The Smell of Bullshit: part 9 – the smell is evaporating because the perfume bottles are crap

For as long as I have known about Lush and used their forum, customers have complained that the perfume bottles aren’t fit for purpose. They leak, the lids were prone to breaking, the pump action things would break, they weren’t sealed properly so perfume evaporated – numerous customers have complained about problems with (I think) every type of bottle Lush have used.

Last year Lush did some forum specials perfumes, in black bottles. Customers complained that the bottles leaked and perfume evaporated. One person reported that she had stood the perfume bottle on her dressing table (hardly unusual) and the bottle leaked and the perfume destroyed the surface of her furniture.

Let’s have a look at what the people on the forum have had to say about the perfume bottles. The earliest posts I’ll be quoting are from 2008, right through to this week.

  • well it arrived, but its leaked, the label was sopping with perfume.
  • Same happened with mine yesterday and I have less than half a bottle of SWTWC gorgeousness. I took a pic and sent it to customerservice@lush.co.uk and they sent it off to MO. They don’t know what to do about it because they don’t know if there was any made ‘just-in-case’
  • well i dont know what to do really, since i didnt loose much, but at the end of the day i have paid for a full bottle, and there is probably a good few months worth in the bubble wrap and in the label.
    ( i am only a 1/3 of the way through my snowcake and i use that at least 3 times a week)
  • one of my Tramp fragrances leaked as well, the top just wasn’t tightened properly, it was quite loose. I haven’t lost a lot but the label is ruined. My other one didn’t have a label at all! I think there’s been a few leaky bottles from what I’ve seen so far
  • I have a white chest of drawers in my bedroom (Aneboda by Ikea, I don’t think they make them anymore) which I keep my perfumes on. I had a bottle of American Cream perfume on there which at some point has been knocked over and I’d not picked it back up. Yesterday I was doing some dusting and when I picked the bottle up I discovered a horrible black stain underneath it! It seems that the perfume has leaked out and somehow reacted with the black varnish on the bottle and ‘melted’ the varnish, which is now a huge horrible stain on my white chest of drawers. I’ve tried scrubbing it with a washing up sponge (the spongey side and the green side), then I left some Cilit bang to soak onto it for a bit and scrubbed some more but the stain is still there.
  • These bottles are seriously shit. All three styles of liquid perfume bottle that I’ve had has leaked, and they stain everything they come in contact with 😦 If you find out a way to get it off, please share as I’m sure tons of us have stained furniture from these bottles!
  • I checked one of my bottles and it is oozing all around the base of the cap. Not great! It’s twlight so it’s not like I can get a replacement when it evaporates everywhere (as I think it must be doing because I keep getting whiffs of lavender!)
  • However, we have had major issues with the spray bottles leaking. As soon as you use them the first time, they ooze liquid every time you spray. God forbid you hold the bottle anything other than upright … it just dribbles out.  We have already mentioned this to our local Lush shop and they wrote out a form to Customer Services while we were there, to report the problem. However the next day we left for our holiday and true to form, once we were there and the bottle had been started (brand new bottle) it leaked everywhere, to the point where we couldn’t bring it back with our luggage because it would have just emptied into everything. The spray bottles aren’t exactly easy to clingfilm to prevent leakage… If Lush are going to keep this product going, PLEASE PLEASE fix the leaking! The Lush perfumes are such good quality and the price reflects that, but if the bottle wastes almost half of the product, it really isn’t worth coughing up for. That includes all the new black bottles.
  • Actually I think my rose jam must have been leaking/ evaporating because there seems to be twice as much gone as in my twilight bottle and the twilight is the one I use most. Oh well.
  • So on top of the two openly leaky perfumes I got from the gallery, a third hq, is no way near full, and two perfumes I have just had delvivered today are the same.
  • only ordered perfumes this time as I spoke to Customer Services and they assured me the leaking problems had been fixed, yet I end up with a leaking bottle again. Not buying anymore until this problem is really resolved
  • Make sure that you check the replacements when they arrive Miniminime. I had this last year with some of the 10ml sprays. The first ones I recieved had between 3 and 4ml in each, I returned them as told and was sent replacements with the same amounts in (between 3-4ml) returned them again and was getting rather annoyed by this time and asked them to check them before they sent them out ….you guessed it I got ones back again were between 4-6ml each, even after all the hassle. Again I returned them and was sent replacements which were finally full, the MO lady said she actually went and did them herself?? It really was appalling and I felt like they thought I was lying about it especially after asking them to check, just think if I got 6 bottles with less that half in on consecutive occassions how many hundreds of people have been ripped off in the same way. I only realised they were underfilled because I was decanting them into a different atomiser, otherwise I never would have known……
  • I would like to see the black perfume bottles done away with. The leak something chronic, you cannot see if the bottle is full or not. I happened to buy leaky and under filled HQ that I had gone all the way to the gallery for. I am most upset. The fragrances are super but the black bottles let them down so much.
  • I have just had a leaking cocktail perfume and an underfilled one before that.
  • I’ve had a hideously leaky Imogen Rose and a non-spraying Cocktail! I’m sending that one back to CC as soon as I can get round to it
  • Ah a tuca tuca leaked in my bag.
  • I’ve only ever had two leaky black bottles where it was smothered in perfume stain and the noticeable lightweight bottles.i did ring mail order and they were replaced as soon as I sent the leaky ones back.they were polite and swift to recify,i was a happy customer.
    I’ve had a whole [but a drop in the bottom] of a glass snowcake evaporate before that.this pissed me off greatly and I sat silent about it.i should’ve drop m.o. a line,but I wasn’t sure how to prove it.i guess a lot of people feel like that and don’t speak up.
  • I have had a leaky HQ, 1000 kisses and recently a dear John. Forum special wise I have had 3 leaky comforters :/
  • Customer Care told me that the leaking issue was only with the forum specials and the regular black bottles were all okay – seems they are telling porkies again. Lush – please please just get rid of the black bottles!
  • I have had an Imogen Rose virtually empty on arrival, a very leaky orange blossom (all the black paint came off the top), a leaky Lust, a Smell of Weather Turning which only leaked a bit, l would say the majority of my perfumes have leaked to a degree and l have 14 of the black bottles. The Comforters l got had stains on the bottle and stains on the paper bag, but still appeared to be full, this seems to be the most you can expect from these bottles, l have only had one or two that have not leaked at all.  To be honest, every time l order perfume, l cringe hoping it won’t leak, and now, as long as it hasn’t lost a significant amount l don’t bother with a replacement, although how much l lose in time by evaporation is probably worse.
    They just need to go, it must cost a fortune to keep replacing leaky bottles. It must be losing them sales, l know l would use mine more if l felt secure in putting them in a bag or travelling with them, which sadly l am not.  No other company selling perfume would think their customers would find leaky bottles acceptable.
  • I opened a bottle of Vanillary I bought 6-8 months ago that arrived wet with perfume around the sprayer… as it was full, I didn’t contact customer care. The bottle was sprayed about 8 times; 10 at the absolute most so it should have been almost full. Imagine my shock when 1/5 of a bottle or less poured out into the clear bottle!
  • I had to decant two perfumes in the glass bottles into new bottles with stoppers as they evaporated. Lost about a quarter of a bottle of Skinny Dip.
  • Weirdly I never had a problem with the black bottles but the glass ones prior to those leaked like buggers. My Snowcake was half empty when I got it.
  • The way they somehow manage to leak when they’re kept upright is so annoying and means the top looks all blistered and weird, I’ve never had that happen to another perfume.

Seems obvious there have been problems with several styles of perfume bottle for a long time, doesn’t it? In November 2011 a Lush employee Bebe Blonde said

Hello everyone – I’ve been following this feedback, as well as that coming into the Customer Care office and Mail Order, so thank you everyone who has contacted us directly too
About the perfume bottles: back when we first launched the new Gorilla perfume range (in August last year) we initially experienced teething problems with some of the bottles (mainly the 30ml ones) leaking, causing the black paint to flake and generally cause a mess. Since then we have looked at the equipment we’re using to crimp the seal at the top of the bottle, as well as consulting with the company that supplies us in order to address the problem. Since then, we have observed the incidences of bottles leaking really reduce.
The recent spate of perfume bottles with forum fragrances leaking suggests that something else is going on – quality control procedures show that we haven’t changed any processes dramatically recently, so we’re currently trying to find out what might have happened here. While trying to sort it all out for you all, of course.

So you can see that even though Lush knew in August 2010 that there were problems with the bottles, in 2011 they launched a range of perfumes using the problematic bottles. Perfume is probably the most expensive thing Lush sells, but they’re knowingly selling it in bottles which they know leak. I think that’s shoddy behaviour.

Then, last week, after more complaints on the forum, Gabbi at Lush posted this

Hello everyone,

I’m Gabbi from the Lush Buying team if we haven’t met before. I’m sorry for the delay in posting this, I was hoping to get this up yesterday.

I wanted to update you on behalf of myself and Maria on what has been happening with the 30ml black Gorilla bottles.

When we first heard of the problems with the Forum specials leaking last year, we got a technician down immediately to have a look at the crimping machine and adjustments were made to it, but from further feedback we realised that this had not completely resolved the issue.

So, what did we do? Firstly, we hired an engineer in February to work with us in the packaging buying team to help with a review of packaging and QC of packaging items. His first priority was the 30ml Gorilla bottles. We identified some problems and have taken steps to rectify these.

One of the issues we found is that there was quite a variance in heights within the specs (and sometimes these variances were beyond the tolerances of the specifications) for the bottles.

Giles, the engineer, worked with our supplier to review the specs and tolerances. A go/no go gauge has been introduced that easily and clearly shows whether bottles are to specified heights and allows easy sorting of bottles into different height categories within the acceptable height range. Every bottle the supplier had in stock (and those we had on site) was tested and those outside the specs taken away. For future stock bottles will pass through the go / no go gauge and be sorted into height groups within the range of tolerance so that batches of bottles of the same height are filled at a time and passed through the crimping machine.

We also reviewed the process of filling and crimping of these bottles. Giles has made modifications to the crimping machine so that it can work with the bottle spec tolerances and he has worked with the team to retrain them on using the crimping machine and resetting it.

We are closely monitoring customer feedback to Customer Care, continue to work with the room to see that they are happy and will keep checking the Forum to make sure we know immediately if any further problems arise.

Please feel free to email me on gabbi@lush.co.uk with any concerns or comments.

So, the bottles were made in a way that meant they were of different sizes. The machines used for filling and sealing them couldn’t cope with the different sizes, and so the bottles were filled to different levels and the seals weren’t always competent. Those all seem like pretty basic things to sort out before you start selling the product, to be honest. I wonder why they didn’t do it.

Further comment from Gabbi

The varying heights did indeed cause problems with the crimping machine. The variances are (mainly) within the acceptable range for these glass bottles (there is always a tolerance for a certain amount of difference from the “perfect” drawing) but we needed to sort them and finetune the crimping machine to work as we need it to.

Everyone involved (supplier, Perfume room etc) has put a lot of effort into the quality control (QC) at every stage to ensure it reaches you in top condition.

Regarding the design – we are not currently looking to change it to the best of my knowledge.

Hope that helps and thanks for the positive responses.

It’s worrying that everyone involved has put a lot of effort into the quality of the product, but people have had such problems with leaky bottles ruining their furniture. It makes you wonder about the state of the things they don’t spend so much time and effort on (more about the black pots later).

After some discussion about the posts from Gabbi and the information they contained, this was asked

Gabbi, are lush going to do something about the defective bottles customers already have, and the ones already on the shop floor?

and this was the response

Thank you for all the feedback and suggestions. If you have had any problems with your perfume or other products, please do contact Customer Care.

Wouldn’t you think Lush would recall all the potentially faulty bottles which are already in the shops? If they don’t do that, customers will still be buying them and more people will see their money evaporate all over their dressing tables.

Some people who have contacted Lush have been asked to return their faulty perfumes to customer care. The thing is, many people have bought perfumes which were one-off specials and cannot be replaced. If they return those bottles, they won’t get a replacement perfume because the perfume can’t be replaced. Yes, ok, it’s only perfume, but it’s a shame for them. People really do like having the one-off perfumes and they’re prepared to spend a lot of money on them. I think it’s horrible that they either lose it through leaking or now lose it by sending it back.

One of the forum users who has had issues with the perfume bottles has given me permission to quote from the response she got from customer care. The response was

If you can get the faulty bottles back to us as soon as possible we can then take a further look at the perfumes. There has been a recent tightening in the law regarding the shipping of dangerous goods (the shipping of perfume is affected as it is considered a flammable liquid) which means that perfume often cannot be posted domestically. With this in mind can you please return the perfumes to your nearest Lush store at your earliest convenience as they can return it with their delivery driver.  Please let us know which store this would be so I can let them know to expect the pickup of your perfumes.  Once we have inspected the bottles we’ll drop you an email so that we can arrange to send you alternative replacement perfumes or other products of your choice.

How many people live near a Lush shop? Some people are several hundreds of miles from a Lush shop. Some people live on Shetland, Orkney, Uist. But they’re expected to make a lengthy round trip to return their faulty bottles to a shop? Some people are disabled, or are at work when Lush is open. Lush deliver by courier; why can’t they collect by courier also?

So then I had a look at Royal Mail’s list of things you can’t send by post. If you are business or contract customer, and you are posting within the UK, perfume and aftershave are absolutely fine. The list says

Perfume and aftershave (including eau de parfum and eau de toilette but excluding non-flammable perfumed creams, gels, oils or lotions)
UK destinations:Yes
International destinations:No
Follow these packaging guidelines:
Volume per item must not exceed 150ml. No more than four
perfumes or aftershaves can be sent in any one package. The
perfume or aftershave must be within its original retail packaging
and then placed in strong outer packaging. The inner packagings
must be packed, secured or cushioned to prevent breakage or
leakage of their contents into the outer packaging. An ID8000
label must be applied (see page 40). The sender’s name and
return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging.
These items may only be sent using our 1st Class or 2nd Class
products paid for via franking or on account (VAT exempt 1st and
2nd Class Account Mail), Special Deliveryâ„¢paid for via franking or
on account, Royal Mail Tracked® and Royal Mail Sameday®. Please
note Royal Mail Tracked Returns®, Business Response, Freepost™
and all variants of Packetpostâ„¢and Packetsortâ„¢ are excluded.

But of course customers returning things to Lush are probably not business customers, and Royal Mail definitely prohibit individuals sending perfume through the post (I checked). Although I do wonder if returns could be classed as business post if Lush sent out return labels. I’m sure they would have thought of that though and would offer it if it was possible. But still, expecting people to take perfumes back to shops so they can be sent back via delivery drivers? It’s almost like they’re making it as difficult as possible for people to return them.