The Smell of Bullshit, part 48: trouble at t’mill (in Brazil)

These links appeared in the comments, but I think they’re worth highlighting with a short post of their own

http://economia.terra.com.br/noticias/noticia.aspx?idNoticia=200712171057_RED_57357798

http://www.linkedin.com/jobs2/view/10749812

The first one links to a page written in Portuguese so Google translate is your friend. The summary is that in 2007 a Brazilian woman sued Lush because she entered into an agreement with them to launch Lush in Brazil, was very successful at it, and then, she says, they didn’t keep their part of the bargain. The second one suggests that Lush are now reopening in Brazil, presumably having sorted out their problems. If anyone knows how the court case was resolved, do let us know.

 

 

PS A couple of people attempted to leave comments this week asking me to email them, as they were unable to find the email address to contact me. I have emailed, but have had no reply. Check your spam folders.

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On Chris Moyles

The BBC reported yesterday that a court ruled that Chris Moyles attempted to avoid paying tax he owed. Moyles and two other men were accused of taking part in a scheme called “working wheels,” which allowed its members to say they had incurred large fees while working in the second-hand car trade. They could then claim back against their tax bill.

At the time he was in the scheme, Moyles was presenting the Radio 1 breakfast show, but the tax documents showed him as self-employed as a used car dealer. Moyles tweeted “Upon advice, I signed up to a scheme which I was assured was legal.”

Now, I am not an accountant, or any form of tax expert, but I do know what my job is, and I suggest Moyles knew what his job was at the time – he was a DJ for Radio 1. So why on earth would he think it was legal to claim to be a self-employed second-hand car salesman for tax purposes? Claiming to be a self-employed second-hand car salesman for tax purposes when you are in fact a highly-paid, extremely irritating, Radio 1 DJ is lying.Lying on tax forms is, er, lying. I am surprised that Chris Moyles doesn’t know that.

It seems to me that anyone who says they thought it was ok to lie on tax forms to avoid paying tax is either very very very stupid, or an outright liar.

Don’t Link To The Mail

Edinburgh Eye

From an earlier post :
  • If it a real fact-based news story, it will be available elsewhere on the Internet. No need to link to the Daily Mail.
  • If it is only available in the Daily Mail, it is probably not true. No need to link to it at all.
  • If it is a column that makes you angry just to hear about it and on reading it makes you want to spit bile and share the agony of having read something so hateful and so wrong, yes, that’s a strong part of the MailOnline’s business model, and if you link it to it, you are doing exactly what they hope you will do, providing traffic to their website and therefore revenue from their advertisers. Why do that for them?

DontLinkToTheMail

You may ask – why the Mail specifically?

Because in my view, the Mail is the worst of the…

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My first attempts at butterfly

I’m doing a stroke development class at the Commie pool on Friday nights to improve my swimming. I’m enjoying it, and my swimming is improving, and I like that the teacher for this term is Annette, who was my coach when I was having one-to-ones to learn crawl in 2012.  She mixes it up a bit – some weeks are all about technique, some weeks are about fitness and distance, some weeks are predominantly breaststroke (I do the arms but with a crawl kick), some weeks are front and/or back crawl, and last night we tried butterfly.

I think some of the others had done it before last term and in previous terms, but I’d never done it. Well, last week we spent some time doing the legs (but it’s not really legs, it’s more of a whole body thing, even without the arms). Doing just butterfly legs with no arms is really hard because at no point does your head break the surface, so you have to half stop and force yourself up to take a breath and then resume the legs.

Last night was the first time I’d tried doing the full stroke. I have never been less like a butterfly, unless somewhere in history there has been a human-sized butterfly thrashing wildly against the water (not through the water, you understand), flailing cluelessly and gasping for breath with no idea how to make it better. I seemed to slip into crawl legs and had to consciously bring it back to butterfly legs, I couldn’t get my arms right (my left arm is still bad after my flu jag, but my right arm wasn’t doing any better) and I couldn’t get the breathing right. Annette had advised us to try not to breathe, because when you’re learning it throws the rhythm out and it’s better to concentrate on getting the rhythm right and keep breathing to a minimum. But, still, it’s a start.

The Clydebank ramp and professional reasoning

Many people will have seen the recent news stories about an access ramp installed outside a council property by West Dunbartonshire council. It’s been discussed and commented on in various newspapers, including The Grauniad, The Mirror, and The Clydebank Post, which gives a slightly different take on it.

Unsurprisingly, given the dimensions and appearance of the ramp, it’s attracted a lot of negative attention. I make no bones about it: the ramp is very very ugly. Comments have ranged from the well-meaning but misguided “there must have been another solution, it’s obvious” from people who know nothing about disability adaptations, to the downright nasty (as per the Express and the Daily Fail websites) which I’m not going to repeat here because – well, because why would you?

Given the complete lack of understanding of this issue displayed by so many people, I thought it might be helpful to go over the kinds of things OTs and technical officers have to consider when they’re looking at major adaptations like this.

Building regulations require gradients of no more than 1:12 for powered wheelchairs, 1:16 for attendant-propelled and 1:20 for self-propelled, plus there needs to be a 1400mm resting platform at the door and at the bottom, and more resting platforms every few metres. If they had relaxed building regs for this ramp, it would have been shorter, but much steeper, and possibly unsafe and/or too difficult to use. Remember that the small girl now will eventually be a heavier teenager, and will require a larger, heavier wheelchair. Look at the pictures of the property and the garden – there are three sets of four or five steps each from the pavement to the house, with longish platts between them, then a right-angled turn to the right, with a couple of steps up, and then a right-angled turn left to the front door with a step and probably a high threshold (uPVC doors have high thresholds) to get into the house. There’s a big height difference between the pavement and the door – it should be obvious that the ramp is going to have to be very long.

They will have looked at

– the little girl’s needs, now and in the longer term, and her expected lifespan
– her type of wheelchair (pictures on one of the news websites, it’s a power chair which might not be suitable for a stairclimber attachment)
– family as a whole – siblings, parents, other carers, location of other family support – how physically able are they? how much care do they do? what are their lifestyles? how often will the little girl be going out? who takes her out? will it always be family or paid carers? Six years from now, does she want to go out independently with her friends? Will she need a bigger, heavier chair later that nobody could push up a shorter but steeper ramp? Is it better for the family to stay in that house because it’s close to family support than move to another part of town?
– proximity to hospital and school – good reasons not to move to another house
– adaptability of interior of the house
– access rights and needs of whoever lives in/owns the first floor flat above – if the shared access is jointly owned by the council and an owner occupier above, the o/o might have refused permission for a steplift
– availability of other suitable housing – houses in hilly areas will generally have steps at the door
– feasibility and cost of all possible solutions – stairclimbers, steplifts, vertical lifts.
– impact on the property. When no longer required, semi-permanent ramps can be removed in a couple of hours with minimal impact on the garden. Lifts require more structural work, before installation, and if it’s a vertical lift, after removal. Something’s holding that hill up, after all.

Stairclimbers require trained operators. Family members and/or paid carers would have to be trained to use it, if the girl has a wheelchair suitable for use with a stairclimber. This would restrict who could take her in and out, whereas most people would manage pushing a wheelchair up a ramp. And I really wouldn’t want to be taking someone up and down those steps using a stairclimber on an icy day.

Looking at the layout of those steps, it would need either four separate steplifts, or three and ramping from the door to the top of the path, or one steplift with a very very very long track plus ramping from the door to the top of the path. The last steplift I did was four years ago, covered 6 straight stairs and cost £12k. You’d be looking at at least £40k to do those steps. Steplifts and vertical lifts get stolen, get vandalised and break down. Do you want to be standing in Clydebank in the pissing rain in January in the dark with your daughter, unable to get into your house because the lift has broken/been nicked/been destroyed? And I don’t even want to think about the massive structural work that would have to be done to dig out the ground and shore up the hole to put in a vertical lift.

Having looked at the photos over and over, and drawing on my 14 years experience of doing major adaptations, I can’t think of anything else they could have done to that property that would have worked. Obviously we were talking about it at work today, and OTs and technical officers alike were in agreement that there was almost certainly nothing else that could be done to the property. But we all did wonder why the family hadn’t been rehoused. I think the Clydebank Post article sheds some light on that. It reads to me as if the family had been waiting to be rehoused to a ground floor property for a while and were offered this one on the understanding that they could manage the steps. It’s possible the little girl was mobile when they moved in and her use of a wheelchair has been a later development. It’s possible that they were offered and accepted the property on the understanding that rehousing or adapting the access would be offered if and when the little girl became unable to do the stairs. And it’s also possible that West Dunbartonshire’s housing policy says that if you refuse 3 properties they’ve offered you, you lose your priority and go to the back of the queue, so they felt they had to take it. I couldn’t find anything on their website which says so, but it’s pretty common in housing policies. But as mentioned above, there could be very good reasons for the family wishing to stay in that property.

What I don’t understand is why the woman is saying she didn’t realise what the ramp would be like. I accept that most people don’t know much about the building regulations applying to ramp installations, but surely it must have been discussed with her. Surely it was pointed out during the assessment and when they were looking at possible options. Mind you, I’ve done bathroom adaptations where I’ve taken plans out, gone over them at length, explained very clearly “this is where your bath is now, the bath will be removed, the floor will be relaid with a fall towards the drain, the shower will go in this area where the bath used to be, the floor will be a wet floor so there won’t be a step for you to worry about…” only to have people complaining at the end of the job that they wanted a shower cubicle and they’re pissed off we removed the bath. So it is possible that it was explained and the family just didn’t take it in, especially seeing as most people are not familiar with the drawings ramps.

But as for the nonsense about the gate – garden gates open inwards. There isn’t a housing developer in the land who would fit a gate so that it opened onto the public pavement.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 47: one woman’s experience of Lush training

I had an email a little while ago from a woman who had been employed by Lush and had a lot to say about how they had treated her. We had a long conversation on the phone and while I accept that people’s perceptions of situations often vary, and Lush might put forward a different perspective, I believe this woman was telling me the truth.

This is what she says

I began training with Lush Spa Poole on Monday the 6th of January 2014. Everything had been going really well up until Monday the 13th of January when I had a one on one meeting with Lush trainer M. This was a conversation about my progress and how I was getting on so far and it was standard – all of the trainees would have the same sort of meeting.

All was positive. M said that the clients I had been practising massage on said my consultation was really natural and that one client said it was one of the best synaesthesias she had ever received. As this was a confidential meeting and I was relaxed, I mentioned to M that I suffer from anxiety and OCD and am taking medication for it. I explained that I was feeling great and was very happy with how well I was doing, feeling good that I’d been picking things up. M assured me that everything is confidential and we went on to talking about accommodation, as my partner and I had planned on relocating to Poole to enable me to work at the Spa.

The only negative note I received was that M had asked me not to use the word “arse” when in the training room and to be more professional. I assured her that I would never say this when talking to a client and she said that she was aware of this but could I just use lighter language anyway. I apologised, took the note on board and happily went my way.

Later that morning we were all in the kitchen upstairs, I think it was someone’s birthday but I can’t remember. M was drinking out of a mug that had the words “I’m a twat” written on the bottom of it. She smiled while others laughed. This frustrated me, as she surely wasn’t setting a good example after the topic we had just discussed.

We were then told by S the head trainer (who all the trainees found intimidating) that when working on clients later, we would be watched by herself and G (the Alexander Technique teacher) for posture control during treatments. I was looking forward to this as I’ve studied Alexander Technique before. I found out that I had my treatment on a trainer called R. I was a little nervous but had performed a treatment on her before and she said that she was very impressed. As we began the treatment I could hear S whispering quite loudly to G and it was very off putting as I was trying to focus on the massage. Not only did I hear whispering but also S was constantly moving around and being very distracting. She has this aristocratic attitude, where she tries to assert her dominance. An example of this would be when she ripped our posters with the routine off the walls saying “you should all know it off by heart now.” At one point she came over to me to give me feedback “go slower.” I took that on board but then when she kept approaching my station whispering to R (the trainer I was working on) and then placed a massive heavy black throw in the middle of her body, this frustrated me.  I was also heavily sweating as I was even more nervous and was aware that I was being watched. I’m sure the fact that I had a cup of tea didn’t help but then M and S kept approaching me to ask if I was ok and do I need to stop and would I like a drink of water. This led to the whole massage crumbling, but I carried on until the end.

At the end of the treatment I took a glass of water and then cleaned up my work area. Afterwards R took me to another room, giving me her feedback from the massage and it was poor feedback. She told me that the massage was a mess. I was frustrated because I knew I could have done better without any interruptions. I explained to her that I was anxious and blamed my OCD as I was too frightened to tell her that it was S and the constant interruptions that had led to me performing badly. I was supposed to have a client immediately after and I honestly didn’t feel up to this because of the poor feedback. As I introduced myself I felt horrible surge of emotion come over me and I ran out back to find M asking if I could sit out. I then had a panic attack. M, instead of sitting with me, left me in a room and then K  (spa manager) sat with me to see if I was ok. She was very supportive and got me a glass of water. I calmed down very quickly and was less tense. I apologised profusely and explained that this had not happened in over a year. She assured me that it was ok.

I then sat in the staff room where S was perched and began general chit chat. S asked if I wanted to go home and I said yes. I was feeling very awkward at this point and often make jokes due to feeling on edge. They asked me if I was ok and I replied “oooohhh I’ll be fine I’ll just go and take anti-depressants.” Obviously that didn’t sound good but anybody who knows me would know that my sense of humour can often be a little strange. I went home that evening and rested.

The next day, the 14th of January, I was sitting with the other trainees when M asked if I would like to go upstairs for a chat. She explained that it was just a follow up from everybody’s one on ones from yesterday. I assumed that they were just going to do a check in on how I was feeling. Instead I saw S sitting looking smug on a chair and M joined her on the other one.

S began the meeting with “some concerns have arisen about you that we need to address.” She said “we’ve noticed some inappropriate behaviour and language coming from you”. She then told me I swore too often and that I behaved inappropriately in the workplace. M joined in with the comment about not saying “arse.” I pointed out that she had mentioned that yesterday, and apologised again, explaining that I would never joke or use relaxed language with a client. M said “I know, but let’s practice professionalism at all times,” which is fair enough but obviously doesn’t apply to her “I’m a twat” mug. I couldn’t help but feel intimidated and attacked by the two of them, there was a horrible bitchy vibe in the room and it wasn’t supportive. Then they asked if I needed to see somebody for my anxiety, offering a number of a lady “because you did say that you were going to go home and take anti-depressants.” I explained that that was my sense of humour and I do already take stable medication and have somebody to talk to. I feel that they only brought that up because they had to, and their attitudes seemed patronising.

The rest of the day went badly for me. I felt that I wasn’t supported by any of the therapists and was embarrassed about the situation. I felt a bit discriminated against for having anxiety. I bit my lip even while others around me swore and used relaxed language.

The rest of the week seemed to plod along slowly with awkwardness.

The next week everything was better. My client feedback was good, I had a meeting with K. I still felt uncomfortable about the fact that I had a mental disorder, although she assured me that everything was ok and asked if I was enjoying the course. I had been working really hard for the rest of the week and had had great feedback from clients, one of which that said, “this is better than the treatment I had in the spa.” Then I found out that I hadn’t received my date for sign off (the final assessment saying trainees are competent at what they have learned so they can move on to the next stage) and the other trainees had. The weekend came with me still not knowing if I would be signed off, so I texted R explaining that I was worried. She then replied saying….

Hello sweetie please don’t worry but I honestly can’t say until we sort a plan of action on Monday xx

I want you to as much as you can have a rest this weekend and come in Monday fresh as a daisy and full of beans xx

As your aware we have a very tight schedule we need to follow and we do need to start sound back on Tuesday so have a think and if you feel over the weekend that you can listen to all the feedback we’ve given and do a flawless trainer treatment then we MAY be able to make sometime for this to determine if your ready x Sign Offs are a hard process and we cannot put you forward if were not 100% sure your ready as directors are extremely busy and they don’t like to have there time wasted we get in trouble xxx So please don’t panic but have a long hard think as to whether you are able to reach the standard we’ve set for everyone by Monday and we can have a chat and go from there I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful but we have told everyone from the beginning that we have really high expectations and standards so by now you need to be proving this to us xxx keep your chin up xxx

Sugar coated message and a half!!

I spent the whole weekend looking for accommodation, and went in on the Monday morning to be sacked. Not straight away, of course. They allowed me to set my station up and be intimidated by S while she flicked through my papers and then asked me to come upstairs for a “chat”. It was K and S. K said to me that I wasn’t picking up any of the treatments and not receiving feedback or criticism very well and so they would have to say goodbye to me. I professionally thanked them for their time, knowing that this was a blatant lie and that I had proof from client feedback that I was a good massage therapist,  and they just saw me as a liability for having a mental disorder. They also mentioned that they would give me a good reference. If I was that bad then why is this the case? S was smiling throughout and I couldn’t help but feel that she was glad. K was very nervous.

I must also mention that there were at least 4 days where a trainer wasn’t present and we had to learn from a trainee. Another girl had had 5 weeks to learn this treatment and in a video we had watched on day one a lady had explained that sometimes not all treatments are suitable for each person in which case they can just try the other ones. Also R and M weren’t qualified for the first week of training us, they took their exams during one of our classes. I hadn’t signed any contract either. I know I was only there for 3 weeks but to be honest having worked for the company for nearly two years before I thought that they would have treated me better than this!

What a horrible story. Employee without a contract – probably no statement of terms and conditions either. Trainees trained by unqualified staff, then criticised for not picking up the massage routines quickly enough. Trainees criticised for unprofessional behaviour in the workplace, while trainers behave the same way. Assessors who know a trainee has an anxiety problem, but behave in a deliberately off-putting, if not downright intimidating manner, during an assessed practice. Lush staff sending out patronising, saccharine texts with awful, incorrect grammar and spelling while complaining that other people aren’t professional. Assessors telling a trainee her work is of a poor standard, when all the feedback says it’s great. No acknowledgement that reasonable adjustments might be required to accommodate the trainee’s difficulty. No indication of any offer of more training, or another chance at the assessment. Trainers and assessors offering the phone number of a woman to talk to, with no idea if she would be appropriate to help this person’s particular problems. Oh, and there’s leaving assessment notes lying around with “[Trainee] is a twat” scribbled out at the top.

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It’s too late for this particular Lush ex-employee now – she’s left and she’s well out of it. But for anyone else in a similar position, my advice is

– make sure you have a  contract

– if your post has a probationary term, and requires you to pass certain tests or meet certain standards before you are made a permanent employee, make sure you know what the required standards are. Ask for written copies. Make sure you know who will assess you, what they will be assessing, and what the arrangements are for appeals and re-sits.

– join the appropriate union for your workplace, as soon as you start your job, and get their advice and help if you think you are being treated unfairly. Don’t wait until trouble starts before you join; you might not be entitled to representation for an issue that started before you were a member. Join today!

The Smell of Bullshit, part 46: news from the frontline

This email popped up in my inbox today

Many thanks for your blog. I’ve spent a lot of time on there and I think it is great that at least SOMEONE is brave enough to stand up against the cult that Lush has become.

I am an ex employee and I would like to give my take on working there. I would prefer to remain anonymous as I may need a reference from them in the future.

In my shop there was an ingrained bullying culture that started with the manager and fed down until it was an accepted practice within work life. I saw several amazing employees get picked on to the point of tears, snide comments and unfair targeting were a regular occurrence. I truly believe my manager is a psychopath.

The problem with Lush is that they hire too many employees and then keep everyone on four hour contracts. There is no job security in this, and one problem is that any staff that disagree with the manager or has the guts to stand up for themselves then has their hours cut. They can then be earning as little as £30 a week – and Lush is legally entitled to do that!

Everyone that works at Lush is scared for their job. They have seen their co-workers, supervisors and other mangers from stores, embarrassed and humiliated for speaking out, or disagreeing with what Head Office say.

Lush is an AWFUL place to work. Whilst on shifts, many customers would say; “I’d love to work here!” and through gritted teeth you would have to smile, internally repressing the urge to scream; “YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!”.
They do not pay ANYTHING extra on bank holidays, even those like Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Whilst Selfridges staff were on x3 their hourly wage, Lush staff remain on their measly £6.40 an hour.

I think one reason why Lush cannot possibly look after their employees is their complete lack of a real HR department. I’m not sure exactly how many staff they have working in the UK at present but there is 100+ Lush stores in the UK, even if those stores each only have 5 people working in them (and major city stores have a lot more, mine had around 20) then that is 500 employees for the company that do not have access to a basic HR department.

There was a whistleblowing number that I looked at many times whilst working there – it was a mobile number, which seems unprofessional, and nothing was ever said about what staff should do if there ever were any problems in store. There is just no way out, the managers are left to run wild with the shop with little to no supervision from anyone higher up.

And now to the main reason for my email, which is quite disgusting. As I’m sure many people know, the facial cleansers are potted up in-store, as some sort of faux natural PR gimmick. That’s Black Angels, Angels on Bare Skin, Herbalism, Aqua Marina and Let the Good Times Roll (at Xmas time) that all gets posted into the shop in a roll.

Well those little black pots, in my shop at least, were kept in the only staff toilet in the building – in a sort of freaky stockroom/cupboard with a sink and a LOT of stock kept in there. All of the tins (massage, body butter, shampoo) were stored in boxes right next to the toilet, all of the knot wraps and the canvas bags were also kept in there. The thing that grossed me out most was the endless tubs of facial skincare that was being touted as all natural, whilst being kept in these grim and frankly unsanitary conditions. This was the toilet that 20 staff shared, and that barely got cleaned.

The whole thing is a massive scam. I don’t shop there, and I’m thankful everyday that I managed to escape to a much better job. Some people aren’t so lucky. The dedicated and relentless staff are what keeps that place afloat – not the ridiculous and egotistical charades that are randomly chucked out of Head Office.

I truly believed for around a year of working there, that Lush was the best company in the world. I bought into that lie for a good while and the manager loved me for it. It’s only when you get out of the insanity that you can look back with hindsight and see it for what it is – a polished turd.

To be honest, I’m not bitter about leaving, I left on good terms with everyone. There was no drama or excitement about my exit, just relief. It is what it is.

This is just a factual account of my experiences with a little opinion tossed in for good measure. Take that as you will. One thing is for sure – no one ever understands until YOU’VE been the one that Lush has cast out, hours cut down and picked on until you have no choice but to leave.

Gosh, if you made it to the end of that you are a saint! I just felt I might toss in my two cents as a recent ex employee at a Top Five UK store.

As always, my advice to anyone who has concerns about what’s going on in their workplace is join the appropriate union, protect yourself, and get help.