The Smell of Bullshit, part 32: the reason why

I have edited this post a couple of times to add more information as it has become available, and to remove the forum username of the woman who was so badly treated by Mark Constantine.

I know some people wondered why I left the Lush forum so suddenly and why I stopped buying their products. I’d been becoming more and more disillusioned with Lush over the years, for all the reasons detailed in this blog, but then one day I was told something that horrified me about the way Mark Constantine treats people. It wasn’t my story to tell so I have never posted it here, and the person he shafted never talked about it publicly either. But today she has.

The thread where she talks about it is here. ForumiteA has kindly allowed me to copy her post here, as there are concerns that Lush will delete the thread and possibly the entire forum. Big is the name Mark Constantine uses on the Lush International Forum. Her post says

BIG you know why I am cross.

When I was getting divorced it all went a bit pearshaped. My husband – who has a vast income as a consultant doctor, had a top notch solicitor. I had one who told me I’d get legal aid (turned out I wouldn’t), then she made a catalogue of errors which were so bad that she didn’t charge me for any of the work she had done (imagine a solicitor not wanting to be paid, it will give you some idea of the degree of incompetence).

So that left me with no solicitor, no money to pay for one, my husband  armed and ready. I had to move out of the ‘former matrimonial home’ (as it became rebranded) because staying was unbearable (forgive me for sparing the gory details on a public forum).

In those days, I used to be friends with BIG and speak to him on facebook – so he knew I was up shit creek and offered to help. It was a bit of a cryptic offer – the equivalent of one of those ‘post a smilie and run’ posts he is so fond of. Eventually he managed to set me up with a solicitor who charged £280 an hour – more than I earn in a week. And in order to enable me to retain my dignity, he found me work with Lush to be able to pay the solicitors. (That’s the short version, in the long version, as I tried to establish such delicate details as how many hours I’d be working, he emailed back complaining about the questions and saying he was starting to think I’d prefer to go back to my husband.)

Anyway, eventually, I was allocated to a someone sensible who became my manager. I did various projects for Lush and they made the most of my forum contacts to get me to organise mail order mystery shops and things like that. Some of you helped me and I am not sure if you ever got rewarded for it? Made a complete prick of me leaving my friends in the lurch, emailing and emailing to try to get you ‘paid’ in soap. I wrote a couple of reports for them from a customer eye view.

BIG was pleased with what I did and so was my manager. It was BIG who encouraged me to start my writing course in the first place, and he made sure (along with my manager) that I had a chance to do some work on the Lush Times, which you probably all saw. My manager was working on trying to get me more writing work with Lush and spoke to me more than once about building me up to a full time job, working from home.

I had a phone call one day confirming that they did want me to work for them full time, writing, and as you can imagine I was made up. The divorce was costing me an arm and a leg at this point – at £280 an hour it soon adds up! – and I had committed to going to court, understanding that I had the means to pay for it. But when I tried to pin down some details of this job, things got a bit vague and shifty. Eventually I was told there was no full time job – not just in a ‘Sorry it hasn’t come together’ type way, but in a ‘What are you talking about? You’re making this up’ way. Then, shortly afterwards, I had a call saying there was no part time work either.

Of course I spoke to BIG about it. He told me he had ‘no influence at that level’ and he couldn’t do anything about it. Very sorry it didn’t work out well, you can earn a living writing, blah blah blah.

So, having been encouraged to go to an expensive solicitor (that I NEVER would have instructed without BIG’s promise of work to pay for it) the work stopped before the divorce did, leaving me with thousands of pounds of debt. Thousands and thousands. And because of the extra work, my tax credits went down, too. So for a year I had less money coming in (it’s gone back up again now, thank fuck). I’ve still got a big fat loan payment going out and I will have for years to come. I owe money to my family, too.

So yes, I am cross. Cross that I am struggling financially and will be for years, for what is a drop in the ocean to my multi-millionaire benefactor. And cross because the opportunities which I thought were going to be there for me came to nothing (a couple of weeks ago there were three different writing jobs advertised on the Lush website, so the work IS there). Cross that BIG just ignores me on facebook too. Mostly I am cross with myself for trusting him in the first place.

So BIG, if you really want to resolve this, go ahead. I’m sure none of it is a shock to you and you know where to find me. I would love to be able to tell my forum friends just as publicly that you did the decent thing.

Mark’s actions are the reason so many people are done with Lush. ForumiteA is a fantastic woman, she’s strong, smart, funny and intelligent, and people are horrified by how Mark behaved towards her. We might not be able to help her, but we can make damn sure our money doesn’t help Mark. He doesn’t deserve our money – or yours. The rest of the concerns about how Lush behave as detailed in this blog – well, those are just the turds on top of the shit cake.

I’m going to edit this post now to add some additional information, as Mark is asking the Lush staff forum if he should close the international forum, and many of the staff are saying yes (note that he can’t take responsibility for the decision himself – he has to ensure “the staff are telling him what to do”), and there’s a chance the thread will disappear. The thread that I have linked to above is a thread started by Mark asking why so many people are unhappy and what can be done to fix things. I find ForumiteA’s post incredibly moving. Divorce is hard enough but add in kids and a husband able to afford a much better solicitor and it’s so much harder. Then throw in someone you thought was a friend offering you some very valuable help and then, just as you’ve committed to a huge financial outlay on the basis of the help you’ve been promised, not only does he withdraw the offer of help, he denies he ever made it and implies you’re making it all up.

Some of us have known this for months but it only became public knowledge when she bravely posted it on the Lush international forum yesterday, as one example of why people are pissed off with Mark and with Lush.

Mark’s response was

ForumiteA has the largest post count on the forum and has commented on many things lighting up the chat with her intellect and sparkling writing. I had heard of her situation regarding her marriage and because of the friendship that had formed on the forum I wanted to help. However there was a slight problem. ForumiteA and I had flirted and joked about an imaginary relationship. We pretended to get together behind the stables with me dressed as santa. We met here and there at forum events. I trusted that everyone saw this for what it was, a gentle and entertaining bit of fun. Anyway in order to avoid any problems I discussed ForumiteA’s situation with Mo.

I wanted to bail ForumiteA out, to help her and her children. Mo thought it unwise. I found out from ForumiteA that her parents were helping her a little. Mo agreed that I could give advice on a good lawyer but that I was not to get involved in such a delicate matter. I could however provide her with a chance to earn the money needed to pay for the lawyer under another manager. That’s what I did. Nadya Candy (some of you will remember her when she managed Cardiff) is now at a board level in Lush. I explained to her what I was trying to achieve and she employed ForumiteA. I encouraged ForumiteA in the most obvious of her skills; writing. She talked of taking a course I thought that sounded sensible. I trusted that she received enough work to cover the costs but did not get involved any further.

It’s vile beyond belief. He “wanted to help,” he offered to help, not by giving her money, but by giving her work to earn money, then withdrew that help without checking that the costs were covered and with not a word to her about it. Because he thought – and his wife thought – people might think it looked dodgy. Helping someone isn’t dodgy. Offering to help someone who had never dreamed of asking for help and then callously leaving them far worse off than they were to begin with is dodgy. It’s heartless, it’s immoral, it’s unethical, it’s cruel. Going by these actions, Mark Constantine is heartless, immoral, unethical and cruel . He disgusts me, and it disgusts me that people are still trying to defend him. And think on this, those of you still trying to make excuses for him – if that’s how he behaves in public, on a forum the whole world can see, how on earth does he treat his staff in private? All the posts and comments here from staff talking about how badly they’ve been treated by Lush – are you more inclined to believe them now?

I ask anyone who has read this post and been moved by ForumiteA’s plight to share it as widely as they can – tweet it, facebook it, email it to your friends. Let people see how ethical the founder of Lush really is, and promise yourself you’ll never shop there again. He does not deserve your hard-earned money.

PS Hello LadyWhisp.

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23 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 32: the reason why

  1. Yes, I have found Lush to be the biggest bunch of hypocrites on every single level. Generous and kind hearted on the surface, but mean spirited and tight under the top layer of varnish. Their lack of generosity with customers (and I am not talking in terms of pounds, shilling and pence here) is a marker of the extreme disrespect they have for the people who put them where they are today. In the beginning, it paid well for them to foster a kind of relationship, but they’re past it now, they can’t be bothered.

    I think Constantine, despite his tales of running away from home and living in the woods (Enchanted Forest in his head, perhaps?) has led a life of privilege in his adult years. I believe he is a middle class person who had a normal British upbringing. Yes, he lost his own first business (which from memory was entirely the company’s fault due to their lack of business acumen, although they probably blame the customers in retrospect, it’s up their street to do so) and was lucky those customers who lost out at the end of CTG were so generous towards him and afforded him the benefit of their custom when they came back again.

    I think he has been a lucky man; crude perfumes (no, you can’t ‘do’ jasmine very well – you make it smell like fresh manure), shoddily made products BUT their charm has attracted the most hard working and dedicated of shop floor staff. I take my hat off to you all I do, because you do a brilliant job. And that’s one of the secret’s of the company’s success – it’s not the ‘innovation’ or the ‘genius’ of the founders, it’s the brilliance of the shop floor staff who can keep flogging the same old rope for increasing lots of money year on year (and when you keep putting the same fragrance in a different format each time, it IS money for old rope). And the other secret is their ability to spin spin spin. Their spinmaster-general from the forum (not dissimilar to ‘Squealer’ in Animal Farm) seems to have taken a long vacation (perhaps even she realises that her ‘hey folks, we’re all decent people at Lush’ crap has finally worn thin?) so Constantine is having another go himself, now all his other standbys have either vanished or been scared into silence. Or, in the case of Squealer, flying off to award ceremonies in New York in designer dresses, perhaps?

    One thing that stands out above all else is the utter hypocrisy; the disparity between what the company portrays themselves as and what they really are. A great example of this is the interview below with a Lush founder:

    http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/fashion/style-file-rowena-bird

    Flick through the photos at the top of the article. You will see a photos of her ‘pearl pink Porsche’ which she likes to whizz around the country in (environmentally friendly, sure), and keep flicking you will see a photograph of the interior of a private plane with the caption “My pilot’s licence and plane may seem extravagant but they’ve given me endless pleasure”.

    That interview was recorded as being given in 2011.

    In 2008 Lush did a campaign with “Plane Stupid” and Cuntstantine did the following interview with The Guardian.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/dec/12/theairlineindustry-climatechange

    Like I said – hypocrites.

    To those on the forum (or on the Lush staff room) claiming this blog is ‘bullshit’ itself, look at the above evidence and tell me you can believe every single word that the founders of Lush say. It seems pretty disingenuous to me. Store staff were all taking the brunt of it when Lush supported Plane Stupid, when one of your company founders appears to have a plane and a licence (according to said article). Seems plain stupid really, doesn’t it?

  2. I am a forum member and I have read the thread. At the time of your leaving I figured there must be some background because you generally ‘gave what for’ if something or someone bothered you. I felt that it was something pretty big but from what ForumiteA has written today I am totally gobsmacked. Gobsmacked is not even a big enough word for what has happened and even though I have not spent one penny in Lush for months and months and had already said that I will not hand over any more of my hard-earned money this has made me even more adamant that Lush will never get another penny from my household.

  3. I’m a perpetual lurker on forums so only ever knew the old guard from afar and I am just appalled at how ForumiteA and others were treated. I (naively) thought when I saw the posts from Mark this morning that maybe he and the company were genuinely trying to make amends and maybe the litany of fuck-ups were out of stupidity rather than malice but now? I don’t think my opinion of Mark or Lush could possibly be lower. I feel like an idiot for ever being taken in by the “hippies in a shed” routine but I can’t imagine how upset and hurt the people who were personally involved in all of this are.

  4. I’d known some of what ForumiteA went through, thanks to “help” from Big. But re-reading it tonight, with more detail, sickened me all over again. Financial debt is a horrible thing to live with, affecting every aspect of your life, and I imagine having children only makes the stress worse.

    To offer someone a lifeline, then take it away at the point where all they can do is plunge into more debt than they would have got into without your intervention… well, I can’t see that as anything but cruel.

    • If he had ignored her plight nobody would have blamed him – she’s not his family and he was under no obligation to help. But to promise her financial assistance, encourage her to take on financial obligations on the promise of that assistance, and then withdraw the assistance and deny it was ever offered, leaving her with crippling, possibly life-ruining debt – it’s unforgivable.

      • Mark Constantine has replied to ForumiteA’s post this morning. A reply which is summed up by his statement “I trusted that she received enough work to cover the costs but did not get involved any further.” How can he claim ignorance of her situation in the aftermath of the work drying up, when she had told him about it? How can not checking in on someone you were supposedly helping to see how they were getting on seem like the right thing to do?

        Reads like hand-washing to me.

      • You’re right Shereen, reads like hand-washing, but smells like bullshit.

    • To rub salt in the wound the lawyers Mark recommended must have been utterly rubbish if, in addition to charging such exorbitant amounts of money, they still weren’t able to secure her a divorce settlement which would at least have covered her legal bills. I don’t know the ins and outs of the divorce obviously and only vaguely recall a brief post from ForumiteA when they split up, but unless I’m recalling wrong it was the husband’s actions which led to it rather than a mutual decision or anything instigated by her, so (I can’t even find the words to complete this sentence. That she was so let down by a man she had had a good relationship with and had no reason for it to be anything else ever, then Mark does it all again to her slightly differently.)

  5. Mark is always promising the earth and delivering nothing. Also he says he will do one thing and does another. Why even say you will do something like that if you have no intention of seeing it through to its conclusion?

    There is a saying: “It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” Well, that could have been written for Mark.

    Remember about 5 years ago, when the new website (a few websites ago) was launched and it broke and the lovely Jack Constantine was less than polite to members of the forum (he used quite a few rude words and didn’t display much ‘excellent customer service’)? Mark’s reaction to resolve the situation was to publicly ‘disinherit’ Jack from the company and to publicly state that he would leave the running of the company to the staff.

    Jack will shortly be taking over the day to day running of Lush! Lush’s future is therefore set to self destruct, as has every department Jack has ever tried to run. Mark will be taking more of a back seat (like he does much anyway apart from sniffing a few bottles, co-inventing with Simon fragrances that smell remarkably like ones we’ve already got, having massages and counting money) so you can bet that li’l baby Jack will have a field day riding rough shod over loyal but misguided staff who think that they can make Lush a better place.

  6. I was never one of ForumiteA’s friends on the original forum, but I wouldn’t wish what she’s going through on my worst enemy and I hope she is getting through it all with her sanity intact.

    I am shocked and disgusted at Mark Constantine’s behaviour, but not at all surprised. I wish I could be, at least if I was surprised by it, that would allow that he was a decent human being in the first place.

  7. Cruel beyond belief both with ForumiteA and others too. But that was particularly nasty. And then he blames his wife. What a wand. Oh and he sacks people with mental health problems according to his post.

  8. Mark Constantine is a vile, pathetic excuse for a man. He attempted to clarify something on the forum which left me open mouthed.

    “Let me be clear about when I say ‘it didn’t work out’? … it could be the chemistry in that part of the company at that time, it could be that our combined ambition is greater than the ability at that time. It could be that something domestic is a major distraction for the employee, their may be physical or mental health issues, it could be that the effort becomes too much. What it is not, in my opinion, is that the person is a failure. Purely at that time in that job at that stage of their lives it did or did not work out.”

    When a job ‘isn’t working out’ (the employee is struggling, or the employer has issues with performance) most companies would hold a meeting. Sensible employers would make sure it never got to that stage by having training, guidelines, proper line management and structures for ALL, not just the chosen few. Let’s take it bit by bit:

    “Chemistry on behalf of the company” – Does this mean that the company just doesn’t want that person any more? Or there have been personal fallings out? Come on Constantine, do tell us.

    “Our combined ambition is greater than the ability at that time” – Now who is ‘our’ and what does ‘ability’ refer to specifically? A person, the company as a whole? That may sound good in your head but it makes fuck all sense.

    “It could be that something domestic is a major distraction for the employee” – Would you even know this on a personal level? Or is it something you’ve made up in your head to make axe swing a bit easier with less guilt? Did you know that normal companies offer employees assistant in real times of trouble? Actual ethical, caring companies that is. i.e. not yours.

    “Their [sic] may be physical or mental health issues” – Tell me about those years you spent at medical school please Mr Constantine. Does your trichology ‘expertise’ allow you to make such diagnosis? Nope, thought not. If any employee has an actual, diagnosed mental or physical health issue (not one you’ve made up in your head via your imaginary MD) it does NOT entitle you or your company to terminate their employment, as you *seem* to suggest here. Illness is not a reason for a job ‘not working out’. People recover from illness and ethical, caring employers assist them to do so and help them integrate back into working culture and support them. Yes, SUPPORT them. And that goes for every employee, not the cherry picked favourites.

    “It could be that the effort becomes too much”. – What for YOU? You can’t be bothered with them? From what I have seen Lush has some of the hardest working retail employees out there, the effort is not lacking on their behalf.

    And finally, the best bit:

    “Purely at that time in that job at that stage of their lives it did or did not work out”.

    No no no. A job is a two part contract, both actual contract and a psychological one. It doesn’t just ‘not work out’. No. You invest in staff and staff then perform well for you, which helps grow your company and in turn it enables you to reward and keep investing in your staff, who reward you with good performance which propels company growth. It’s not a hard concept now is it? It’s not about throwing pennies at them and expecting them to dance. Sure, you have invested in some staff but not all. Some have been nurtured and blossomed, as you have spoken about in your forum post. But the others – no. And it didn’t just ‘not work out’. It isn’t like that. Sure, if it makes you feel better to think of it like that but you know, I know, everybody reading this blog knows it’s just not that simple.

    Furthermore, the post suggests a hideous abuser mentality; it’s not your fault (oh no, god forbid, never ever), it’s all the employee’s fault isn’t it. The job ‘didn’t work out’ because they’re ill, or because they have a domestic crisis, or because of x,y and z all to do with the employee. Nothing at all to do with you or your company. Yet you/your company liked them enough and saw enough potential in them to employ them and then it just… didn’t work out. Oh, that worked out well for you didn’t it? Just hire another mug and ship the others out the back.

    Keep on believing your little lies old man, if it keeps you happy. You’re fooling no one.

    Current employees, join a union. You know, just in case it ‘doesn’t work out’.

  9. I am thinking he shouldn’t have stopped therapy (as he claims to have done so on the forum). It seems to have gone downhill from there.

    And now his little ‘attempt’ at sorting out the forum (i.e. stopping people complain as it’s bad for business) has gone to utter shit because he is unable to apologise to his customers or ex employees (the latter of which he has almost admitted they had bad treatment with the phrase “ex employees that are still bitter over the way they have been treated” – now if they had fair, nice treatment, would he have said that?). Instead, he appears to blame them for wanting better, for complaining, or in the delightful case of ex employees, having domestic troubles, the wrong chemistry for the company, face not fitting or ill health which may have impeded their ability to make the job ‘work out’. Because as we know, if an employee leaves a business, it’s all their fault and nothing to do with the employer.

    You reap what you sow; enjoy the fruits of your labours, Constantine. And ‘unstickying’ your pathetic attempt to sort out the forum will not make it go away. Unless you delete it (which of course NEVER happens on the lovely wonderful unmoderated Lush International Forum. Unless it is in the interests of the business to do so and then the rules are changed. Not with transparency either).

    Lovely ethical fair company. Lovely ethical fair people. Naughty, bad customers. Bad cash cows, you must stay in line! Get back to your milking shed and shut up whilst we feed you rotten silage. (aka The Lord of Goathorn).

  10. Pingback: The Smell of Bullshit, part 38: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose | Mitherings from Morningside

  11. I dont have a lot of money, but if there is anyway I can fnancially help this lady just a little bit please let me know, I have been a forum member for a few years, although not a prolific poster, reading this today after a spelll away from the forum sickened me to the core, the lady is a pleasure to be around and as already said, intelligent witty and a very strong woman. I cant offer much but if anything is accepted I am willing to try and help as far as I can to at least cover some basic costs of day to day living.

      • I don’t want to think of it as paying for marks actions as that would Piss me off, I just don’t want to see someone struggling, I am expecting my first child and am married with little money but I have a lot more it seems than this lady as I donot have solicitors bills hanging over me constantly, debt yes but I can afford on the whhole to pay my bills if I quit keep buying luxuries such as err, Lush products at 5 quid nearly for a half hour bath, the forum appears to have always supported people in need, and rather than send my money to lush just now when I have plenty of stuff I would rather send a little this ladies way to make life jsut that little bit easier for her and her children who have delighted me with the tails she has told us about them.

  12. Nadya Candy is one of the worst people within Lush for letting people down. I can’t go into details of what she has (or rather hasn’t done) for me as it would be abundantly obvious who I am and I wish to remain anonymous, but on three separate occasions she has either let me down very badly or promised she would get back to me about things and hasn’t bothered. She always says, ‘oh, I’ll ring you about it tomorrow, or next week.’ The first time she forgot I thought she was just under a lot of pressure and it slipped her mind. The next time I thought it was a bit rude and the third time when she said she’d ring I just knew she wouldn’t. And she didn’t. She is at board level and a mafia member so should be a professional member of staff. Sounds like she is perfectly qualified to work for Lush. Promise the earth and deliver nothing. That’s Lush through and through.

  13. Personally I feel the Lush forum is very cliquey and you are making a mountain out of amole hill. Yes Lush has gone down hill in recent years but he really did nothing wrong here.

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