Customer Service: LUSH, You're Doing it Wrong (Snark Bite #7)

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I just returned from LUSH, empty handed. I wanted to buy something. I bought nothing. Why, you ask? Because while shopping in a LUSH store is always a test of mental endurance, this time the experience left such a bitter taste in my mouth I'm not sure when or if I'll go back.

Rant alert!


If you've never been into a LUSH store, be forewarned: their use of pushy sales tactics is legendary. And while I can normally brush it off with a chuckle at the absurdity (seriously people, if the products are so super-sparkly-insanely-glorious-balls-of-all-natural-joyyyyyy...let them sell themselves) this time it felt more emotionally draining than the last time I was in a car salesman's clutches or getting the hard-sell gym membership from a seedy, muscle-bound arse asking "what areas do you want to work on?" These are supposed to be bath and body products...relaxing and rejuvenating. I NEVER leave LUSH feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. I left this time in particular feeling assaulted.

For a company that *seems* so eclectic, go-green, progressive, pro-individuality and
 hip-hip-hooray for quirkiness, there is a massive disconnect between that persona and the store shopping experience. I get the feeling that these poor salespeople are trained to bloody death to spread the gospel of LUSH and are being watched by beady-eyed hipster managers just waiting to take them out back and shove bamboo under their fingernails if they don't demonstrate a dialed to 11 level of peppiness every single second of the day or approach each customer at least 10 times within x seconds of entering the vicinity. I may be wrong, of course. But the fact that I get that impression at all is really bad enough.

There is a difference between attentive, friendly customer service and hovering, badgering, and making the customer feel generally uncomfortable and pressured to converse and purchase. When I used to shop at Bath and Body Works, I would duck into the store quickly so as to avoid that front line encounter with salespeople and the current specials sales pitch. But at least once you got through that first hurdle they would normally leave you in peace. Now I'd consider that a Utopia of shopping bliss.

In LUSH, however, I get the feeling that I am being hunted, and who wants to shop in those conditions? It's counterproductive. Their over-zealous sales tactics lost them a sale. That is the first clue that they are doing it wrong. Part of sales is recognizing that not all customers have the same needs and being able to pick up on body language and verbal cues, instead of just reciting jargon in an overly caffeinated way as if selling that shampoo bar is a matter of life and death. I don't like the feeling that they will be fired if I don't buy, but it isn't going to make me buy either. If they would have just shut up and let me look around freely, I would have. Seriously. Offer assistance if needed and then back off. It's simple. Why do they make it so complicated?


Now, my experience in specifics. G and I decided to stop by, he was considering buying a bath bomb because he's awesome like that and I didn't want him stealing mine. I warned him as we walked towards the location (which is inside a Macy's, very small, with little room to navigate. Claustrophobic nightmare), "Now, G, the salespeople are sort of pushy there..." and he assures me "I work in sales. I think I can handle it."

Within a minute of approaching the bath bombs and reaching to smell a few we were accosted by a uber-cheerful employee who looked at us like we were rotting meat and she was a hungry little fly..."Ooh, I see you hiding back there!"

Oh god. This was bad.

The floodgates opened:

"What brings you in today?"
"Have you tried the bath bombs?"
"Which bath bombs have you tried?"
"Which ones do you like?"
"Have you tried this one? It's great for achy muscles."
"Do you like glitter? This one's really glittery."

G is far more patient and diplomatic, he endured her rambling for a moment, asserting in his unique, off putting  is- he -telling- the -truth- or -taking -the -piss way  "Oh, I'm all about the glitter" while my brain started to go fuzzy, inching away slowly, hoping beyond hope she would take the hint. No such luck.

We were able to round the corner and every single time we reached out to touch anything, or tried to talk to each other, someone was swooping down, interrupting to tell us how awesome it was, what it does, blah, blah, blah. The last time I checked, all my senses are basically intact and I am able to read. Having someone read the signs to me is insulting. My eyes merely fell on the shampoo bars and instantly I was being asked "oh, have you tried the shampoo bars?" By this time we had been approached no fewer than 6 times by no fewer than 3 employees in the space of less than 10 minutes, and I literally laughed, exhausted, "Uh, no. I'm just browsing."  G and I locked eyes and I knew he wanted out desperately. It was like being in a room filled with toxic gas, and I was prepared to sacrifice myself in order to save him. He grabbed a bath bomb to purchase and I whispered to him "You go. I'll be out in a minute." As he rang out I realized however that the idea of being alone with all those sales people was simply not worth the bubble bar or two I had planned on purchasing. I cut my losses and hightailed it out with him.

He told me, as soon as we could breathe again and not feel like we were being followed:

"I have never experienced anything like that before in my life."

 And he is a salesman. He sells things no one really wants to buy. People want to buy bath products. It does not have to be shoved down their throats, bubbles and all.

Indeed, it is always fairly unpleasant for an independent shopper, but this experience was beyond the pale. It's not that I think the salespeople are evil or am deriding them for doing their job. My complaint is that their job requires them to make a complete mockery of good customer service. I sensed no genuine excitement or happiness there, no matter how fervently they tried to project those sentiments. I did, however, detect the distinct aroma of fear, desperation, and a little embarrassment mixed in with the jasmine and lemongrass. It was a rather sinister smell.

While I really do like some of the bath bombs and bubble bars among a few other products, I have to say I am getting quite disenchanted with LUSH. The scents are striking me as redundant, the "all-natural" claims a little too insistent, the prices ridiculous, and the general vibe smacks of fakery and cultish devotion. If the shopping experience was not so discordant from the image and messages LUSH projects, I would have no problem shopping there occasionally for the items I do like. If I really, really want something, I will have to order it online, but it won't be anytime soon. This last visit really nailed the coffin, and it's such a shame. It didn't have to be this way. Forcing your employees to hard sell bath products is insane. Maybe some consumers like that approach, but I refuse to believe that I'm the only one who doesn't. LUSH, get a clue. When your salespeople drive customers away with their overbearing, in-your-face approach, you're doing it wrong. Let both your poor employees and your customers breathe. If the products are worthy, the sales will still come.


(Check out another Lush experience that I had here!)


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14 comments :

  1. Love the statement 'the fact that you get that impression at all is bad enough.' What an awful experience for you. I have never been to a lush store, so I have no clue how bad it really is, but it sounds awful! I hate getting disturbed while Im shopping. You think they would do *some* training about leaving customers where aren't interested in help or being chatty, alone! Hit up Etsy and buy some handmade products, probably at a much better price ;)

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    1. At first I thought maybe I was just being an antisocial jerk, but I googled "lush" and one of the automatic searches that pops up is "pushy salespeople." There are a gazillion reviews just like mine. LUSH clearly trains their employees to be like this, as no one in their right mind would act like they do by choice. I feel bad for them, in a way. I know I couldn't do it. I wonder how many LUSH sales are from customers just too beaten down and exhausted by the sales pitches to consider their purchases carefully...how many times someone goes home and wonders "why did I just buy that?" I just find it sad that that's the way LUSH wants to make their money. I'm sure there is a better alternative out there!

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  2. Have you tried FizzButter? It's an online company. The bombs are bigger and cheaper than Lush's and no pushy sales people!

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    1. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

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  3. That is bad. :/ I'm very introverted, and I'd feel so uncomfortable if this ever happened to me. The Lush store I go to is alright. The "sell" amount has depended on the sales associates helping. Some of them are more into promoting the new products, etc but not aggressively. Others have been fine with my browsing and taking one or two items only. A few have offered samples when they saw me eyeing products.

    Very unfortunate your local shop isn't as good. :/

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    1. I had a similar experience the first time I ever went to a Lush store, in NYC about four years ago. It unnerved me at the time but I was so psyched about being on vacay in New York that I was able to endure it. That was a larger, free-standing shop. The one I go to now is absolutely tiny, you can't move a foot in any direction without rubbing shoulders with an employee. Literally, no escape. Near panic-attack inducing. Glad your shop is better!

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  4. What you said about being watched by managers and being forced to suffocate people is true.
    I had only shopped online before I applied.
    Had I shopped in an actual store beforehand I would have never sought employment at Lush.
    You are correct, it feels a awful being forced to follow shoppers around like a little lost dog. It's downright humiliating at times.
    The key holders are the worst. Breathing down your neck so they can look good to the management.

    The smell alone at this point makes me ill.
    I've been there around six months and will be quitting as soon as I find an out.

    Thanks for letting me vent. Lol

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    1. Ugh. I am so, so sorry to hear all that and hope you can get out as soon as you can. It was hard during that one really bad experience I had, I was frustrated and annoyed by the employees but I knew that they were being forced to act that way, which just made me sad for them. I had a slightly different experience after I returned a few months ago which I write about here: http://libervix.blogspot.com/2012/09/this-is-not-snark-bite.html. It perplexes me that some stores seem to be more intensely focused on the hard-sell and others allow the employees to be more mellow (or maybe they're just more mellow when no higher-ups are watching.) Either way, it's certianly more pleasant and I would think ultimately profitable for both parties when no hard-sell is employed, and I wish that LUSH would realize this. Good luck, and feel free to let me know how things go for you!

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  5. Another former Lush employee here! Yup, pretty much everything Anonymous November 21st said. Every person who walks through the door absolutely MUST be approached by sales staff. Even if someone is looking at, say, body lotion, we would have to go up to them and ask if they've smelled this totally awesome limited-edition product we just got in. Keyholders (who do indeed have some sort of god complex, "ooh la la I work at the mall!") do indeed breathe down your neck and will point out to you any customers that they think haven't been helped yet, or hasn't talked to someone for more than a few minutes. Worse yet, they do this... in front of other customers! It's just so... tacky.

    At the beginning of each shift, you're "briefed" and given an impossible-to-reach sales goal (which, if you get it [and it seriously NEVER happens because the goal is ridiculous], you get... A SINGLE BATH BOMB!!). So, you're basically told to sell sell sell, push push push. I absolutely hated that because I hate when salespeople do that to me. And there are indeed contests to see who can do the most demos in a shift. Which can be helpful for those new to the store, but most of the time it just felt so fake and forced and scripted for me.

    Also! It was expected that we act peppy and hyper and just constantly smile like a fracking idiot. Another thing I'm not too good at. Thank god for online shopping.

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    1. Thank you for all the insight, and I'm terribly sorry you had to deal with all that, all while, I'm sure, not getting reliable hours or a proper living wage.

      I'm glad I had a heart to heart with one of the girls at my shop, ever since every time I go in (which has really only been a few this year) she remembers me and never hovers, and thankfully she's been there every time I've returned.

      I feel like I need to start a support group for current and ex-employees to post their grievances! It is really all so sad and unnecessary and makes me feel so conflicted about shopping there. It's illogical of course because I'm sure I shop unkowningly at plenty of places where the employees are treated horribly, but none come to mind that purport to do the exact opposite as vocally and fervently as Lush. Their hypocrisy really is showing.

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  6. The job is emotionally draining. I promise you.

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  7. I am a current employee having been a customer of Lush (and cosmetics to go before that) for about 20 years. I have to say, I am finding it really disturbing. The hassle we have to give poor customers as they walk through the door is legendary. That we are not allowed to use our common sense and leave customers alone is mind blowing. And all set in a scene of frenzied sales mixed with mind-numbing boredom. Lush is the only shop I see in town that is often empty (apart from us black-robed sales-enforcers). I feel I have had to unlearn all that is good about customer services to work here. And it's not just the customers that get a bad deal. The management flout health and safety rules like the bunch of demi-gods they believes themselves to be. Roll on the end of my 6 hour a week contract. I can't afford to buy food, let alone the heavily discounted products. This is one life-long customer who wont be returning.

    Sorry for the Anonymous posting. I wouldn't normally write anything that didn't have my name next to it. But times are hard.

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    1. Thanks for your comment (though I'm sorry for your experience!) I totally understand the need to be anonymous. I was reading posts on the Lush U.S. Facebook page last week I think and some poor soul was lamenting the hard sell tactics. Posts like these happen regularly. Lush posted something like "yeah, we're still trying to find a good balance between being enthusiastic and letting customers browse at their leisure. Sorry we missed the mark." Something to that effect. I would respect them more of they just said "yeah, that's what we train our employees to do, if you don't like it, go somewhere else, because we're not changing." That would be somewhere closer to the truth. So disheartening. I went to my Lush store a few weeks ago and was thankfully left mostly alone again. One of the girls said "oh, you're in here all the time, you know what you're doing." Actually, no. I stop by maybe once every few months, or when I'm feeling particularly brave. I wonder if I've been put on some sort of "Do Not Disturb" list or something ever since I talked candidly to one of the girls there. Which I truly don't mind at all. Thanks again for commenting, best of luck to you!

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