inappropriate places they could find – our breasts, our buttocks and our crotches (the t-shirts were quite long). I was asked for my mobile phone number, what time I finished work, if I had a boyfriend, if I was sexually excited by all of this, if I would give one of them a blow job… I plastered my fake grin on to my face, as I was one step away from either telling them all to fuck off, or bursting into tears and going home. I was very conscious of the fact that I was representing Lush, and I felt like I couldn’t defend myself to the same extent that I would if I weren’t in store. There were some points were I was definitely fearful, especially when some groups wouldn’t leave the store and stood waiting outside. I tried to swallow down my feelings of disgust as men pawed at me, forcefully grabbing parts of me to kiss and touch as if they’d been given carte blanche by Lush.

I felt helpless and exploited, and that’s because I was. Lush know that their staff are mostly young women, and they knew exactly how this type of campaign would play out amongst the general public. I’ve lost count of how many campaigns they’ve had that’ve sexualised and dehumanised women, and all of my complaints have fallen on deaf ears. I want everyone to know exactly what happened at Lush stores across the globe on Saturday. Animal testing isn’t acceptable, but the sexual exploitation of their workforce is actively encouraged.

Pretty unpleasant reading, isn’t it?

Now, it’s not Lush’s fault that society has sexualised and commodified women for centuries. It’s not Lush’s fault that some men took advantage of women in a vulnerable position by harassing them. But it is Lush’s fault that staff were put in that position in the first place, and it is Lush’s fault that this employee didn’t feel able to protest or protect themselves. Any competent, trained manager should have advised their employees that they did not have to put up with inappropriate behaviour or behaviour that made them feel uncomfortable, and should have supported staff to tell aggressive customers to stop, and should have called the police if necessary. And any competent organisation wouldn’t have put its staff in such a position in the first place.

We’ve already talked about the importance of health and safety and how that depends on good quality risk assessments. What risk assessments were done relating to this event and the safety of Lush employees? It was a summer weekend, with a number of major sporting events, and a forecast for good weather. It’s not difficult to work out that there was a good chance of many members of the public being drunk and hyped up. What risk assessments did Lush do and what was their plan to protect staff? And how was that plan to protect staff communicated to all of the relevant employees? It obviously missed at least two, or the employee posting above would have felt able to protect herself, and her manager would have supported her.

Have a look at this https://twitter.com/Rhizoboy/status/353424380166037504/photo/1 – attractive guy being kissed by attractive girl. Doesn’t look so bad does it? Imagine the guy is a woman and the woman is a drunk man, slobbering and groping. For that matter, imagine the woman in the photo is drunk, groping and leering. Still think it’s ok? What if his t-shirt came down over his genitals? What if that woman was a child kissing his genitals through his clothes? What if the employee was a woman having her nipples kissed through the shirt by a complete stranger? Oh look! Lushbournemouth2  What if customers are kissing staff rather than the shirts? https://twitter.com/LushLebanon/status/351362065241346048/photo/1

What does the Citizens’ Advice Bureau have to say about sexual harassment at work? It says

Sexual harassment at work
You are protected by law against sexual harassment at work. This includes both men and women. It also includes people who are undergoing, have undergone or who are intending to undergo gender reassignment. This is where you are changing from one sex to another.
Sexual harassment could include:
unwelcome comments of a sexual nature
unnecessary touching or unwanted physical contact
leering at someone’s body
displaying offensive material such as posters
sending offensive e-mails. This includes colleagues downloading pornographic e-mails, even if they aren’t sent to you personally.
The law protects you against sexual harassment from your employer, colleagues and third parties, for example, customers. Sexual harassment could be a one-off incident or a series of incidents. It could be sexual harassment if you are working in an environment which the behaviour of others makes intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.
Sexual harassment might be deliberate or nasty but it doesn’t have to be. Someone could be sexually harassing you, even if they don’t mean to, or don’t realise they are doing it. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t wrong or that you shouldn’t complain about it.
What can I do about sex discrimination or sexual harassment?
If you’re experiencing sex discrimination or sexual harassment at work, take action as quickly as possible. If you are being sexually harassed, tell the person to stop. Only do this if you feel it is safe. You may find it helpful to have a colleague or trade union representative with you when you do this.

tell your manager what is happening. Put it in writing and keep a copy. Your employer is required by law to protect you from sex discrimination and sexual harassment. If it is your manager who is discriminating against you or harassing you, tell someone higher up in the organisation

talk to your personnel department or trade union. They might be able to help you stop the discrimination or harassment

get advice. A Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help or refer you to a specialist.

It seems pretty clear to me that the Lush staff member who wrote the above about her experiences was sexually harassed in her workplace, and it’s absolutely obvious that Lush put her in that position by their decision to encourage members of the public to kiss the clothes she was wearing.

The Equalities Commission has some useful information on sexual harassment. There’s plenty of advice on the web about how to deal with sexual harassment, such as this, this, and this. As alway, my advice to anyone experiencing sexual harassment at work is to join the appropriate union and get their help. Nobody has to put up with it; it’s not your fault and you can get help.

It’s not too long ago that Lush sent their staff out onto the streets naked except for aprons to promote their “naked” (unwrapped) products. Now they’re telling staff to get the public to kiss them. What next? Free shag from a staff member with every massage bar?

Obviously not every staff member would have felt uncomfortable with this, and obviously not every member of the public will have behaved inappropriately. But at least one staff member was uncomfortable and was subject to inappropriate, possibly illegal behaviour. That’s one too many. Lush could easily have avoided this by the simple method of putting the t-shirts on a table, or a shop dummy, instead of on the staff.

Oh, and if you look back at the blog post linked to in the first sentence of this post, you’ll see Lush were quite happy for their employees to cheat their way to the world record. What sort of company puts its employees at risk of harassment so it can cheat its way to possibly the stupidest world record ever just to flog a few more lipsticks?

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56 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 22: Sexual Harassment is Part of the Job

  1. I went past a Lush shop over the weekend and was mystified by this. Couldn’t make out what it was all about. Now that I know, I’m appalled. Sexism of the worst can’t-you-take-a-joke kind. I don’t normally shop there and now I’l make a point of avoiding it.

  2. Ermm, tshirts were put on a table and not worn in most stores! I don’t think this is a complaint against the company as a whole as we were actually told NOT to wear any tshirts that were having kisses on! This is not accurate Information that represents the company!

  3. “I don’t think this is a complaint against the company as a whole as we were actually told NOT to wear any tshirts that were having kisses on! This is not accurate Information that represents the company!”

    *points to the above photograph*

    There are many, many other photographs like that online – the caption to the above photograph sickened me more than anything – “Take your time… Haha!”

    Are you saying that the photograph and accompanying caption, posted on a store’s Facebook Page, and monitored by a member of Lush staff is “not accurate information that represents the company”?

    There are things which are indefensible – stop trying to defend it!

  4. Maybe that was the choice of that store and staff to do that yes, but the message given to stores I’ve seen personally was to have tshirts on tables being kissed! If staff wanted to wear the tshirts being kissed then I guess that was there choice but no stores I saw published made this choice so it wasn’t the message given that this was the way to do it

  5. Odd, because a higher-up member of staff has said on the Lush International Forum (no, not staff forum, the one which anyone can access):

    “The actual attempt is being organised by the shops involved, and it will be as many staff as possible, who consent to wearing the shirts and going to collect the kisses, regardless of gender or anything else.”

    It looks like that was the message given to many, many other stores, going by the Twitter feeds, Facebook posting and Lush’s own forum!

  6. Oh and we wore the tshirts and collected kisses as said! But didn’t collect the kisses on the tshirts being worn we collected them on spares just wanted to give you information to make your blog as accurate as possible as I’m sure you want to include all sides to make sure it is a true representation and not biased in any way!

  7. Ah, but there is consent, and there is “Lush consent” – 2 completely different things!

    Again, sourced from the forum:

    “One of your staff told me, candidly, that they’d been pressured by their manager into doing so, and the words “massively disappointed” and “not a team player” were used in regards to potentially not getting involved.”

    Looking at the earlier example given, and the above, as well as the general culture highlighted by anonymous staff members – there is no choice! Refusing to participate is effectively asking for ostracization (and the pink slip), and there are many, many pictures of people looking VERY uncomfortable being groped, or having strange men/women kissing their nipples? But hey, it’s “taking one for the team”, isn’t it – they consented to wearing the T-shirt, so they were asking for this treatment? It sounds very disturbing to me!

  8. I wish these blogs were less aggressive. It’s difficult to get past the anger and hyperbolic language to come to any kind of balanced conclusion. Very Off Putting. *braces self for angry reply*

    • I don’t see any hyperbolic language in this post. I wish the Lush cultists would face facts. But it’s easier for them to criticise the messenger than face the facts of the message. And again, you do have the option not to read it.
      Consent? Why were staff consenting to wearing t-shirts in the first place if the company instructions were that they were not to be worn? If you tell the staff “don’t wear them, put them on the table and collect the lip prints on them” then there is no issue of staff consenting to wear them, surely? So why were people wearing them? Why is that woman in the photo above having her nipple kissed by a stranger? That photo is on the Lush facebook page – there’s no sign that Lush are unhappy with it. And you know what? Consenting to wear something and undergo something you don’t want to do because you’re scared for your job actually isn’t consent.
      Even if staff consented to wear the t-shirts, that’s not the same thing as consenting to being pawed, groped and asked for sexual favours. Didn’t you read the testimony from the employee? Given how upset she was throughout the experience, why didn’t her manager tell her to change clothes and collect kisses without wearing the t-shirt?
      It’s not ok to say “oh, it was just a couple of shops, it’s nothing to do with Lush the company.” Lush have corporate responsibility for what happens in their company. It’s their job to make sure staff are not harassed at work and coerced into doing things that distress them. And all for a world record they were happy to cheat to get…

  9. I must say, this campaign smacks of desperation. It’s the most incoherent mash-up of a ‘campaign’ ever. What is it? A drive to sell the not-fit-for-purpose make-up line, something to high-light the ‘fighting animal testing’ message? Well it says it was to highlight ‘cruelty free kisses’ but seeing as the ‘animal testing on cosmetics’ ban came into being in the EU in March this year, it doesn’t make sense on that level either. If it’s to do with REACH, Lush need to tell us how REACH is affecting them and the ingredients they use instead of glossing it over with a pretty shoddy attempt at a campaign. You have to ask, who dreams these ideas up? Obviously not retailers. Again, it’s blurring the lines between ethics and marketing too – is using ethics to make profit not unethical? Surely the matters should be separate? Unless all profits from lipstick sales were going to ‘fighting animal testing’ charities for the duration of the window.

    I walked past my local store on Saturday and the windows were bold and telling me all about the kissing attempt but the store was dead, which I presume was partly due to the good weather and Wimbledon being on the television. There were no queues outside of people wanting to join in, it looked like a damp squib. But of course it may have been a roaring success everywhere else.

    Anyway, aside from the poor commercial aspect of it, it’s a horrible situation to put staff in. If the top dogs had to don the tee-shirts themselves, they wouldn’t put themselves through the indignity. Still, the company leader is, in my opinion, a complete misogynist, one of the other directors is a complete misanthrope and the rest just aren’t very bright. The evidence of this being the abomination that happened in stores worldwide over the weekend.

  10. Just thought you’d like to know all the information seeing as though you have a whole blog about it! Think this is coming down to management I guess, as many things you’ve claimed have never come across and never have many people I’ve spoken to! Yes if some staff are going through this then it isn’t good and If I felt that way then I’d be upset and tell people further up! But I haven’t! So I can only help but feel it isn’t every single shop and the whole company! There is a difference! My management and staff have always been so very supportive and sensitive to any worries I have and have made good choices based on information given them by head office! I think you have to take all the information given as I have! I accept that maybe how some stores are run round the hundreds we have across the world may not be an environment I’d like to work under . I’m not denying that in the slightest! But I do wish you’d accept that what I’m saying, that in a world wide company there may be errors with how things are run, but it isn’t forced to be like that as I’ve received nothing but amazing kindness from people! If you don’t stand up and tell someone higher up that stuff like this campaign upsets you and you don’t want to take part then how do they know? Clearly some people wanted to do it! Personally I didn’t want to do it this way and we were told not to wear the kisses tshirts but wear spares and some management or staff chose otherwise!

    • I buy one product because no other company makes anything like it. I used to buy all my toiletries from Lush and B – soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, cleanser, dusting powder, massage bars, make-up, perfume, face masks – everything. Now I buy maybe 2 tubs of Dream Cream a year. I prefer to spend my money where it won’t make Mark Constantine rich.

  11. Just one person feeling harassed, intimidated, upset is one too many. Perhaps people don’t tell those ‘higher up’ as they don’t have direct access to them? Perhaps people don’t tell those ‘higher up’ because there is no adequate communication in the company? Perhaps people don’t tell those ‘higher up’ because those who do complain or rock the boat suddenly vanish? Seriously, read all the comments on this blog from staff & ex staff and look at it with open eyes.

    You forget that many of us here used to adore this company and everything it stood for. We’re pissed off because these so-called ethical retailers now have a catalogue of blunders so long that is’s becoming quite ridiculous. I think that many people here aren’t commenting out of hate, it’s because they once really cared; they believed in something, something they found to be untrue. It’s a bit like the hatred towards Tony Blair; he sold many people a dream and he turned out to be the biggest liar (in my opinion) in modern history with a massive spin machine around him. He offered the whole nation a manifesto towards a ‘better Britain’ and it turned out to be little more than him playing a game for his own agenda, for his own good, and he hoodwinked millions. No one likes being hoodwinked or made of a fool of. I think the similarities between Blair and Constantine are huge, apart from I don’t think Constantine is as intelligent. He is as Machiavellian though. He will probably relish in that description, I’m sure.

    The whole point is, there are possibly loads of companies out there doing worse things and treating their staff and customers a lot worse. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal, but for individuals involved or hurt, it obviously is. However, Lush pitches itself as being better; it claims to set the bar at being more ethical, more environmentally sound, more ‘fresh’, more everything with a top hat and tails to boot. And it isn’t. It’s just a slick marketing machine lining the pocket of the elite few at the top. They are very keen on calling out the ‘baddies’ themselves (Tar Sands debacle, Fox Hunters, whale hunters, seal clubbers) but they’re not particularly clean cut themselves. It’s huge stinking hypocrisy covered in essential oils.

    And I need to add, this doesn’t mean that people in stores aren’t doing a sterling job, these “bullshit” posts don’t appear to be a critique of people who work their arses off every day to line the pockets of those at the top. People want you to work for an ethical, fair company with a living wage for all (not just for London!) and feeling secure and happy in your role. For those of you that do feel that way, that’s brilliant, but it appears there are a few staff who are obviously not. They have commented here. One is one too many.

  12. I will try and answer you with respect.

    Hyperbolic and exaggerated language:

    Sexual Harassment is Part of the Job – a very exaggerated, sensationalist title : you make it clear from the off you have no interest in balance.

    “Doesn’t look so bad does it? Imagine the guy is a woman and the woman is a drunk man, slobbering and groping. For that matter, imagine the woman in the photo is drunk, groping and leering. Still think it’s ok? What if his t-shirt came down over his genitals? What if that woman was a child kissing his genitals through his clothes? What if the employee was a woman having her nipples kissed through the shirt by a complete stranger? Oh look!” – I found this entire section to be very hyperbolic: you describe an awful, grotesque image, one that doesn’t exist, and then post up an image, without context. If, as you imply, the woman in this photo is being kissed by a complete stranger, and she is uncomfortable with it, then you’re right, it’s horrible. But I do not know the context of this picture – and niether, I assume do you. Perhaps she knows that man – he might even be her partner, and the shop took it for some twitter hits. Perhaps not, and you are completely right. I merely ask for balance.

    ” Free shag from a staff member with every massage bar?” – Come now. A mad old woman came into our shop earlier this year and called us organic prostitutes. That’s what this reminded me of: out of all porportion, and unhelpful.

    I must also point out: in my shop, t shirts were on the table, and we had little paper kisses we hung in the window. It was a light hearted, silly campaign, people seemed to have fun. I understand your critique, and I agree with it, actually. I am accept and acknowledge that I am very lucky to have a brilliant manager, with a sense of perspective about the company, and who puts her staff first. I just wish your writing was a little more balanced, and acknowledged the existence of managers like herself: she works hard, had been a great source of personal support to me within my job, and very much keeps in line with employment law.

    You say I have the option not to read it, which is of course true. But I’m a member of staff at Lush. You present yourself almost as a sort of whistleblower, saying things that we need to hear: so surely you should want me to read it, and feel able to engage with what you are saying.

    I am no Lush cultist, by the way – I see strengths in the company, I see things it needs to improve, I see undeniable problems. I respect your opinions as a customer (former or present) and as another human being – and I am not responsible for any of the problems that you cite. But at times you generalise and you exaggerate, and I and many other memberss of staff feel personally attacked reading your blogs. You never seem to acknowledge that there are two sides to every story – I accept that your staff testimonials are true, and that there are problems within the company – yet you will not accept that there are also instances to the contrary of that, and that not all the people within a company that employs thousands are desperately unhappy or stupid.

    I also think that often you – and forgive me for speaking out of turn – miss the point. In my opinion the problem that crops up again and again in your posts about staff welfare is inconsistency between managers. This is at the heart of the conflict that exists between what you discuss and the opinions of ‘cultists’, as you put it. I would be interested in a well researched blog about this.

    To conclude – I do not seek in anyway to silence you – but I do ask to be spoken to with a little respect – not dismissed as in your response to my comment, and to be able to read something that is balanced and accepts nuance and context.

  13. All I’m going to say on the matter is this…there are actually external as well as internal people you can ring about the matters being described! Matters which I have agreed I wouldn’t like! And you can slag off the company and everything all you like, but using private things people have said and using them out of context and in a public place is wrong! Sales assistants that just want to help and get more info and support from other sales assistants! You have painted sales assistants as the victims here yet on other post you’re more than happy to slag us off and use our words In an incorrect way! At the end of the day I’m doing a job, a job where people go away telling me I’ve made their day better whether they have bought anything or not! And you doing this and taking away MY safe place to discuss matters I wish to discuss (maybe even discuss matters that concern me such as this post) and making it so public and using it against us, has made me feel well and truly shit! I only ever want to help people, and you have found a lovely way of making that a bad thing!

  14. I know I said final post but this for me is what it’s all about! Before lush, I worked in a care setting, no sales, purely providing care for others! Here I was treated like I was a piece of dirt under someone’s shoe, I was also very ill at the time and my manager proceeded to contribute to this and make me feel worthless! After weeks and months of feeling this way, my health becoming dire, and family members also becoming ill, I got my job at lush! My managers and coworkers made me feel like I was worth more than I’ve ever felt before! They helped me out when I was very ill and they helped me get my life back! In agreeing that obviously the member of staff in this post has a different situation, which I’m also agreeing is unacceptable but please don’t brush everyone under the name lush as evil and bad! Because they aren’t! Everyone I have come into contact with have been kind hearted and amazing people! So please , I beg you, see the other side of it and don’t brush everyone with the same attitude!

  15. @Hmmm <— you accuse the poster of grotesque posturing and 'hyperbolic' language but you need to remember, these are the very same tactics that Lush employ time and again to market themselves and their (by your own admission) "Silly" campaigns.

    Re: the "Free Shag" comment, remember that Lush themselves have used this kind of over-the-top technique in their own window copy. The "FREE SEX" (tiny letters – in the shower) window did put many staff in that position, with people propositioning them. Staff here have commented on it in previous posts. It's not that far fetched, Lush have used it within their own attempts at marketing.

    People seem to be getting very defensive. Remember, your staunch defence of the company won't get you anywhere. Think Lush would look after you if you were in a similar position? Not on your nelly!!. No one is criticising in-store staff (are they? I haven't seen it) but the idiots running the show. You all need to calm down and take a sniff of a French Kiss or a Sex Bomb or something… oh yeah, Lush don't use sexualised names for their products either, do they?

  16. Please don’t patronise us, and surprisingly my whole life doesn’t revolve around lush unlike it seems some people’s are! I’ve also worked around these sexually named products and I don’t see the issue! There isn’t nothing wrong with sex, it’s natural and named after songs etc that are popular! I have also never been propositioned whilst working around these products!

  17. The “Sex is natural” and “there’s nothing wrong with sex” argument is a simplistic and fatuous one. Taking a dump is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Nasal mucous is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Would you like a product called “Faecal matter” or “Green infected mucous”? No. Look, just because YOU don’t find it a problem, it doesn’t mean others do not. Personally, I couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss what the products are called (as long as they’re effective. Which they’re not) but some people don’t like it. Some people find sexual words difficult to explain to their children (of which there are many in Lush shops). Furthermore, sex may be completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but NOT in the workplace. It’s not appropriate, it’s not funny, it’s not adult. But hey, it’s commercial so who cares?

  18. I work with kids and i can tell you, they smell it , they don’t give Amy attention to any sexual meaning! Like the Tom jones song, they don’t understand! Anyway I’m gonna go have fun and live a little! Have fun guys!!

  19. Wow, you compare sex to excretion and snot… That is ridiculous. There’s nothing vulgar about sex, it is not disgusting or shameful.

    Also, OP – you have a broken link up there, princess!

  20. Hey there, just letting you know you’ve been reported for inappropriate use personal twitter pics without the direct consent of the owner. Legal action pending.

    • Thanks for the heads up about the legal action. Can’t wait to see which laws I’ve broken relating to photographs published in twitter and on facebook which are therefore in the public domain. Please do let us know how you get on with legal action against everyone who has retweeted or shared them. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating reading.

  21. No, I didn’t compare sex to “excretion and snot” – I was making the point that bodily processes and normal human function – however ‘natural’ it may be – doesn’t mean it’s desirable to talk about in the workplace. Some people find it uncomfortable. Therefore, the “it’s natural, therefore everyone should be fine with it” argument is imbecilic. No one said sex was vulgar, shameful or disgusting, did they? Tell me where someone said it was any of those things.

  22. Likening it to other, less savoury, bodily functions is as good as saying it’s vulgar, shameful or disgusting.

    There are always going to be people that have problems with certain things. Just because racists exist, does that mean we shouldn’t hire people of certain races? No. Just because homophobia exists, should we stop hiring gay people? No.

    Some people don’t like certain words or phrases, or may find them inappropriate, that’s a given. But the products with sexual hints in the names are subtle and tongue-in-cheek.

  23. There you go you anti-fun police, you’ve been told to lighten up and get a sense of humour. Because it’s all just a joke, innit.

    Sam, I use Lush products but campaigns like this — whether people were supposed to wear the t-shirts or not — are making it harder and harder for me to keep doing so. A company that’s supposed to be progressive and right-on using such cheap tee-hee tactics to get people through the door? Come on. Their products should be the drawcard, not their staff’s bodies, whether in fact or by implication.

  24. Out of interest, did you look up the definition of sexual assault when researching the original post? Some of the descriptions in the anonymised email made me think of that, not just harassment.

  25. Of course it isn’t ‘as good as saying that’. You are deliberately missing the point. In fact, none of your ‘argument’ above makes any sense.

    Of course people can always find offence in anything. I don’t find offence at many things, and certainly not with Lush product names, but the point I am making (which you keep side stepping) is that sexual terms are often used at Lush; whether you find them offensive or not is entirely besides the point – any kind of sexualisation, whether it’s a harmless nicked song lyric or a “cheeky” FREE SEX window, is NOT appropriate for the workplace. Ever. Because some idiot customer somewhere is going to find it as an excuse to be rude to staff. Guaranteed. And staff should never ever be put anywhere near that position, especially in a company where the majority of the workforce is female.

    So back to your point about racists and homophobes – let’s get some context. Does Lush have a product names that have homophobic undertones or racist undertones? Nope, they do not. We’re not talking about sexism here by the way (although I do believe misogyny is rife in the company, but that’s another matter) , we’re talking about sexual harassment which could happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race or sexuality, so it’s another point you’re trying to make entirely.

    The whole issue is, it’s not an ethical way to behave, especially for a company which promotes itself as both ethical and egalitarian. It’s using sex to sell, that’s exactly what it’s doing, which is not appropriate. Ever.

    And if YOU think that defecation or mucosal secretions are “vulgar, shameful or disgusting” then you have a problem my friend. I don’t find them shameful, vulgar or disgusting, I just find them normal parts of life. But my point is, I wouldn’t use them to sell cosmetics any more than I would use sexual intercourse.

  26. This is the first time I’ve read this blog, and the comments of the two Lush staff here are pretty worrying.
    Don’t you see that the company you work for condones the behaviour of those managers who don’t look after their staff properly by displaying those photos on their Facebook page? Yes, the man kissing the woman’s breast on the photo might be someone she knows, but even then? Why would you show this kind of behaviour on your company’s page? No-one will be able to tell that the woman knows the man (if that is indeed the case), and it’s only showing people who don’t know her that her body is fair game as part of the promotional campaign.
    The man in the other photo is clearly uncomfortable with that woman snuggling up to him.

    Yes, your own manager might be a great person, and they would never do that to you, but the fact is that these things HAVE happened, and there are Lush managers allowing them to happen, and the company does not think that there is anything wrong with it. If your manager were to leave and be replaced with one of those, would you be comfortable taking part??

    I don’t know how long you have been in the working world, but within most companies there are good and bad things happening. Wake up to the fact that just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening to anyone else. You should be more appalled at the fact that these managers are giving the company a bad name, and you should feel sorry for your fellow employees who HAVE had to go through all that crap to keep their jobs. Not just thinking about your own little selves. Personally, no matter how good my local shop might be, I’m never setting foot in Lush again, because I am not happy that the company doesn’t reprimand managers who force their staff to go through humiliating promotional campaigns. And it doesn’t matter if it’s only happened in two shops out of the hundred worldwide. The company should condemn those managers, and remove them from their staff, and stand up against sexual harassment of their staff.

  27. I have been reading this blog for a while now and I’ve got to comment now.

    To all Lush staff reading this, especially Sam and Hmm…

    The rot starts at the top. Lush has made itself out to be a caring, ethical company. It attracts people who are going through a trauma, have been abused, have self-esteem issues or have not previously been happy in another job. That’s because it puts out this image of letting you be yourself and it has a nice massive shield of people in the shops who are genuinely good folk and genuinely buy and believe all the stuff about Lush being the best company to work for.

    So when you go into the shops as a staff member and if you are really lucky like you seem to have been, Sam, then your Lush experience can be genuinely nothing but a positive one. And I for one haven’t seen anything in this blog that claims otherwise, or somehow accuses innocent happy-go-lucky shop staff of the crap Mark and his family and founders and various sycophants at the top are responsible for.

    There are some truly fantastic people working for Lush. I don’t think anyone is denying that. And in fact, that is Mark’s second greatest weapon, aside from his supernatural ability to spin a tale and manipulate people.

    The people in the shops and the people on the “outer rim” of the company present exactly the earnest, ethical image Mark has worked so hard to build all these years. But the Founders themselves don’t behave in such ways, they don’t use exclusively Lush products, they are not vegan or even vegetarian, they read the Daily Mail and behave just like any Joe Bloggs down the road. There may have been truly ethical people in the top tier in the past but they have all left.

    The point is – the nice, completely decent, well-meaning people are unwittingly lining the pockets of a nasty family who behaves cruelly towards those that work closely with them, who have very little ethics and morals themselves and who, in the last few years have started to increasinly believe their own hype and believe they are all marvellous and deserve their success (never attributing it to their hard-working teams on the front line… and the Living Wage says it all – a nice PR stunt for London but what about the rest of the country?).

    If you think that the dodgy managers who go a bit too far with Lush campaigns and force their staff to be publicly humiliated/sexually harrassed are acting AGAINST Lush’s and Mark’s wishes, I have news for you – it’s exactly the leve-leaded moderate managers (the ones that it sounds like you have, Sam) that don’t end up getting picked up for promotions and payrises and head office jobs – and it’s the outrageous, exploitative ones who get noticed. Telling “higher ups” about any wrongdoing may result in some pretend concern but it will also result in the person who tells the tales and their store being marked on a big black list.

    If you want to keep working at Lush because you like your immediate colleagues and/or you can’t get another job or don’t really want to work anywhere else, then keep your head down, do as you’re told and never try to get a job in head office. Join a union just in case.

    But if you are not entirely happy in your job there, go find another one – because Lush is not better than any other cosmetics company or big global business. It’s as bad – and I would say even worse because it pretends to be so much better and puts itself on a pedastal.

    It breaks my heart to see earnest, well-meaning people like yourselves defend a company that doesn’t deserve it. There isn’t a lot of the real rot in the public domain because nobody has been brave enough to start writing about it before (and some who have, have been silenced). But the posts, comments, emails… all the stuff that’s starting to come in; please realise it’s the tip of the iceberg and that it is taking a lot of courage and daring for people to speak out.

    Lush has a pretty cushy deal – it has created an army of very well indoctrinated well-meaning, hard-working staff who want to believe Lush is all it says it is because otherwise, why would they have been slogging their arse off for minimum wage in sometimes uncomfortable circumstances for so long? To justify your own commitment it is like a self-protection mechanism to keep believing. And even when the illusion shatters and you start seeing first-hand how people are bullied, humiliated…. and what their “ethics” are like when you start looking closely… even then, you explain it away and keep saying “well nobody’s perfect”. It hurts. It’s like an actual human relationship gone wrong.

    So take this blog as coming from someone who has obviously gone through that process, but as a customer. They loved Lush and believed them when they said things about itself. And now, seeing more and more crap over the years and beginning to realise they’ve been dishonest – it feels like a break-up. So maybe that’s why the language is a bit strong or tries to make a point. How would you write about being cheated? Lush is the Jimmy Saville of the cosmetics world.

  28. Oh yes, I forgot about Flosty Gritter. And also ‘Coalface’ which has myriad interpretations (I remember a long discussion about that years ago). And I wonder if the “Dorothy” bubble bar with the rainbow was a deliberate attempt to cash in on the “pink pound” (although I am sure any company defence would always staunchly suggest that it was referential to the Wizard of Oz)

  29. Dear “Sam”:

    This is a full stop: .
    This is an exclamation mark: !

    A full stop is generally used to end sentences. An exclamation mark is used to indicate an exclamation. Unless you are exclaiming everything you say, in which case, feel free to ignore this, please give the exclamation mark a rest. Thank you.

  30. I was about to spit blood over the “two rather cute models”, but then was pleased to see that they were men. Lush have never forced staff to take part in any of the campaigns, although I can see it’s more than likely that some managers would make it difficult for those who didn’t want to, especially one which is likely to bring in so much custom. There’s a big difference between a shop with a manager who was employed primarily for their retail skills and those who care about the ethics. Covent Garden shop for example have this month supported No More Page 3 campaign and Stand Up for Women and have photos only of men covered in kisses on their Facebook page. But this is not every shop, by a long way.

    The problem is, they just don’t think things through. Whilst most media reports talk only of kiss prints on t-shirts there’s also talk of “staff puckering up”, “staff will be wearing t-shirts ready to be kissed”, “staff put on official t-shirts for people to kiss”, “Sunderland girls are lush at kissing”… Obviously, because of the whole premise of the campaign, it’s likely to be interpreted in a sexual way, which is I’m sure what they wanted. Of course you’re going to get drunken, sexist pricks in the stores if you advertise a kissing campaign and have young girls in the shops. Why put staff in that situation? Why not get people to kiss a big heart shaped sheet so it’s crystal clear staff are not meant to be kissed. Why make it a competition for the shop who collects the most kisses when that obviously gives managers license to pressure staff to take part?

    So many of the shop staff are young girls who would probably find it hard to find the confidence to tell a manager they don’t want to take part, as the story in the OP shows. Lush should recognise that the majority of their shop staff are young women and support them to be strong and stand up for themselves, they should not be putting them in uncomfortable positions that are disempowering, or worse. If you’ve read http://www.everydaysexism.com you’ll know that situations like this – being sexually harassed while others stand by and not only do nothing to stop it but actually encourage what’s on – is the kind of experience that can scar you for life. Why didn’t the manager step in and protect their staff from being harassed? Just thinking of myself in her shoes makes me sick to my stomach. It’s disgusting. And I thought the campaigners team were women? WTF. I hope the person who had this awful experience takes it further. Get a union in.

  31. The sell line on the website for Coalface was up until the beginning of June 2013, ‘Once you go black you never go back’. Which is racist. They removed it because I emailed customer services.

  32. i was going to say the moment you put it up in the public domain no laws are broken considering all these photos from shops and twitter ,facebook,tumblr, have been posted around the world,many you tube videos and blogs have posted the same pics as well.even lush have posted as a company these so called unlawful pics,shame lush never thought of the law before doing such a sexist,abusive,pr stunt of a campaign,just to boost sales of a poor selling makeup range they cant give away.

  33. My nearest were all given tshirts . And then spare to put on a table and they made the kids use the one on the table . Pre weekend the staff pics were both male and female with lippy on and on weekend lippy over faces , tshirts , tits and the UNi kids were out in force not sure how a bloke got a kiss down there . Apparently by lunch time the staff wouldn’t stand out side on there own so were sent in pairs but mainly stayed instore as it got too much for them.they were told they had to wear and participate and to get extra staff in even if they declined. They were later sent another email on the day to if they wanted to by that time too late. she said it was degrading even the blokes said it went too far and not fun.they had a few kids but tried to not involve them. but get the parents to do it instead. and let the kids use the lip scrubs instead.

  34. The “consent” defence is moot. Even though no one is accusing Lush of using physical “force”, an employee’s livelihood depends on their job, and job security is damaged by lack of compliance. An employee can be fired for inadequate performance – almost at whim for short-term employment – and a sacked employee may even be denied a jobseeker’s allowance for some period, potentially rendering them destitute.

    There is therefore significant pressure on an employee not to “opt” out of any activity, no matter how gentle and well-meaning the apparent request to take part. The choice of an ethical employer must thus always be to refrain from making any potentially demeaning request.

    Put another way, “yes” should never be interpreted as freely given consent if “no” brings the potential for harm. A superior carrying sufficient power has a duty to consider whether any request could cause harm if rephrased as a demand, and to refrain from making the request if so.

    Human interaction and ethics are way more complex than, “They said they were okay, so it’s subjectively okay, so it’s objectively okay.” This is the exploiter’s favourite oversimplification. Servitude has never been about the inability to say no, but about the actual or potential consequence of saying no.

    • Well, I am the one who thumbed this down…didn’t mean to, it’s just that my only computer is an iPhone and the screen is small.
      So the buttons are close together and it seems you can’t ‘un’click and you’re allowed but one vote.
      So really no one voted you down…just wanted you to know.

  35. I hope none of the people wearing a t shirt and getting kissed were under 16. It could potentially open up the manager to action against an abuse of a position of trust.

  36. I still don’t even understand what this ‘stunt’ was for. It sounds like it was just to flog crap lipstick but if it was done in the name of charity, and as an official Guinness World Record attempt, surely the ethical thing would have been to give a proportion of the sales of lipsticks bought that day to a charitable organisation which is linked to said cause? Otherwise what it looks like is massive profiteering of the back of a cause which makes it ethically dubious.

    To put it another way, if a big high street retailer had a massive promotional activity (window, instore event, web page up dedicated to it) saying “come in and join our petition to promote the good work of so-and-so cancer hospice, and sign your name to get it more funding” (or something snappier). Imagine you feel strongly about that cause and you go in, interested in how you can help. What you find when you get there is people acting in a silly manner and trying to flog you whatever the shop sells. With none of the profits going to the charity mentioned. You would feel a bit hoodwinked, wouldn’t you? That a store had used an emotive charity to increase footfall and promote a particular product.

    That is EXACTLY what happened here, with the added issues of the sexual harassment in the workplace.

    And before anyone gives me the bollocks about Charity Pot giving £1.3M to good causes, when you think of how long Charity Pot has been on the shelves at Lush, that’s actually appalling. I don’t know if that’s the UK or worldwide figure (guessing UK) but I think Charity Pot has been around about 8 years as that’s when I *think* I remember first buying it. If we took 8 years as the actual time it has been around then £1.3M/8 = £162k. Add tax on to that and the figure is about £195k (I know we’ve had tax changes, this is rough). So that would mean about 15,000 pots of it a year. Which doesn’t seem a huge amount. We know that Dream Cream is a best seller as they always advertise it as such, and although I have no idea how much it sells, surely if they were really keen to give to charitable causes and they wanted to do it via a product (rather than taking a cut of the overall company profits), why not do it with a product that’s really popular?

    Talking about ‘taking a cut’ of the profits and giving to charity – like most normal retailers do (and many do it quietly, which I always think has a nice dignity about it), the copy for Charity Pot on the website says this:

    “We often have trouble explaining our Charity Pot to people – because usually charity products only give an amount, like £1, from each sale to charity, or “all profit” to charity. But with this product we give ALL the money you pay to charity, not just the profit. The only thing we take out is the VAT, which we have to give to the government.”

    Isn’t it funny how they did an about face with the pile of multicoloured turd that is Fun? Only 10p from each log goes to charity. And I can’t imagine a product that both melts to liquid and also stains your fingernails (value for money!) is a big seller. Wonder how much they’ve raised for charity via Fun? About £1.20? But seriously, a product with such an accessible price point, that really anyone could use (I mean, surely it’s a small demographic who would use a body lotion that smells of chocolate covered Turkish Delight?) wouldn’t that be a good idea to give 100% donation on that product? Or is that charity less meaningful to Lush?

    So yeah, if you’re going to bang on about good causes and giving money for charity, a bit of dignity, generosity, consistency and far more transparency would go a long way. Otherwise it’s completely disingenuous. Although I suppose it’s far more fun for the company profits to go towards buying loud gaudy shirts, ill fitting designer suits and swimming pools, innit?

  37. Dear Mr Goathorn,

    Your post makes no sense at all. YOU stand behind the till promoting a product for a pound which will go to charity, and then YOU will see how many people say no! With a world now bombarded with charity advertisement it’s not actually that easy to sell! It’s easy for you to judge, YOU go set up a business, YOU go and create a product that will bring you no profit. And no, FUN wouldn’t work at all – with charity pot there is the option of selling little pots, with fun you can’t!

  38. Yellowbeans,

    My post makes perfect sense, but you are so blinded by devotion you cannot see it. Tell me which parts do not make sense – with a detailed description of why – and I shall address each concern. Naturally I based my figures on only 1 pot size and I did point out these were rough figures, but the point that there are better selling products with which to donate the profits to charity is still valid. The inconsistency of Fun only donating a portion of the profit to charity (where Lush always declared they would not do that) is also valid. So please, do tell me what you are unable to understand as quite frankly your post makes no sense and comes across as mildly hysterical.

    I disagree entirely about Fun; a £5 log represents infinitely more value than a tiny £1 tin of a body cream which is not suitable for everyone in packaging that often dents or the lid becomes stuck. Tell me, how much of that 5ml pot of Charity Pot goes to actually moisturising your body. It’s a sample size that would usually be given for free. It represents no value whatsoever, it would be more honest to have a charity pot tin on the counter because with those tiny £1 pots what you’re really asking for is just a £1 donation to charity, the token product is pretty meaningless.

    Of course it’s easy for me to judge; Lush put all the products and the facts out there and as a consumer it is my place to make judgements as to whether they represent value and whether the ideologies are transparent. In this case I feel they are not. If Lush don’t like being judged that’s unfortunate but they always seem so keen to cast the first stone on everyone else’s ethical behaviour, so anyone who works for Lush who doesn’t like will simply have to suck it up.

  39. There’s a photo on Mark Constantine’s facebook page of his own daughter wearing a kiss-covered t-shirt, and he has liked it. That doesn’t say to me “the t-shirts shouldn’t be kissed while worn.” But then, that was never true, was it?

  40. Hello there !

    Thank you sincerely for writing this blog. I’ve learnt so many things. I’m French ; I never worked for Lush but a few friends of mine do. One of the french mail order employee is a person I deeply respect. I think working conditions in French shop are a little different but I’m devastated by what I read on your blog.

    I wanted to comment this entry for some reasons. This international kisses day stuff irritated me, so I didn’t participate even if I still buy some Lush products time to time. “Cruelty free kisses”… Hello there ! If you don’t wear any lipstick, your kisses are “cruelty free”, so you don’t need to buy some expensive lip products… and WTF (sorry) is the thing between kisses and animal protection ? It seems hypocrite to me : animals are a pretext. The point is, make people buy, buy and buy some more. And kissing a T-shirt… poor employees. Being kissed by drunk guys telling inconvenient things… yuk yuk yuk. And wear a T-shirt covered with lips traces and saliva… ugly. I feel sad for the girls and I’d never kiss this stuff for an empire. That’s disgusting.

    It’s quite shocking anybody guessed there was a risk with this kiss stuff. A risk of harassment for female employees. And it’s a symptom of what I’ve felt for months and months about Lush : respect animals, not humans.

  41. A heartbreaking post. I only found it whilst doing some research into why Lush appear to be less then honest about ingredients, but reading this post has put the final nail in the coffin; I have never – and will never – purchase anything from Lush.

  42. Pingback: The Smell of Bullshit, part 36: sexual harassment revisited | Mitherings from Morningside

  43. Pingback: Lush – The Smell of Appropriation? | Badly Drawn Roy

  44. Hi.
    I work for Lush Finland.
    We had instructions to put the shirt to the table. That’s what we did, and we had no problem of sexual harassment. Customers were happy of partaking the event by pressing their lips on the shirt on the table.
    All the best,
    Milja

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