The Smell of Bullshit, part 41: Lush are taking Amazon to court

See Guardian article here.

Some would say it’s strange, if not outright hypocritical, that Mark Constantine is nevertheless selling his book on Amazon. I just checked – it’s definitely on sale on Amazon today. Still, swimming pools don’t pay for themselves.


(Also, does anyone else think it’s weird Lush don’t sell via Amazon but they’re suing Amazon for suggesting alternative products they do sell, while they’ve never turned a hair at the numerous people promoting their own soap and toiletries companies on the Lush forum?)


14 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 41: Lush are taking Amazon to court

  1. I suppose the four spa CDs that Lush sell via Amazon don’t count because they aren’t bath products. I also suppose Amazon in America doesn’t count either because they seem to sell Lush bath products anyway.
    Maybe I’m just cynical but isn’t Christmas Mark’s biggest pay packet of the year and wouldn’t it just be great (free) advertising, even though Lush don’t advertise, to take Amazon to court just before Christmas. David vs Goliath, oh poor Lush they are so small. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    • You can register any word you like as a trademark but that doesn’t stop it having its original meaning. There’s a bike shop in Bristol called “Bike”. I don’t expect them to be the only result when I type “bike” into a search engine. Not even they do. If the cosmetics Amazon suggests could reasonably be described as “lush” then does Lush’s case have any legal sense? The Amazon search engine isn’t a general search engine but one for goods on their store and none of the items returned by the search pretend to be “Lush” products I cant see how Lush have a leg to stand on. But even if they did have a case against Amazon, don’t you think it’s hypocritical to be suing them while still selling through them?

      • It’s also interesting how Lush seem to – in my opinion – name their products with names similar to already established brands/products. This comes as an outside opinion and is in no way insinuating that they have infringed copyright or trademark or whatever. But let’s say, some of Lush’s names are often reminiscent of other products (non-toiletry) in years gone by which always seems to me to to be a bit, well, piggybacking. For example:

        Golden Wonder. Lush style – Ballistic. It is also a well known name for a UK brand of crisps.

        Black Magic. Lush style – this was a massage bar. It is also the well known name for a box of chocolates. The massage bar was part chocolate if I recall correctly.

        Business Time. Massage bar. Inspired by a song called ‘Business Time’ by Flight of the Conchords.

        Middle Earth Turns to Rock. This was a patchouli, earthy soap and the name was later changed to Waylander. It seemed to be inspired by a certain film franchise at the time, if I recall correctly.

        Buffy the Backside Slayer. An exfoliating bar. The name was then changed to Buffy. It sounded inspired by a certain TV series.

        I am sure that Dark Angels was originally printed in the Lush Times as another name, similar to that of a famous motorbike group. I may be mistaken but I am sure I am right and that it had to be changed.

        Angel Delight soap. Sounds similar to a certain pudding mix.

        Cynthia Sylvia Stout. This is a shampoo by Lush but I believe to be the name and first few words of a poem by the wonderful Shel Silverstein.

        Honey I Washed the Kids. A soap. Similar sounding to certain famous blockbuster film.

        I also wonder what the deal is with Lush being able to use Ziggy Stardust and Wiliam Morris Estate as inspiration for their new Christmas gifts, but obviously I presume they sought permission or paid royalties or whatever was needed. But it’s interesting that Lush do seem to use names similar to other well known names, isn’t it?

        However, these are just a few examples. I need to reiterate that I am not saying what Lush has done is wrong, unlawful, or anything else. But what I am saying is that they seem to use names which are often similar to other well known brand names which seems a bit… lazy? Certainly not ‘innovative’ or original.

        You make your own mind up, Grey Wheelie is just putting it out there.

      • Remember the awful Go Green spray? The label copy said it was for complete ‘cyclepaths’ a play on words of psychopaths. Clever? No. In Poole there is a cycle shop called ‘Cyclepaths’ so, again, no innovation or original thought, just copying – or as Lush would put it ‘inspired by…..’

  2. Isn’t it sad for Mr Constantine? All of his contemporaries’ companies make the press for the things they invent, produce or sell. One will see The Body Shop’s lovely new gold shimmer makeup lauded in the beauty blogs (“The Sparkler” – it’s lovely); L’Occitane have had great press for their new perfumes and fabulous new Iris Angelica range as well as their iconic hand creams; Soap & Glory are beloved for their great value, effective skin, body and bath preparations (not to mention their makeup); lots of beauty companies – big ones, indies, new players – keep enticing customers with their innovative (yes, actual innovation), scientifically proven products and beautifully effective formulas that do what they say, don’t go ‘off’ or grow mould. And value, let’s not forget the value. What do Lush make the press for?

    – Taking Amazon to court.
    – Being hypocrites over their plane stance (did everyone see the delightful snippet in Private Eye?)
    – Trumpet polishing (not literal, you understand).

    In short, not what they make money from which is – in case any of us forgot – cheap & cheerful cosmetics. Well, not actually cheap in terms of their pricing, but cheap in reference to the aesthetics. And not that cheerful when they inflame your genitalia (speaking from bitter So White/Humango/Sex Bomb/Fizzbanger ballistic experience).

    Still, at least that lovely vegetarian cosmetic company that we know and love were able to serve game (apparently) to their guests at their recent book launch. I say ‘book’, it’s more like a scrap book/fanzine/annual that’s been thrown together with a bunch of soundbites but good luck to them for trying. If they can allegedly serve venison to their guests, all the free publicity must be doing them some good, even if it’s not about their ‘Fresh Handmade Cosmetics’.

  3. I find this bit below quoted from the Guardian article particularly hypocritical since LUSH NA neither collects nor remits state sales tax on its internet sales in the US, despite having dozens of stores there:

    “Consumer anger against the firm (Amazon) has been building. A petition of over 170,000 signatures demanding Amazon pay tax on UK sales was handed to Downing Street in the summer. ‘It is not making a contribution and there has to be some debate about this,’ Constantine said. ‘It’s not conventional capitalism. What used to be the norm – paying your taxes – is now seen as somehow exemplary and that can’t be right.’
    “He suggested that the internet giant was promoting a form of outmoded capitalism that was shunned by many consumers.”
    ‘It’s a form of piracy capitalism,’ Constantine said. ‘[Amazon] rushes into people’s countries, it takes the money out, and dumps it in some port of convenience. That’s not a business in any traditional sense. It’s an ugly return to a form of exploitative capitalism that we had a century ago and we decided as a society to move on from.’ ”

  4. I wonder what will happen if they lose? It seems one hell of a gamble to take. I like Amazon, I think they provide good quality products at great prices. I will be buying 75% of my Christmas presents from there, 25% split between John Lewis, Debenhams and The Body Shop. I will be buying 0% from Lush as I want stuff that represents good value and that people like/want. I do not have the financial luxury to be an ‘ethical shopper’ but I buy only what I need and can afford and Amazon serves that purpose well.

    I don’t know if one capitalist is better than another – aren’t they all just trying to make the most profit they can, isn’t that the name of the game? I think it’s thin ice when one capitalist is criticising another. Still, if it makes Lush’s operations a bit more transparent, it could make for interesting reading. I would love to know what their tax affairs are and a bit more about their claims to be an ethical company. They do a lot of shouting but not a lot of factual informing.

    Anyway, what’s his real beef? The fact that Amazon have been savvy about their tax or the fact that using a simple adjective – lush – in their search engine brings up products which could be described as ‘lush’? Is the corpulent capitalist Constantine a bit simple? I don’t think he has a fabulous business model – dirty shops, crappy products and the owner/directors insulting customers on their own forum. He ain’t bright, that’s for sure.

  5. I had a look at what ‘passing off’ meant. A google definition says this:

    “Passing off is a common law tort which can be used to enforce unregistered trademark rights. The tort of passing off protects the goodwill of a trader from a misrepresentation that causes damage to goodwill.”

    I wonder how Lush got away with having used names like “King of the Mods” or “Goth Juice” for products in the past? It makes it sound like it was in collaboration with The Boosh but as far as I know they weren’t. Is that ‘passing off?’. Or things like ‘Business Time’ for that shitty old massage bar – did they collaborate with Flight of the Conchords with it? Didn’t they get into trouble with Lord Sugar for putting his fizzog in the window? I think he didn’t like it very much, did he? Was that ‘passing off’ too?

    My observations have led me to the conclusion that when Mr Constantine finds something cool he tries to catch the cool bug – he wants instant cool, he wants to be associated with cool. Anyone else notice that when SuperDry were still a bit cool (before being utterly naff), that Fun came out with Japanese branding? Not so different was it – SuperDry is a British brand that is marketed as if it was uber-cool Japanese but was in fact British. Fun was marketed with Japanese branding (Japanese writing on the labels and Japanese inspired graphics) and had a big Japan launch but Mrs Constantine invented it, didn’t she? I appreciate 10p from the sale of each bar goes to children affected by the Fukushima disaster (again, this seems to fly in the face of their previous policy of donating 100% of profits after VAT – something they were always very vocal about) but it still seems to be about leaching cool, the insatiable desire to be iconic. And what they look is usually a bit desperate, a bit glory-hunter, a bit… tragic. Maybe tragic will be the new cool?

    I’ve got an idea – someone put about the idea that the new super-cool phrase about town is ‘knob cheese’ and see how long it takes for them to make a soap with the same moniker. I can see it now, a big wodge of pale yellow soap:

    “Rub it on your knobs or knockers! Our delicious Knob Cheese moisturising soap is perfect for knobs, knockers, knees and toes (repeat after us – knees and toes!). Cream up a soft lather in this cheesy delight to keep you feeling whiffy all day. We’re so crazy cool bonkers! LOVE US LOVE US LOVE US!”


    • Haha, but will it be Vegan?

      Lord Sugar was furious with the “A. Sugar Scrub” as it was called originally and threatened to sue Lush if the window wasn’t removed and all references to him removed. For those that don’t remember the window campaign/product launch it was a picture of a non specific ‘bearded man’ – who looked exactly like Alan Sugar. Not too bad, except that his face was on a large bottom! Not very flattering really. After we got an email about it we had to go round with one of the blackboard pens and scribble out the ‘A’ from the signage and tip-pex out everything else, re-programme the scales and label printers and remove the bum from the window!

      Originally the scrubs were called ‘Nick’ and ‘Margaret’ from the apprentice, but I think they thought the names a bit too obscure even for Lush. With something so huge as the launch of an innovative (Lush Word) new product you would think Lush would have at least checked it was OK, but no! They just thought they’d wing it and hope no one noticed as usual. I think they thought that after the apprentices went to the Lush factory to make products the year before that Sir Alan ‘owed them one’ somehow. That’s Lush’s way, they think that if they do something for you that you owe them somehow. Like if they give you a job you owe them your soul.

      They flout the law at every opportunity and think they can get away with it. At a managers meeting a few years ago, a London shop manager was telling us how they got so many kids party bookings but they didn’t have room on the shop floor so they took the kids upstairs to the pretty shoddy staff kitchen and had the making bath bomb parties up there. The staff weren’t CRB checked and the kitchen wasn’t at all suitable for parties but as it was a London store the parents just wanted a baby sitter after school so they could go shopping and had ‘money to burn’ as she put it, so they paid way over the odds for the kids to be looked after.

      Some of us more law abiding managers questioned the legal, ethical and health and safety aspects of doing this and the manager, quite condescendingly, said ‘oh if anyone came in we would just bat our eyelashes and say ‘oh we’re soooo sorry, we didn’t realize we were doing anything wrong’ and they would be so swayed by our flirting and eyelash batting they would either turn a blind eye or just give us a slap on the wrist’ Silly cow! Mark was in the room and was positively beaming at her planned ‘initiative’ as she is one of his special favourites, cheeky, sassy and not afraid to break the law for her beloved Lush. Because Lush would protect her if anything bad happened to her, wouldn’t it?

      I’m fairly certain that if the the H&SE visited them and decided to prosecute them that Mark would simply deny all knowledge and hang her out to dry in the same way as he has with so many others before.

      • I work for Lush and I totally agree. Suck up to the right people and you can do no wrong. I dread mangers meetings, it’s all about who you brown nose when you work for Lush rather than how hard you work.

    • This doesn’t surprise me. I believe he is a bully. A big, tall, rich bully. And also a little bit simple. He’s more concerned with protecting his ‘legacy’ and his ‘name’ than actually looking after customers, staff, product quality. He’s lost all sense of perspective. Let’s hope he loses his business soon. He’s an absolute idiot, relishing in imbecilic behaviour thinking it looks like good publicity. It doesn’t – get your head out of your arse man. Or don’t, actually. The sooner we have no Lush shops polluting the high street with their artificial scent, the better.

  6. It was the glee with which it was announced at head office that made me sick. All the Constantine clan rubbing their hands together like they’d done something really clever, plus a lot of the staff who are well connected with the Constantines clapping and cheering. The majority of the staff just think it’s stupid, childish, vindictive, petty and low.
    Why not be content that we won? No, they have to go one better (or worse) and sling mud like fucking imbeciles.

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