The Smell of Bullshit, part 27: Lush and the 10% off vouchers

Lush used to put 10% off vouchers into the gift boxes. They stopped doing that a while ago, but lots of people still have them because when they bought a gift box, they would save the voucher to use when they were doing a big shop – 10% off a £150 spend is worth more than 10% off a £20 spend, after all. The vouchers have no expiry date on them and the only condition is that Lush won’t accept them in December because they’re too busy (because it takes so long to push the “discount – 10%” button).

There has been some discussion and consternation on the Lush International Forum for a few days because of a rumour that Lush were going to stop accepting the vouchers. Remember there is no expiry date on the vouchers. After a few days, Alecommy who is a Lush employee posted on the forum, saying

Hello, sorry it took a few days to answer the question about the 10% discount voucher.
The information that was reported here came from a pre warning for the shops, which have now been advised on the full policy. We stopped distributing the discount vouchers about 2 years ago, but our customers will be able to use those vouchers in our uk network until the end of October 2013. You have a chance to use it to buy the lovely new Christmas products!  Each other Lush country have different legislations/policies so please refer to the local T&c.

 

So, Lush are saying that the vouchers will not be accepted after the end of October this year. The vouchers have no expiry date on them, but Lush have decided that 3 months from now, they will be invalid.

Now, I don’t know the law relating to vouchers, and I am way too tired to google. Do it yourselves. But, as far as I understand it, the terms and conditions relating to a voucher are those that are written on it (in this case, no expiry date, not accepted in December) and any that are brought to your attention at the time of purchase. I 100% guarantee that nobody was told at the time of purchase that the vouchers would not be valid after 31/10/13. And, I’m pretty sure I remember that when Lush stopped issuing the vouchers, they said that all existing vouchers would be valid until they had all been used.

This Guardian article talks about the law relating to vouchers with expiry dates on them. Having read it, the only logical inference is that vouchers without expiry dates don’t expire and retailers must accept them.

If you have a voucher and Lush say they won’t accept it, don’t accept Lush’s bullshit. Get help from Trading Standards if need be. People bought Lush gifts knowing they’d be getting a 10% off voucher – it’s not acceptable for Lush to say they won’t accept the vouchers any more, and it might just be unlawful.

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13 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 27: Lush and the 10% off vouchers

  1. I am not surprised they have done this; let’s face it, they have form for treating customers pretty shoddily for the past 24 months. The hack (where no one was told anything for a long time, despite them knowing. I was a victim of this fraud and disgusted that I couldn’t use my debit card right before Christmas; the LTGTR business; the MD talking to customers like utter crap on his own forum). There is an established pattern for sure.

    After 18 years trading, one would hope for them to be performing better. Most companies have these kind of blips in the early years, not in the latter ones. Communication is still a huge problem; they tell the stores one thing, the stores tell the customers in dribs and drabs or via the overenthusiastic but utterly unprofessional scribblings on a facebook status, the customers want ‘official’ confirmation (because all stores seem to say different things), then after a while official confirmation confirms what everyone thought likely. Basically, it’s a fucking omnishambles.

    They still don’t understand that whatever crap is going on behind the scenes (which appears to be people running around like headless chickens), customers shouldn’t see that disarray. It decreases brand confidence. It does more harm to the brand than 10% discount vouchers, which loyal customers collected in good faith they could use them when they need them. This is nothing to do with keeping ‘brand value’ by not discounting because the whole debacle has done more PR harm than good. Or it’s just been very ill thought out.

    On a side note, the whole ‘not accepting in December as we’re too busy’ has never washed with me (or many others, it would seem). It’s long been known that many UK retailers only take profit during the peak trading months of the year, so it’s more likely that is the same for Lush too. Let’s face it, the stores now look pretty quiet most of the year round so who could blame them for wanting to max out profits come their busiest time? However, it makes the ‘honest meaning beyond marketing’ crap stick out like a sore thumb, doesn’t it? There’s no honesty or integrity in any of the communications towards customers. You can’t believe a word of it any more.

    One thing that this whole mess does seem to communicate loud and clear; how desperate do Lush have to be that they are scrapping back every little bit of £ they can? I mean, first we hear about a £40,000,000 rolling facility with Barclays (via various news agencies), then we hear that the 10% vouchers are being knocked on the head (although it seems on shaky ground if the ‘no expiry date’ rule is true). Are they that desperate that they need to grab that back? Would one of their competitors be behaving in a similar way? I doubt it; but then, their arrogance has always seen to it that they can’t look beyond the sleepy downs of Dorset and into the real world, doesn’t it? The world with no designer suits, no swimming pools, the world of the working class person. The world where a 10% discount voucher does more for brand loyalty than they could ever possibly imagine.

  2. The 10% vouchers stopped being put in the gifts about 2 years ago so there are probably not too many left anymore but it was a really good selling point for gifts. At the same time they stopped the ‘buy 2 massage bars/shampoo bars/body butters and get a free tin’ offer as Mark didn’t want customers to associate Lush with ‘2 for 1 offers’ as it ‘de-valued the brand’ and Lush were better than that. Who remembers the ‘buy one, get one’ slogan that was so confusing for anyone who wasn’t a Lush mafia member?

    I don’t think it was that that de-valued the brand, I think it was the price hikes, the deteriorating quality of the products and the shoddy un-packaged products in the over priced gifts.

    Customers – even Lush customers – love a bargain! They would save their vouchers to stock up their stash and while 10% really isn’t a lot they at least felt they were getting a bargain. Lush’s mark up from manufacturing to retail is 66% so they could afford to lose it as it didn’t happen very often and the extra money spent by loyal customers far outweighed the loss of 10% of it.

    If someone did a sale of over 250 quid we used to be allowed to give a corporate discount of 10% but apparently that has been stopped now too.

    All this, plus the shoddy wages that de-value the staff (but not the products) and a 40m loan from Barclays makes you wonder if Lush have financial problems or if they are just being plain greedy.

  3. Everything you say is spot on.

    What always annoys me is, for years on the forum when anyone complained about product quality or lack of incentive to buy, you had either the ‘Ethics’ troll doing the whole “well every batch is hand made and we’re only a small company full of simple souls” type bullshit or the MD saying “Well, the forum isn’t your typical customer and 1000s of people are buying from us each week and they can’t be wrong” (I paraphrase for both). Well clearly, 1000s of people DO still buy from Lush, but if there are SO many things wrong (and there are, from a customer point of view) is no one looking at the huge potential if they got things right? It’s either utter laziness, complete greed, or sheer nonchalance. They’ve got their money now ,why should they be driven any more? That’s the crux of it, no one seems driven to make things work, apart from the wonderful people in store. I feel so sorry for them, working as hard as they do. They get 5 steps forward, and the HO incompetence pulls them 6 back.

    Back to the ‘incentive’ thing; many times us customers (ex-customers) were told it ‘devalues’ the brand. We were told the incentive – the value – was intrinsic in the product. We were told service was part of that value (when the staff are paid so little and the products are marked up so much, not sure we were paying for service!). Is no one at Lush asking WHY a customer was asking for incentive over and above the product on offer? There could be several reasons, here are a couple.

    – The product and service itself is NO LONGER presenting value. This could be due to quality or it could be due to what competitors are offering in terms of equivalent product.

    – What competitors are offering overall. If I have £30 to spend on a moisturiser and a shampoo, firstly I am going to look at what stores are offering me that suits my hair and skin needs. Then I see which prices fall in my budget. Then I see where I can get the most for my money. Do I want the store that offers me the shampoo that strips my colour and the moisturiser that *could* go off in 5 months (and it isn’t sealed, so anyone could have stuck their finger in the pot, thus adding germs and decreasing the already fragile shelf life), in the shoddy plastic tub that seems to accumulate product around the rim; or do I want to shop at the place that offers stable products, in sealed fit-for-purpose packaging and who also offer a few extras, like a nice cup of tea or glass of fizz whilst browsing, some samples which are also suitable for me and I feel treated like a grown up, sensible woman. (Yes, L’Occitane, I’m looking at you there). Guess which one the sensible adult picks?

    You just have to wonder who is running the company at times. Is it serious business people who understand (really understand) customer service and retail, or a bunch of egotists playing at ‘let’s make face creams’. I feel sorry for the shop floor people and support teams – it seams they’re stuck playing an endless game of ‘please the family firm or lose your job’ instead of ‘let’s look after & respect customers – the core of what our business is about – and build a solid, good business’.

    This is what I see as a customer; a bunch of nincompoops (polite word for them) who are playing at ‘let’s run a business and sell cosmetics’. Seriously, you may as well set up a trestle table at a car boot sale rose petal ‘perfume’ (water + rose petals) in old lemonade bottles and face cream made from Vitalite and essential oils; it would have more potential and a more honest face than the current ‘narcissists trying to prove something to the world’. What you should be proving – that you can make decent, fairly priced cosmetics that represent value for money and please your customers – seems to have passed you by.

  4. My observations of this company lead me to believe that the only trait which surpasses Mark Constantine’s arrogance is his utter stupidity.

    I believe this whole 10% voucher business is an excellent example of the perfidious nature of Lush’s ‘customer service’ and communications as a whole. I wonder how far the rot has set in?

  5. At what point shall we talk about Lush’s love of ‘zero hours contracts’ and not paying the Living Wage outside of London?

  6. And the prices all went up today – by quite a lot! Good of them to tell customers so they could stock up on their favourites before the price hike, sorry, increase! I expect they will justify this as usual by saying ‘when you buy things from ethical sources you have to pay a premium’ So where’s the fair trade certification?

  7. Pingback: The Smell of Bullshit, part 28: Lush and the 10% off vouchers again | Mitherings from Morningside

  8. Lush is a fantastic company and as an employee I will fully stand by and say how great it is. It’s not perfect, but we’re improving at every point we can! Yes, we’re no longer accepting the vouchers after the 31st October. The fact that every product is hand made and fresh, cruelty free and fair trade, you pay a premium for these products! If you want to pay a few quid less and buy from places that test on animals then you go ahead! But we actively give money and help charities and we do more than most companies will ever do. Most stores have excellent customer service and we can’t do enough to help our customers, maybe if you went in and gave us a chance you might see we’re not all doom and gloom. Not being funny, but it’s not like we’re not accepting the vouchers at all! You have a month to use them up and if you’ve been hoarding them for 2 years since they were last given out then you really can’t be that bothered about spending it!

    Over and out

    – A proud Lush Employee!

  9. Lauren, let’s just examine your comments shall we?

    “Lush is not perfect”? Very True

    “We’re improving at every point we can”? Hmmm…. alienating customers, treating staff like shit. Yes, that’s improvement.

    “No longer accepting vouchers after 31st October”? Oh yes, still illegal. Small claims here we come!

    “EVERY product is handmade”? Check out the giant machines at the factory and the huge industrial mixers that churn the products out, the soap noodles that are made by another company – the way the sack of soap noodles is hand opened by a person with a stanley knife and the noodles poured into the giant industrial size vessel by hand to be melted down and re-moulded is truly astounding, the machines that push bubble bars out along a conveyor belt only to be moved BY HAND into a tray to go and finish off before being packed BY HAND into boxes. Yes, that’s handmade alright. Well, hand moved maybe, hand opened? hand finished? yes all of that but not actually handmade. Just take a look at the numerous cheesy you tube video’s to see that it’s not really handmade at all.

    “Fresh”? Face masks and fresh cleansers yes, won’t dispute that but everything else cannot be called fresh as it lasts for over a year and contains preservatives.

    “Cruelty Free”? to animals maybe, the staff aren’t treated very well. Although with the conflicting information about Azo dyes checks are still being made on the animal testing front.

    “Fair Trade”? A foot lotion that is certified fair trade and vanilla that is fair trade do not exactly constitute a company that uses exclusively fair trade products. Lush are above all that sort of certification bollocks tho aren’t they, they’re too good for that!

    “You pay a premium for these products”? Yes! There it is! The standard Lush reply to price hikes. Pure Hillary speak! It had to come out!

    “Actively give money to charity”? because giving money to charity saves paying tax on it, and as has already been mentioned Lush don’t give that much away to charity anyway. They just say they do so everyone believes them.

    “Customer Service”? Yes, agree totally. The shops mainly are good at customer service but it ends there really.

    “Can’t do enough to help customers”? Except not honoring their commitment to give them 10% off products with vouchers with no expiry date.

    “Go in and give us a chance”? We’ve been in. We’ve worked there. Been sales assistants, trainee managers, managers, head office employees, in charge of really important stuff. So we have given them a chance and that’s why we are on here saying what a complete shower of shit Lush really is! And the reason we know this is because we’ve been there and seen it first hand. And just because we have told it like it is we get told we are being mean to Lush because it is wonderful and marvelous by staff who are too brainwashed to see Lush for what it really is!

    One day you’ll learn. I hope it doesn’t come as too much of a shock to you that the company you work for is based on a tissue of lies.

    Over and out!

  10. Whilst I can understand that some people will be annoyed by this, I dont think that Trading Standards can do that much about it. Its a money off voucher and that means a company can change its terms and conditions at any time because its not classed as a gift / credit voucher.

    • Well, no. As you can see from the points of law quoted in the blog post, Lush can’t just decide not to honour the vouchers, and they are behaving unlawfully if they try.

  11. Pingback: The Smell of Bullshit, part 35: more voucher based fuddery | Mitherings from Morningside

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