The Smell of Bullshit, part 45: enforced photography

I had contact today from a Lush employee who says

All managers are being forced to have their pictures taken and put on the website, without their consent! This is a serious privacy issue! I restrict my Facebook so no one sees where I live, work or what I look like without being someone I know! Lush is allowing anyone with an Internet connection to check out my name, my face and where I work. Doesn’t take much for a stalker to follow me home using those details, or even someone who doesn’t agree with the controversial campaigns we are forced to take part in. The pictures are due to be taken on Tuesday.

 

Lush wants to relaunch the website; trying to bridge the gap between customers and staff. Mark is wanting a direct link between the two to prevent customers taking to Facebook, blogs and the forum, in order to vent. So, this idea of store profiles will feature manager names, email addresses and photos.

Managers will meet tomorrow for the January meeting where we will have to single ourselves out to speak to the powers that be to complain.

As always though, we will be ignored. While mark refuses to travel to America due to his paranoia that the CIA will arrest him for funding activist groups, and Hilary (our “ethics” director) keeps any information about herself online, to a bare minimum, the UK team think it is perfectly acceptable to yet again put shop managers in the firing line, by parading our private details online. So the next time we are forced to support a rediculous campaign, the public will know what the managers look like, where they work and what their names are. My personal safety is at risk and Lush has not taken any of it into consideration. All they care about is redirecting customer complaints

And there’s an email which says

Calling all Shop Managers~

Hope you’re all well and excited for the Managers Meeting next week.

As part of our new website (which is launching very soon) we’ll be giving all manages a featured space on their shops page (which includes and [sic] image and a quote) and we need to take some lovely portrait pictures of you for this.

On Tuesday night you’ll all be attending the Galleria at the New Head office at Dolphin Quays in Poole, where we’ll be shooting.

From 7pm – 10pm we’ll need all UK shop managers to have their portraits taken by our In-house photographer. Could everyone please make sure you get your photo taken before you leave that night.
I know Some of you might be arriving at different times, so please come and see me before you go. Ideally – if you can get your photo taken as soon as you arrive – you’ll have more time to enjoy the gallery.

I’ll be making sure we don’t miss anyone on the night as we only have a short period of time to get these all done before the website launches, and the Gallery is our best opportunity.

I’ve attached a mock-up of what the portraits will look like on the new site – to give you an idea of what we need.

I can’t wait to see all your beautiful faces Tuesday night.

Any questions please free to give me a shout.

I really hope that none of the employees who are being told they must have their photographs up on the Lush website are fleeing domestic violence, or have had problems with stalkers in the past. I don’t see anything in that email saying “other than those of you we have made an exception for.” I’m sure Lush will have thought about all of that beforehand though, and will have made it very clear to all their staff that if they don’t want to have their name, photo and workplace on the company website, they can opt out. Because Lush care about their staff and would never want to force them into doing something which might put them at risk, or make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Mark's thoughts on internet privacy

USDAW

Refuge

(As always, anyone wishing to contact the blog should email southside socialist at hotmail dot co dot uk).

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31 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 45: enforced photography

  1. Re: the quote above. it is rather fascinating how Constantine has always seemed interested about such matters of espionage or the state spying on ordinary citizens. Does anyone remember when he was going on and on about how concerned he was with the story of undercover police officers sleeping with activists? He seemed preoccupied with it to an alarming extent. I take this Constantine quote from the now (mostly defunct) company customer forum. The one that is now heavily policed via moderation. (Although, let’s face it, it was always moderated to some extent, just more on an ‘undercover’ basis, if you’ll pardon the pun).

    “I’m more concerned with the mental health and general intimidation that this level of interest from the police creates in the innocent people being “profiled”.”

    And what does ‘profiled’ mean?

    Define: “a short article giving a description of a person or organization”

    Whilst this exercise detailed in the alleged company email (if it turns out to be true) is not an undercover operation with people being ‘profiled’ for spying reasons, is he worrying about the ‘mental health’ and ‘general intimidation’ that the level of interest may cause to some of his employees? (Again, the other preoccupation with ‘mental health’ is interesting. Why is he so interested in it? Remember, he gave one of the reasons for ’employment not working out’ as ‘mental health’ issues?). I can’t see that there has been a ‘get out clause’ added there at all. Maybe there has been, in secret, or people will be given the option once they get there. Let’s hope that is the case. As an ethical employer they wouldn’t want to cause ‘intimidation’ or ‘mental health’ issues.

    Then we need to think about the Data Protection Act. Whilst Wheelie is no expert on this particular topic (although I admit I am an expert on many rubbish related things – hence my interest in Lush), I have been wheeling around the internet. What have I found?

    Well, because a person can be identified by their photograph, the collection and use of photographs is covered by the Data Protection Act. Furthermore, where the name and address of the person are linked to that image, then it is regarded as personal data. Now as the alleged company email says above, the photograph will be on their ‘shop page’ which therefore means that person will be identifiable as an employee in a specific location, making that individual identifiable and easily traceable. Are Lush getting written permission from their employees before this exercise? We see nothing in the email but we can only presume they will be doing the right, responsible and ethical thing and seeking such permissions before commencement with this exercise.

    Furthermore, what does it add to the customer experience to see a photograph of the store manager? Why do they even want to do this? Does it add anything to the (already dire) experience of shopping at Lush? I doubt it. It seems like another one of their obsessions of celebrity culture – presenting staff members as minor celebrities (possibly comes from Constantine’s own apparent desire of being a media celebrity).

    I have always found Lush to be preoccupied with ‘celebrity’. I remember when my local store were advertising having a ‘mafia’ member come to their store. Who were they? Why did a customer want to know? Turns out it was just a senior manager (part of the elite) doing a token shop visit for a day. That may be important to the store in question, but a customer couldn’t give a flying fuck in a high wind about it. It’s meaningless. Their little layers of hierarchy are meaningless. Constantine is meaningless. The ‘mental health’ of his staff however, is not. I urge any staff member to join USDAW and get protected by an organisation who really will give a damn about your rights, your mental OR physical health and everything else that affects your employment. Although I am sure Lush already has that in order, as a caring, ethical and legally compliant employer.

  2. He must have a thing about photos of people as today I got an email from Lush about a photo petition for LGBTQ rights. An admirable cause (a bit late to hop on the Sochi bandwagon as Stephen Fry/Lady Gaga/The Last Leg were doing this last year) but is asking people to photograph themselves with a pink triangle on their face which will be “sent to Russian Embassies worldwide” on 14 February to get Russian Gov to change the law on homosexuality propaganda. So your picture, social media username and the fact that you are, in the eyes of Russia, promoting homosexuality will be delivered to Russian Embassies – not at all profiling then.

  3. This post reminds me of the Reed.co.uk website. I want to know how they get away with forcing members to have a photograph on there. If you don’t, your profile will only be 80% completed and therefore not visible to employers. I thought the photo on CV era was over?

    • Whoever marked this comment down…. please explain how it’s right to demand a photograph on a job website? Discrimination anyone?

      • If candidates miss out on a job (think of an middle age black woman for example) because Reed forces them to have a photo online, how is it not discrimination? It wouldn’t be if it wasn’t mandatory.

      • But that’s utterly irrelevant to the Lush issue. And besides, if a racist wants to reject someone because they’re black, it doesn’t matter whether they’ve seen a photo or met them in person.

      • Well, no, it’s not as simple as that. Forcing employees to have their photos on their employer’s website is lots of things, but it isn’t discrimination

  4. No one has signed permission forms to have their photo’s taken. Lush just see it as their divine right to own a persons soul seeing as they pay us so well (not!). There are loads of photo’s on the Lush shops facebook pages anyway so most managers pictures would be well documented on there but only IF they want them to be. No one was asked, we were told. It’s like being at kindergarten. They gave us no choice in the matter. I didn’t have a problem with it but I know several managers who were really upset by having to do it. As usual tho there was no compassion or empathy, we were just jollied along by some anonymous member of staff who insisted that it was the right thing to do.

    However, knowing Lush’s inability to keep things up to date and their ‘five minute wonder’ attitude to organisation these website photo’s will soon be out of date as the turnover for managers is around 30% so chances are the photo you see on the shops page will be of an ex employee who was manager 6 months ago.

  5. Lush cancelled the photo shoot. I guess they listened to peoples concerns and did the right thing.
    Manager turnover at 30%, don’t make me laugh! I can quote a random figure too, it doesn’t mean it is right.

    • And just because you say Lush cancelled the photo shoot doesn’t mean it’s factually correct either, does it? You see, custom & practice show us that Lush listen to nothing. Go to the customer forum and look at the customers being ignored for months and months and months. And I know customers on the forum are often dismissed as ‘fat crazies’ but it’s not just forum customers who complain, is it? No, of course it isn’t. Customers who complain are not taken notice of and (whether Lush want to acknowledge this or not) they are completely central to the business. Without customers, Lush has nothing. In fact, when they did recently complain on the forum in a polite, considered and articulate manner, they were accused of being ‘mean’ and ‘abusive’ by Lush. It’s bewildering that Lush do not find it necessary to listen to customers;’ concerns. So no, I don’t believe you when you say that ‘Lush listened to people’s concerns’ and with very good reason. Lush have good form of being arrogant beyond belief when it comes to listening to anyone else but their own inflated opinion of themselves.

      • But it was cancelled so that is umm kind of factually correct?! I don’t know the reason why it was cancelled but it was so I guess someone expressed a concern (an assumption)?! Either way it was cancelled and that is correct….geez.

  6. @extreme’ist – you misunderstand the point I make. You said re: another post:

    “Manager turnover at 30%, don’t make me laugh! I can quote a random figure too, it doesn’t mean it is right.”

    So in the same spirit I am saying, just because you claim something is cancelled, doesn’t mean it was i.e. you can’t expect someone to believe something you write either. I mean, how would you know if was cancelled? Do you work for Lush? If so, what draws you to a (most excellent) series of blog posts which detail Lush’s many failures?

    Now if Lush has done the decent thing, that would be most pleasing but I didn’t see anything on the weather forecast about hell freezing over so I shall remain sceptical.

    Also, when you say ‘kind of factually correct’ and finish it with a question mark, you negate the ‘factually correct’. It sounds like you aren’t quite sure yourself.

    • With you now. This emailed followed the original (shared from a lush employee)
      “This is a follow-up to my previous email to the shop managers, regarding the portrait photo shoot, for the new website.
      Thank you all for your enthusiasm and questions regarding the previously proposed shoot.
      We have taken everyones feedback into consideration and we have decided to cancel tonight’s (tuesdays) shoot while we evaluate and rethink this process.”

      • If that is the case, that is fabulous. Just a couple of questions – do Lush mind you sharing this information and why do you feel compelled to defend them in such a manner? It’s very nice of you to attempt to defend the indefensible.

        I wonder if the new website will herald the launch of a new forum? The forum can’t carry on as it does – with little to no staff interaction, the higher-ups just being rude to the customers and extreme moderation (apparently against Lush’s policy of freedom of expression). Would they pull the plug without telling the forum customers? Does either you or your Lush employee friend know, extreme’ist?

  7. I would assume Lush feel the same of me posting employee emails as they do the person who runs this blog. My presence here, on this article, was to provide the other side of the story. Bit like the BBC do with their supposed unbiased views.

    I have no idea on the website/forum. Sorry!

  8. After reading several posts by you about the hypocrisies of Lush, my question is why do you not take a more direct stand? Using a blog this way is helpful in some ways I’m sure, but is it not also a kind of shouting into the void? You clearly have a lot of passion for discovering the truth and holding people to account which I admire, and as someone who works for Lush, I don’t disagree with some of the things you said. But I just feel that this energy could be better spent on actually confronting Lush and demonstrating to them why their practices are hypocritical. I don’t mean that it would necessarily change the minds of those in charge, but an expose or something similar would show that the concept of ethical buying is fraught with contradictions and self-satisfaction. If you have already tried in some way to do something constructive with the information you’ve found, then great; if not, then I wonder if it would not be a really good idea to take this passion and drive and use it in a more targeted way.

      • Well, it’s not for me to say as I wouldn’t presume to know what all of your issues are with Lush but one clear thing would be perhaps alerting more workers of Lush to the idea of unions in order to communicate the idea of base-level workers rights. Or alerting USDAW to Lush’s lack of union participation. I don’t really know, it was just something I was thinking whilst going through all of your posts

    • pbj I agree…. I never quite understood why someone who has never worked for Lush had such hatred and passion towards the company….. will we ever know?

    • How do you suggest I contact all of Lush’s employees and encourage them to join a union? This is my blog. I blog about the things that matter to me. Lush employees know about it, and there are several posts here about the importance of joining a union. And believe me, USDAW know all about Lush’s employment practices.
      If Lush employees choose not to join a union and get help sorting out their problems, that’s up to them. All I can do is point out what’s wrong and suggest how they could deal with it. The rest is up to them.

  9. Of course it would be difficult to do but the force and venom with which you right these posts suggests that you care enough to undertake something that difficult. And the idea that we have a choice to join a union is really not true. Lush is presented to us as such a great company that we don’t need union representation; naive I know, but a lot of the shop floor staff are young and don’t know about what being in a union actually means. There is also the idea that perhaps it would be greeted negatively by our managers which means that ‘choice’ doesn’t really come into it.
    I also find it weird that Lush is the biggest source of the ‘things that matter’ to you: there are hundreds of other companies whose employment practices are terrible and who are cutting corners in whatever way. But these are aspects of capitalism and exploitation that we have come to associate with capitalist ideology. The hypocrisy is written into the very structure of business. I’m neither shocked nor suprised by the things you say you have found it. This is why I’m saying it appears that you are shouting into a void: these are general issues in the world not specific to Lush. Your almost microscopic detailing of the company’s dealings seems futile if not placed in to some kind of larger context of anti-capitalist protest.

  10. I know employees who did point out Lush’s shortcomings. I know employees who did suggest Union recognition (the idea was shot down in flames at LushFest 2012, where the board members addressing the question spoke of Unions in dated language and equated it with some form of antagonistic communism – clearly at odds with the ideology of such capitalists). I know employees who tried their hardest to make it a fair and egalitarian company, with opportunities for many (not just the few), and a company where freedom of speech was truly cherished and not something that was a punishable offence. I know employees who tried all of this, worked their arses off and then got shat on from a great height.
    The issue is, Lush do not see there is a problem. They are blind to their own failings. You can see that on the company forum; a company who professes that ‘the customer is always right’ blamed the customers for company problems and accused them of being defamatory. Those at the top of Lush appear to be arrogant; perhaps they weren’t always, but maybe wealth has changed them. Maybe they are now more preoccupied with the accumulation of more wealth than righting the wrongs in such an obviously flawed company. They do not appear to cherish those most important to the company – the customers buying the product and the front line staff selling it. As long as they can keep flogging money for old rope and dangling carrots, why would they? It’s easier to ignore it and blame everyone else than fix it. And trouble makers – well it’s a private company with no Union recognition and it’s ruled by fear and the Family Name – so they can just be ‘dealt with’ right? Yeah, right.
    Lush started off as a small ‘family business’; it grew quickly but the model on which it was built did not adapt. What started off as a well thought out company where things worked on a small scale has turned into a something unsustainable, like a lab Petri dish where the growing bacteria has become uncontrollable and has spilled out of its confinement, contaminating surrounding areas. Lush products do not work being made ‘by hand’ (as much as plunging a blender into a vat is ‘hand made’) on that scale and customers can now see the flaws in the products. A big company doesn’t work well with a tiny elite at the top and the masses down below with little by the way of middle management. They may not like it, but middle management is needed, otherwise you merely lead the top bit and the rest of the workforce are like like sperm in a test tube – no direction, no destination, the blind leading the blind.
    p.b.j – you all have the choice to join a union. Lush cannot stop you joining a union. Do you understand what unionisation means and how it can protect you and your colleagues? Your managers don’t like it? Tough shit, don’t tell them. You do not have to reveal your trade union membership or non-membership to anyone. Lush do not own you. That is so important for you to understand – they pay your wage and that’s it.
    The reason why Lush gets such a battering is that it markets itself as the opposite of capitalist. Of course it is capitalist, it’s on the high street, people aren’t stupid. But the very fact that one of its biggest marketing draws is its ‘ethical’ status makes it far worse that a regular capitalist. Lush has very carefully marketed itself as a ‘small’ friendly company, one that is in the Times 100 Best Companies (how, just how?!), one that is ethical, one that is ‘hand made’ in many aspects from its product manufacture to organic company growth. People shop with Lush because they believe to be all these things and more. The fact it appears not to be these things makes more than hypocritical – it’s deceitful, it’s lying, it’s unethical. No other high street capitalist makes the same grand claims that Lush do, so if people believe they are being hoodwinked, or have been hoodwinked in the past, they will care enough to publicize it.
    You don’t understand why this blog has become a platform for promoting Lush’s lack of ethics? Well I don’t know how it’s started, but I think it’s marvelous. Now Lush, what do they bleat about? Animal rights? Human rights? Gay rights? Tar sands? Fox hunting? Yes to all, and more. Why? Well maybe someone at the top feels strongly about it. But you have to admit, it’s a good bit of publicity too. Makes them out to be caring doesn’t it? Sometimes a bit of controversy gets them free press too. But it’s something they apparently feel strongly about (whether it is for publicity or not, who knows?) so by that token I don’t see why you have a problem with this blog. It’s the same as what Lush does but with more integrity and professionalism. Oh, and it’s not for profit. Makes a difference, doesn’t it?

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