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.

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20 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 46: news from the frontline

  1. I worked in a few Lush shops in my time. I witnessed the pebble-dashed filthy toilets, staff rooms that were also stock rooms (think a kitchenette in the middle of a stock room. Nice). And people wonder why bath bombs didn’t fizz – they were probably subject to steam or fluctuating temperatures.

    The shop back areas I saw were not clean, they were not hygienic and they were simply not sanitary.

  2. It was the same in the US shop I worked in. The tiny, cramped stock room was also the store room, as was the bathroom. Food was prepared where stock was stored. More stock was stored by the commode which didn’t have a lid. Staff did all the cleaning. Employee records were kept in an unlocked file cabinet in the middle of it all. On the day I quit, I removed my file so that my personal info would be safe when I walked out the door.

  3. Can I just say a positive comment about the company and working for them? I understand these experiences, but they are singular cases, and may not be an overall cast of the company as a collective. Frankly, stocking in the toilet is diabolical, and is the fault of the manager, and yes perhaps HQ, for not pushing better store locations or systems within the building. BUT the place I work is brilliant. Clean, effective AND FRESH. Sorry, but we break up and pot fresh cleansers almost immediately, if not, then they are stored in our tidy, formatted storage area. I would definitely, and have, bought these products. Our team and management are super friendly and accommodating and I still believe in the company. I understand that there might be a ‘bitchy’ vibe amongst groups, not where I work, but there is a seriously ‘groupish’ culture within the Lush fanatics. Anything taken too seriously can obscure the real problems at stake. But anyway. I just wanted to get a different side in a show not every Lush store is the same.

    • But the inconsistency is the problem. Everyone who shops at Lush should be confident they’re not washing their face with something covered in someone else’s faecal matter.

      • I’ve shopped at Lush and really hope this isn’t a store I’ve been to! To think items were stored in this way is disgusting, I’d be ringing head office to complain.

  4. I don’t think this practice is uncommon in most workplaces. I can honestly say that I’ve worked for companies that are more like this then are good places to work. Companies are filled with psychopaths that constantly cause misery and suffering for employees, especially the ones at the bottom. They backstab, lie, cheat and bully their way to the top. As long as the money is coming in the owners, share holders etc could not care less. Profit comes before job satisfaction in every area.

    • The point about exposing Lush to be no better is that Lush has made its millions by selling “ethics, ethics, ethics” above all else.

      They must be laughing all the way to the bank.

      Some of the posts on this site sound like they could even be worse than the average employer. It must feel horrible for people like the girl in this letter to have been attracted to an ethical company and then discover that it is anything but.

  5. It is the same in most Lush shops I have worked in apart from a few that were huge and had no issues of this sort. Most Lush shops have incredibly small staff areas and virtually no stock room (sales floor being more important). Every bit of space has to be utilised including the toilet. I worked for Retail Support for a few years while it existed and I visited many shops assisting managers in training etc. so I have seen plenty of back rooms and I have to say the majority have very little space out back, so the loo has to be used to store stuff in. The loo is usually a large ‘disabled toilet’ size but no disabled person would ever be able to get in there, hard enough for an able bodied person, especially at Christmas time when there is a lot of stock. In most loos there is purpose made racking placed in there. So as you were sat on the loo you were at eye level with the boxes of open black pots used for potting up angels on bare skin etc. The lids were sent in in a separate box which would also be kept open beside the loo, so the pot and lid were both exposed to toilet bugs etc. Other things that I have seen kept in Lush loos (and therefore within peeing and pooing distance) were: rolls of fresh cleansers, truckles of soap, bottles of perfume, rolls of blue roll used for demo’s, party bath bomb and bubble bar making kits, knot wraps, ballistic bags, carrier bags, labels, receipt labels, shampoo bar and massage bar tins, staff records and personnel files… all being exposed to germs flying round there. Imagine some shops where, at Christmas time, there are 30+ male and female staff all in and out of the same loo. Not nice at all.
    Now don’t get me wrong, in some shops cleanliness is paramount and the back ‘office’ was kept scrupulously clean, but I would say that in at least half the shops cleanliness isn’t that important to managers and in some I have almost had to clean the toilet before using it. Due to Lush’s ethical stance a lot of shops have employed the ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’ attitude to toilet habits – I have even seen buckets of ballistic dust by the loo and a scoop so you could throw a scoop of powder down instead of flushing the loo in order to conserve water. These loos are then cleaned with diluted happy hippy as bleach is frowned upon as it’s not eco friendly.
    So with this in mind, how does a customer know whether their bags, knot wraps, cleanser or the pot it is kept in have been in a clean or a dirty loo? How do they know if their receipt contains traces of fecal matter? Are they playing gastroenteritis russian roulette? I suppose it makes for an exciting shopping experience.

  6. Years ago I used to manage a Lush shop. Our staff loo was tiny and there was no sanitary bin in there. This may have changed now, but back then no shop had sanitary bins. Eventually the loo got blocked up with sanitary waste, faeces, limescale etc (we were banned from using bleach or actual toilet cleaner so it was probably a furred up pipe). After plunging it several times with no luck, I called someone at head office. to see if I was able to call a plumber or if they had the number of someone the company used. I was told to get some rubber gloves on and get my hands down the u-bend. Nice. (I didn’t).

    • Sadly it hasn’t changed. There are no sanitary bins. That would involve Lush spending money. Female staff have to bring their used sanitary items out of the loo and dispose of them in the kitchen bin. Either that or leave them in a bin beside the loo and draw lots as to who should empty it. It’s unhygienic either way, and not very nice to have to do. Lush’s answer? Use mooncups! You used to be able to get a free one by mentioning Lush before they made the green team redundant. God this place is random and I hate it!

  7. Thanks for that ShereenT that’s another thing Lush are breaking the law over! I don’t suppose they will do anything about something that they would see as so trivial. We all know how much they like to flout the law at every opportunity and this is no exception.

  8. Re faecal matter on receipts… given there’s faecal matter on over 1 in 4 people’s hands in the UK (according to a study published in 2012 by QMUL and LSHTM) I wouldn’t be too surprised if most products in lush had traces on them given they are set out naked for all customers to touch, etc, never mind the receipts.

  9. And snot. And bogies. And urine. The number of children you see poking cleansers, bubble bars, jellies etc, it’s disgusting.

  10. I should add, it’s not just children. There could be myriad bacteria on ‘unpreserved’ product. It’s a frickin’ bacterial nightmare.

  11. To also anonymous, I don’t think I specified children. In fact, I’m not sure if the stat I quoted was all adults or all people in the UK. The same study highlighted that 11% of individuals in the UK have the same (or worse) levels of faecal bacteria on their hands as a dirty toilet bowl.
    Do we know what the hygiene requirements are at the lush factory if you are handmaking/handmoulding/pressing/etc a product? Are there strict cleansing requirements before entering the factory floor from outside and from a loo break? There is already (recent) video footage to prove that they don’t require hair to be tied back or safety goggles or face masks to be worn. I don’t know answers to these questions, I am just asking them.

    • I have just left the Lush factory and I have to say it is a disgrace! The loos are filthy, there is no health and safety training to speak of apart from some very basic stuff. No hygiene policy is in place. No hairnets or tying back of hair (hairs do get into products and only the very worst ones are rejected). Gloves are only worn in some cases, not all. Face masks not worn even tho the SLS is very bad to breathe in and extremely hazardous to health. It works both ways too as, in the time I’ve worked there, I’ve seen several staff with colds coughing and sneezing openly into vessels of product which is pretty disgusting. I know it’s not food but the way Lush go on about fresh fruit and veg you are led to believe you could eat it. The floor is slippery and rarely cleaned. The soap room is a disgrace with congealed soap everywhere and dirty equipment.

      The products are so shocking, the crap they add to them these days makes them not natural at all, rejected stuff chopped up and used again, they just add more color and fake fragrance so it looks the same as the rest. I could say more but I fear reprisals as I am still in contact with colleagues there and I fear for their jobs as Lush, as we all know, like sacking people who don’t conform to their ways.

  12. I worked for lush in the United States and it is sad to say that the act of bullying employees to tears is over here too. After pointing out to my manager that I felt she was bullying me to quit because she didn’t like me she called me a bad person for thinking that way then told me I was a bad at what my job even though I had just made a $350 sale. They pay employees $10.00 an hour in a metropolitan where an average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $800. They give barley anyone 40 hours a week but those that get it can’t even qualify for an apartment at that wage. So ok you get 15 hours a week but they want you to stay available in case they need you, plus all the texts and emails they send you on your off time. This is not a livable wage or healthy environment.

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