The Smell of Bullshit, part 65: Elephantine Hypocrisy

Lush are selling a perfume they’re calling “Smuggler’s Soul,” with a graphic novel called “On the Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers.” The illustrations on the perfume and the cover of the book are of a dacoit called Veerappan, who made his name smuggling sandalwood and ivory. Setting aside the rights and wrongs of smuggling, Veerappan killed hundreds of elephants and over a hundred people, until he was killed by a Tamil Nadu Special Task Force in 2004. Yes, 2004 – not 1904 or 1804, or long enough ago that his victims aren’t around to complain about the glamorising of his crimes.

Given Lush’s self-aggrandising on the grounds of their ethical, cruelty-free stance, why on earth are they using the image of a mass murderer and elephant killer to sell their products?

Petition here.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 64: How to Help New Staff Learn the Ropes

An email came in this week from an ex-Lush employee. It makes quite upsetting reading. I’m glad the woman in question is doing better now, but as always, no matter who you work for, you don’t have to be treated like this. Join a union, get help and don’t put up with being bullied.

Abbie’s words

Hi there,
 
I stumbled upon your blog last night while I was looking
for more ethical and reasonably priced alternatives to
Lush, and I’ve never been happier to see a blog in my
life. I worked for Lush for a short period of time in
2012, I was struggling financially and took on a second
job while they hired extra staff for the London Olympics. 
I was eager and happy to be working for a company that I 
loved dearly. I did my interview, aced my trial shift and 
began working almost immediately for a high wage 
(London Living Wage) and I was content. Apart from when the
assistant manager took an immediate disliking to me. 
 
No one had explained to me that you had to be on the shop 
floor for the start of your shift - I was used to working 
in retail for another large chain that held a small staff 
meeting before the beginning of each shift, maybe it was 
naive to assume that most places did that. but they do, 
they cram you in to a tiny store room and tell you that 
you’re competing with local stores and to link and up sell 
products - if someone buys shampoo tell them it won’t work 
without a conditioner, etc etc. I hate this style of 
selling. And my assistant manager noticed this, and would 
drag me into that tiny cupboard two or three times a shift 
to shout at me, to tell me that I had no personality and 
that I was under performing. It was my first few days, I 
think this is a little unfair.
 
She did this to me for three weeks, constantly telling me 
that I wasn’t happy enough, that I wasn’t energetic enough,
 that I wasn’t good enough to even learn to cut soap, or 
stock the shelves, i should just stand by the door and 
offer people baskets. She didn’t care that I come from a 
multiracial family, and understand many hair types, skin 
types and cosmetic issues, and that every customer was 
happy when I helped them, I received excellent feedback 
from everyone I helped in that shop, but because I didn’t 
want to smile 24/7 - because the weight of being poor in 
London was constantly on top of me, and I was working 3 
jobs - I wasn’t ‘Lush’ enough.
 
In the end they fired me, horrifically. She got in my face 
and shouted at me until I started sobbing and then full 
blown crying, it was only at that point that she was 
satisfied. She then got another member of staff to watch me
collect my belongings and make sure I didn’t steal anything
- even though theft had nothing to do with my dismissal, 
and having worked in retail since I was 14, I’ve never 
stolen from a place of work. She made sure all of my 
colleagues knew that the reason I was fired was because 
I’m ‘not a happy person, and happy people are Lush people’.
They made me walk through the entire shop, crying and 
forced me from the building.
 
I experienced systematic emotional abuse over three to four
weeks, but no one has ever believed me that Lush would 
treat me that way - reading all the emails from ex and 
current staff members makes me feel strangely better, as I 
know I’m not the only one to have experienced the dark side
of Lush. Her abuse of me trigged a full blown mental 
breakdown, which I’ve been recovering from for two years. 
My current employer (someone I worked for at the same time 
as I worked for Lush) has stood by me, given me extra time 
off, moved my shifts, given me emotional support etc etc 
since it happened - and they’re a company i doubt will be 
around for much longer. 
 
I hope every ‘Lushie’ can have their eyes opened by this 
blog, and the truth behind the company.
 
My name is Abbie,
and I don’t mind you printing my first name. 
 
Thanks for letting me have a rant.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 63: crimpage or expansion, who knows?

Way, way back in post 9 in the Bullshit series, we talked about Lush perfume bottles. Customer after customer complained that Lush perfume bottles were leaking, causing the loss of the perfume and in some cases, damage to furniture. After years of denying there was a problem Lush’s answer was that the manufacturing process caused some tiny variations in the dimensions of the bottles, and the crimping machine couldn’t crimp the stoppers properly. They said they’d dealt with it and everything should be fine.

The “Lush kitchen” has just done a new round of perfumes and people are complaining that the 30ml bottles aren’t full. Going by the photos people are posting on the “Lush kitchen” facebook page, the difference in quantity of content is very noticeable. Even the photos on the website show the bottles filled to very different levels.

Lush’s answer to the queries about it is

Hi everyone Apologies for taking a while to jump on this morning. For any concerns about fill levels on the perfumes I hope this reply might answer some of your questions. The machine that we use to fill perfumes is a vaccum filler, which means once a fill level it set, it will let you fill only to the set ml/g and then cut out which means there is very little chance of over or under filling. As it is a vaccum filler, it its also very unlikely that fill levels will alter throghout [sic] the batch. Therefore this leaves a very slim chance of variances on the first bottle filled to the 1000 bottle filled. With regards to variances between each of the perfumes, the machine was set each day with weight checks carried out on each perfume before the batch was run. As mentioned above, the type of machine that we use means they should then all be filled at the same level. There is always a gap left at the top of the bottle for perfumes as the ethanol in perfumes expands and in the past has caused a lot of bottles to leak, so no perfume should be filled completely to the top. As mentioned before the filling machine was set to only fill 30ml, so there was an adequate gap for expansion anyway. I hope the above explains a little more about the fill process of these perfumes. We do our best every day to bring you fresh exclusive cosmetics that you want to see from the Lush Kitchen, but we do still have to use filling machines and as everyone knows, machines don’t always work perfectly 100% of the time We did and continue to do everything in our power to make sure every product that leaves is perfect, and I sincerely apologise if any of you are not happy with your products. Should anyone have any questions or concerns about their products, please just ask or contact our dedicated We care team to discuss solutions.

 

So, last time the issue was the crimpage on the bottles, this time it’s because they’ve left space for some questionable science. What next? Whichever member of staff has fallen out of favour has been siphoning the perfume off to drink?

If you’ve bought perfume and you’re concerned that the content is short of what it should be, take it to your local Trading Standards officers and get them to check. And then go buy your perfume from a company that actually gives a shit.

ETA: Lush are now trying to say that the perfumes are in 50ml bottles, filled to 30ml. That would be funny if it wasn’t so obviously a nonsense attempt at making excuses. How can bottles of a size which has always been sold as 30ml now be 50ml?/ Have they made the glass much thinner so the internal dimensions are bigger, or are Lush selling perfume in miniature TARDISes?

One dedicated person on the Lush International Forum has gone to the trouble of measuring her perfume with a calibrated pipette, and says it contained 22ml, although sold and labelled as containing 30ml. That’s nearly a third missing. So, like I said, if you think your perfume might be short, don’t believe Lush when they say it’s ok, or when they say it’s actually in a 50ml bottle – take it to Trading Standards (see the website of your local council) and get it checked.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 62: even more alternatives to Lush

In posts 44, 54 and 56 I looked at alternatives to Lush, especially alternatives to Dream Cream, which is the only thing I’m struggling to find another option for.

I’ve tried a few handcreams recently, including the Posh Brats Goat Milk, Aloe Vera and Honey Soothing Handcream. It didn’t work well for me. I don’t like the scent, which to me smelled like off milk and detergent, but I did like the texture which was like a very light mousse. It didn’t work well on the dry, sensitive skin on my hands, making them itch and not moisturising well enough. It might work better for someone whose hands are less particular. I like the bath bombs though, and the lip balm is great.

Then I tried the Mountain Balm from The Sugar Loaf Soap Company. I like their lip balms, and their soaps aren’t bad. The Mountain Balm is solid (like a Lush massage bar) and you have to rub it between your hands to warm it up a bit so that the top layer melts and becomes usable. It smell herby. I found it a bit too solid to melt easily so I had to rub quite hard to get a coating. It doesn’t sink in very well, so it was better used overnight under cotton gloves, which was enough for it to soften my hands except for my scabby rough knuckles.

This week, I’ve bought some hand cream from Heather Hills, who are based in Perthshire. I’ve got the Honey Handcream. Don’t ask me how much you get for your £7.50 because the website doesn’t say and neither does the pot. It’s quite a runny cream with a subtle, almost neutral honey scent. It sinks in well and it softens and moisturises without feeling greasy. They don’t give the ingredients on the website and the writing on the pot is so small I can’t read it, so it’s anyone’s guess what’s in it, apart from honey. It’s nice though. I might try their other ones when I’ve finished this.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 61: VAT cats getting vatter

Have a look at this post I did earlier this year. Lush seem to have found a solution to the issue of non-EU customers being charged VAT on purchases from Lush UK when they shouldn’t be. Their website says

We just wanted to let you know that from the 1st November prices have changed for our online customers that live outside of the EU. We believe in equal prices for everyone which is why all our customers that shop with us at www.lush.co.uk will pay the same price regardless of where they live. The price you see in your basket is the price you will pay.

 

Lush UK prices for goods sold to EU customers include VAT at whatever rate VAT currently is – 20%? 17.5%? I dunno. When non-EU customers bought from Lush, the VAT should have been removed, so the price would be lower. But as we saw in the post linked to above, the retail website didn’t remove the VAT when it should have done, and Lush asked non-EU customers to place their orders by phone instead so that the VAT could be removed manually.

And now? They’re just not bothering. Non-EU customers will pay the same prices as EU customers pay, which are inclusive of VAT. Will Lush declare that extra to the taxperson as VAT or will they just pocket it as extra profit? Either way, they’re charging non-EU customers more than they have to and trying to pretend it’s fair. It might be because they’re too lazy or too incompetent to sort the issue out with the website, or it might be because they see it as an easy way to make more money out of people. But it’s definitely not fair.

 

The Smell of Bullshit, part 60: holiday pay again

I refer you to previous posts here and here. And I remind you of the fact that Mark Constantine said on the Lush forum that he didn’t see why Lush should have to pay attention to employment law because they’re a small family business and it’s not relevant to them (he’s wrong).

This week an employment tribunal has ruled that overtime should be included in holiday pay. A legal bod of my acquaintance had this to say about it

This is major. But not for any of the reported reasons. Men get massively more cash than women from additional payments such as overtime, commission etc. The fact they now get some credit for that work when they go on holiday is important but it’s not a game changer. So what’s the big news? Employers, especially so-called charities and councils, deliberately employ women on contracts for a token number of hours (10 or 12) but then insist they work 25-30 hours (with no overtime premium). Sometimes the contracted hours are actually zero, hence “zero hours contracts”. This leaves workers in a precarious position not knowing what there actual hours and income will be. Mortgages and loans are also hard to come by. Pensions are reduced etc. The flexibility all lies with the employer.
All this feeds into sick pay,holiday pay and other benefits. A worker with a 10 hours contract gets 10 hours holiday pay even if their regular working week is 30 hours. All part of the average life time pay difference between women and men of one quarter of a million pounds!
From now women will be able to take well earned holidays without taking a pay cut when they take time off. And what is even more significant, we have removed one of the incentives for employers to offer bogus contracts with artificially low working hours. Which is an all round good thing. Chipping away at the position of employers who abuse their power over low paid women is slow and arduous work. But when the Institute of Directors and the CBI are bumping their gums you know your doing something worthwhile. As for the charities and councils? They should have known better. Now they do.

So why bring it up here? Well, because we know that Lush have previous for putting people on part time contracts, giving them full time hours, but only giving them part time holidays. If you are an employee of any organisation, including Lush, and you ever do more hours than your contract specifies, you are entitled to have the overtime pay included in your holiday pay. See your union rep, get it sorted out. If you’re not in a union, join one.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 59: Suicide is Painless, Sorry, Passion

An email today from an ex-employee, who says she has been told (but did not witness) that when Lush fired a manager in another country, the manager attempted suicide. Rather than express sympathy or concern for someone in such distress, MC used it as a punchy anecdote to show how passionate Lush employees are, and topped it off with “she was probably on drugs – as most girls who work for us- and in their mid-twenties are.”

What a guy. What a company.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 58: Calm Down, Dear

Email from an employee, informing me that Mark Constantine closed a manager’s meeting with “People say we’re an ethical company. I don’t think we are when it comes to management. I’m not sure how you’re gonna take this, but I want to discuss hormones.” Then he talked about an argument between him and a female staff member where they screamed at each other and it finished with her shouting “you can’t fire me because I quit.” Having spent some time thinking about it, his suggestions for managing conflict with female staff were “That’s why she’s acting the way she is: it’s a full moon. It’s down to the managers to learn to control their hormones: when they’re on their periods, it’s up to managers to curb the way you’re dealing with staff when they’re on or curb the way you’re speaking to people when you’re on.”

I don’t think I need to comment here. It speaks for itself.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 57: trouble at t’mill

An email that was sent to southside socialist at hotmail dot co dot uk.

All has been quiet on the Bullshit front lately so I thought I’d share with you some things that are going on here at head office that no one is happy about but everyone is just too afraid to speak of for fear of their jobs.  It’s not just the elephant in the room it’s a whole herd!
Lush Digital, the new company that was set up with Jack Constantine at the helm, is a complete joke! He is such a meglomaniac that no one wants to work with him once they get to know him and around 2/3 of the staff have either left, relocated or been ‘replaced’ after having the ‘we don’t think you’re happy’ or ‘we don’t think you’re financially viable’ chats.  If your face doesn’t fit it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, your days are numbered.  If you’re not ‘Lush’ enough and don’t embrace the ‘Lush Culture’ you’ll be out the door – unless your looks catch Jack’s eye and you suddenly get a job as his PA, until he’s fed up with you and then you’ll be sidelined for another one.
Everyone can see that he is running the place into the ground,  losing millions of pounds in sales in the process because the website is so crap that it’s making a loss for the first time ever.  He makes a mockery out of something that, with the right people at the top, could be hugely successful but he will make it fail, like he does with every thing he touches because, quite frankly, he’s an idiot who couldn’t run a bath let alone a company.  It’s only because daddy has given him a free rein to do what he likes that he is even in that position of power.  He has spent millions on decorating the building, making it look really nice but, unfortunately, the staff who work there are so unhappy, depressed, demotivated, demoralised, underpaid (well, the women anyway), overworked (well, some are and some wander around all day and don’t appear to do anything), that it is a horrible place to work with a very unpleasant atmosphere that just isn’t healthy.
Even those higher up are getting fed up with him.  But no one can touch him.  He could say he wanted everyone to dress in red and hop everywhere and they’d have to do it for fear of reprisals. He was furious because someone had a mug that wasn’t a Lush one! But Mark won’t have a word said against him.  He has given Jack a free run to do whatever he likes with the place and I’m sure he won’t stop until it all goes pear shaped and someone external has to step in and fix it.
Even higher up the food chain there is trouble.  Lush’s money man, co founder and shareholder Andrew Gerrie doesn’t like the direction that Mark is taking the company or that Jack is just allowed to play shops and mess with peoples lives.  He said this to Mark but anyone who makes any negative comments about the Constantine clan is doomed to failure so it didn’t go well and he has, sensibly, decided to sell his shares in the company and get out.
Bear in mind though that it was Andrew Gerrie (CEO) who steered Lush through the recession.  He is a very smart man who knows the global money markets and invested incredibly wisely offshore and in foreign currency etc. so that Lush didn’t go under in the recession so they will fare very badly without him.  Mark offered to buy his 21% share for half of what it was worth and Andrew, very sensibly, told Mark to fuck off.  Mark can’t afford to buy him out so is taking Andrew to court.  Yes, Lush in court again!  Andrew could sell the shares to anyone who wants them; the chuckle brothers maybe? Or L’Oreal?   Andrew is currently banned from entering any buildings or from talking to any staff on Mark’s say so.  In fact Mark is so petty and childish that he will probably victimise him the same way as he did the Amazon boss when he trademarked the name ‘Christopher North’.  We’ll have Andrew Gerrie toilet wipes next or something equally pathetic.
This isn’t confidential information though, it was quite openly discussed at the managers meeting and in subsequent digital meetings. It’s another one of those shameful company things that proper companies would try to keep quiet about or would deal with in a sensible way – listening to their shareholders and taking advice of people who really know what they’re talking about – but Lush seem to love washing their dirty linen in public because ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ They don’t seem to realize that it puts them in a bad light because their egos are so huge that they don’t think that they could ever be thought badly of.
Anyway, soon a fifth of the company will be owned by new shareholders that the Constantines can’t control and bully. This could be interesting.  As soon as the new investors realize that the man a the top is a dictator and his right hand man is an imbecile I wonder whether they will try to change things.  Watch this space!
Oh and another little snippet of news:
The new Oxford street shop that is massive and huge and costing millions has 4 excellent managers and trainees hand picked from successful shops running it and doing all the donkey work.  Who’s fronting it up, being made to look good and being paid to watch them work? Claire Constantine.  Us minions can only serve the masters of the universe.