This is Not a Snark Bite

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OK, I'm a hypocrite. Last month G and I had an abysmal experience at LUSH, and I vowed with clenched fist to never step foot in there again, unless I wanted something really, really, really badly. I broke that vow yesterday, but I had two good reasons:

1. I decided to try another bath bomb company, which I will do a First Impressions review on soon. I wanted to have some physical examples to compare/contrast them, and I didn't have any left. So I did it for your benefit, dear reader, I did it for you!

2. The aforementioned abysmal experience has been nagging at me for a month. I was resentful, and felt alternating frustration and empathy towards the employees that made it such a rotten experience. I knew logically that none of them really wanted to be obnoxious, overbearing prats, and they probably felt as awkward putting on that show as I did listening to it. I felt terrible that their certainly meager paychecks depended on employing sales-tactics that all but guaranteed scaring a hefty percentage of patronage away. And I felt terrible for myself. I just wanted to buy a damn bath bomb! Can't I just buy a damn bath bomb in peace? Is that too much to ask? Suffice it to say, I had some demons to slay.

So, yesterday, I did some deep breathing exercises and steeled myself to the possibility that I might have to be a little forceful, insistent, blunt, and perhaps a bit mean. All things that I can do fairly easily in writing, but in person, anxiety turns me into a rambling puddle of mush. But I practiced what I would say. I would give them no time to get their hooks in me. Immediately I would deflect their overly-cheerful inquiries: "I'm just browsing, thank you. If I need help, I'll be sure to ask."

Repeat if necessary.

G offered to go with me. I think in a way he was perversely interested to see if I actually would resort to a strongly worded response to their advances or melt under the pressure, but I told him this was something I had to do myself.

So I took the long walk to Macy's, shaking a little in my sandals. As I approached the store, I noticed a glaring lack of something...employees. One singular, harmless young lady was there, and I was able to browse for a good minute before she approached near me (not entering my personal space) and casually (not bouncing with fake energy and omglushismylifeeeee enthusiasm) said hello and the customary "what brings you in today?" I said, "Oh, just browsing." She asked if I'd ever been in a LUSH store before, and I nodded. And then...she offered help if I needed it and left. What a revelation.

Since it was only the two of us in the store I suddenly felt like getting all that had been bothering me off my chest, so I told her, "OK, now... you're perfect. You were polite, offered help if I needed it, then backed off. I did not have that experience the last time I was here..." I went on to tell her about the experience G and I had. She seemed to understand and asked me when it happened. She then explained that another store had closed recently and their employees had come to their store temporarily, which was why it was so crowded, and that their sales approach was different and they had been told they needed to give people more space. She said they weren't on commission, which may be true or not, though the people from the other store certainly acted as if their lives depended on it. Either way, she listened to me even though I'm sure I rambled a bit and wasn't totally as concise as I'd hoped to be. One other employee showed up and she mentioned to her I'd had a bad experience and I discussed it a bit more with them both and just let them know that some people are introverts or independent and that approach really drives those people away. I thanked her for listening to my constructive criticism and for saving me from having to be mean, and she thanked me for my opinion and as I was leaving seemed to say something about it having been an issue for them too, though I didn't catch the exact words, she was sort of chuckling as she said it.

Oh, and she was also proactive and asked me if there were any products I wanted to try, and made me up two samples. She gave me a little spiel on the ingredients of one, but it wasn't painful or too scripted sounding. My purchase was small, just one Twilight bomb and a Dorothy bubble bar, and I didn't feel like she was annoyed by me not spending a ton, and she didn't try to force any other products on me. But you know what? Being able to make that small purchase in peace and of my own volition makes me feel a lot more inclined to go back and buy more than had a salesperson manipulated me into a huge purchase that I would later beat myself up over.

So. Here is the breakdown LUSH:
1. Encouraging your employees to hard-sell, hover, ambush,and make customers feel generally uncomfortable and unhappy  =  customers not buying anything and not coming back, customers buying too much of things they don't want/need/can't afford and not coming back, and employees not feeling so awesome either.

2. Allowing your employees to breathe and interact with customers in a considerate, intuitive way = customers who feel comfortable purchasing and returning and happier employees who are not run ragged by counter-productive sales tactics.

Seems to make sense to me.
Are LUSH and I BFFs now? Not likely. But I do feel a lot better after my little cathartic experience. I am cautiously optimistic and will consider returning, as long as the experiences don't revert to their previously abysmal nature. This is unfortunately just my singular experience though, and while yesterday was certainly more convenient for me, I still think LUSH seriously needs to reconsider their practices as a whole if they're going to really live up to the ethical, progressive image that they project. Because it doesn't mean anything if they don't treat their employees well or obtain their sales through subterfuge.


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