The Smell of Bullshit, part 42: baby, it’s cold outside, but we’re heating up the whole world

In the very first of the series of Bullshit posts, I mentioned how Lush shops were keeping their doors open in the coldest of weathers, regardless of how cold that made the shops, and regardless of how much energy that wasted.

Close the Door are an environmental pressure group who are concerned that many high street retailers are pouring out heat through their open shop doors. According to a Sunday Times report on 8th December this year, Lush and the Body Shop are among the worst offenders, along with Next, Cath Kidston, and the Arcadia group shops. There’s no point linking to the Sunday Times article as I don’t have a Times account and can’t see the whole thing. However, this article in The Ecologist has quite a bit to say about it, and about Lush’s hypocrisy in particular.

Retailers are well aware of the marketing value of promoting sustainability and making grand corporate social responsibility claims. However, we should be alert to ‘green wash’.

In freezing January earlier this year the Lush chain, so loud about its ethics, had posters beside some of its wide open doors, belting heat out and proclaiming “What’s Good for the Climate is Good for the Economy”.

This flagrantly played on customers’ concerns, apparently on the assumption they wouldn’t notice the contradiction. It might as well have been a ‘Save Water’ poster in a drought with a hose left running beside it.

An often repeated response is “but we do xyz to save energy instead of closing the door”. When you can do something as simple as closing the door to make a major difference, this excuse does not cut the mustard.

NPower are talking about it. RTCC are talking about it. Close the Door have a facebook page and a twitter account, and they have helpful tips for consumers who want retailers to close their doors in winter.

If this is something that concerns you, contact the shop with open doors and tell them that you won’t be shopping there unless they shut that door.


9 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 42: baby, it’s cold outside, but we’re heating up the whole world

  1. So 8 years after I first saw a punters/ex-staff v Lush verbal war on this very subject, they are still leaving doors open? I understand that in some shopping centres/stations there might be no physical door as they use shutters but all others on the street can surely just stick a chalkboard outside and big notice on door saying “We’re open”? Aside from the eco hypocrisy, it’s surely against all kinds of safety at work regs if staff are made to work in the freezing cold draughts, especially those I remember from before saying staff were cutting themselves while cutting soap as their hands were so cold they didn’t notice.

  2. “Shut that door! Shut that door! It’s freezing cold in here. Shut that door! Shut that door! I’m feeling rather queer.”

  3. I think the policy has changed yet again tho, because 8 years ago it was a crime to shut the doors, punishable only by death or a bad mystery shop (when the mystery shoppers all said we should shut our doors anyway). I have to admit that in my shops I shut the doors and put a sign on the door saying “Come inside for a warm welcome” as, otherwise you got snow blowing into the shop and people sliding on it causing all sorts of health and safety issues and a really dirty floor! (note that this was a personal decision and I never asked head office as I knew the answer would be no).

    Then Ruth was environment officer and did a lot to reduce Lush’s carbon footprint and also managed to get head office to allow shops with doors that could close, ie not shutters, to close their doors when it was really cold. Signage was produced to enhance this and for a couple of years we were allowed to close the doors. I have to say it made not one bit of difference to footfall having the doors closed so Lush didn’t lose any money or customers and the staff stayed warm and the heating worked and didn’t have to be on flat out but it seems that the rules have changed yet again.

    On visits to towns recently through my new job I have seen 7 Lush shops with their doors wide open and freezing staff inside. So either the managers are money grabbing sadists who keep the doors open at all costs or they have been told, once again, to get the doors open. Funnily enough these trips were on days where the Lush shops should have been heaving with people with massive queues, like they were a couple of years ago, but this just wasn’t the case. Two shops were empty of customers altogether with the staff looking cold and bored, so maybe word is getting round that Lush just isn’t a nice place to shop and the fake, overpriced products don’t work anymore.

  4. I walked past a “Lush” yesterday and saw it was quite quite empty. Although shops usually are at this time of year. The doors were WIDE open and it was freezing cold outside. Although it turned my stomach to do so (on every conceivable level) I decided to go inside and see if it was cold there too. It was. It felt the same temperature in and out. Not pleasant.

    Whilst in there – dodging the over-eager assistants (they must have been bored – 3 of them darted towards me but I was the only person in store) – I noted the new ‘Valentine’s Day’ products. 2 are named after song lyrics (Prince Charming, Close to You) and one (‘Neon Love’) inspired by either an art installation (if you look at the copy for the soap of the same name) or a song (if you look at the copy for the gift of the same name). A little disparity perhaps. However, it’s good to see ‘innovation’ and ‘original thought’ are still the number one priority at Lush. Seriously, is that not erm… ‘passing off’? I am no legal brain like Constantine (the man who claimed he could ‘prosecute’ someone when unsure of the provenance or quality of essential oils*) but it seems a bit cheeky when trading off phrases or names like that – they already have currency as popular cultural soundbites so it’s a good choice for quick publicity, I suppose. Allegedly.

    Anyway, I went to the website to see what they said about each one:

    Prince Charming:

    “Originally inspired by the Adam and the Ants classic, ‘Prince Charming’, this shower gel has transformed along the way and now it reminds us of the kind of Prince Charming you’d find in a fairy tale…it’s bold and courageous, absolutely gorgeous, and it smells incredible.”

    That copy makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. Who writes this shit, seriously? It’s a fucking shower gel. It cannot be bold or courageous. The colour may be bold, but as an entity? And whether it is gorgeous or smells incredible is not for the retailer to decide but the potential consumer.

    Close to You:

    “Made with a luxurious blend of butters and oils, including cupuaçu butter, shea butter and olive oil, this rich bar is also made with cornflour to leave your skin silky smooth. It shares the same delicious vanilla fragrance as Rock Star soap and Creamy Candy bubble bar – guaranteed to bring your lover Close to You!”

    This one at least tells you a little of the ingredients, but no word on why the butters and oils are ‘luxurious’ and whoever thinks corn flour leaves skin silky is a moron. It absorbs oil and leaves skin as dry as a papery husk. And what about this cast iron guarantee? Bollocks, isn’t it? All bollocks. It’s an overpriced lump of fats blended with essential oils and, bizarrely, corn flour.

    Talking of ingredients, let’s look at them:

    Organic Shea Butter, Murumuru Butter, Almond Oil, Olive Oil, Organic Agave Syrup, Perfume, Cupuacu Butter, Cornflour, Glycerine, Methyl Ionone, Fair Trade Vanilla Absolute, Colour 77891, Colour 16255, Colour 45430

    It also has listed as an ingredient colour 16255, which is an azo dye:

    Banned in some countries when used as a food additive. That’s all Wheelie is saying on the matter.

    With Neon Love, the copy for the soap declares it inspired by an art installation and the copy for the gift says it was inspired by a song, so who knows? The description of the soap is a hoot:

    “This is a unique soap with an uplifting, fruity fragrance. Bergamot and rosewood work together to create a rich scent, whilst fresh figs, passion fruit juice and soya yoghurt nourish and soften the skin.”

    No, nourishment happens from within. Rubbing some fresh figs, passion fruit juice and soya yoghurt on your skin will not nourish it. What utter shite. And I would love to know the air miles on those fresh figs and passion fruits. What’s that, Lush, you shipped them over? Good. Now tell me about that #freshmatters again please.

    Overall, the copy mentions few features, no real benefits or tangible assets to ownership of these products. Just pretend ones like corn flour leaving skin silky and yoghurt ‘nourishing’ the skin.

    In short, it is to descriptive writing what a cold Pot Noodle (that’s been dropped on the floor) is to nutrition; there is no discernible worth in it. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the product copy devalues the brand but Constantine does a good enough job of that himself.


    ““We had a huge problem with the adulteration of essential oils. I wrote everyone a letter saying if it says it on the invoice, it says it on the label, and I find out that doesn’t correlate with the contents, I will prosecute you.”

    (The level of his arrogance seems to know no bounds. What will he declare he can do next, take one of the world’s largest retailers to court or something? Oh, wait…)

    • They have been using cornflower a lot in the last year or so and also icing sugar in things like the snow fairy wands. These items dissolve in the bath or, as you rightly say wheelie, absorb moisture on your skin so have no benefit other than as a cheap bulking agent so that the products can look the same size whilst being made cheaper, therefore making more profit for the Constantine gang.

  5. Indeed not. It’s a toffee & chocolate bubble confection bubble bath. How original. Some other ‘original’ innovative names are:

    – Green Day (band)
    – Angel Delight (inspired by dessert?)
    – Honey I Washed the Kids (inspired by film?)
    – Cynthia Sylvia Stout (taken from a lovely poem)
    – Business Time (taken from a song by that unfunny Flight of the Conchords)
    – Goth Juice (Mighty Boosh)
    – King of the Mods (Mighty Boosh)
    – Milky Bar (famous chocolate)
    – French Kiss (shape ‘inspired’ by Hershey Kisses)
    – After 8 massage bar (mint chocolate, anyone?)
    – Golden Wonder (crisp brand)
    – Twas the Night Before Christmas (line from another poem)
    – Horse shit (threw that one in for a laugh) (although, how long before it does exist? They have caca…)

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