Yes, we all know about the infamously expensive yoga pants. Lululemon. Hell, most of us own something, Lulu. Cultish. Faddish. Overpriced. To the competitors and haters who want to see Lulu crash and burn, those are its vulnerabilities.
On Facebook, there's an "I Hate Lululemon" Facebook group that offers support "for anyone getting sick of people wearing these ridiculously overpriced yoga pants." Amid the harsh criticisms are posts that say "Why do people working for Lululemon claim to be 'authentic' when actually they end up robotically cloning their charismatic leader, Chip Wilson?" Another website, seacowcoalition.com has rewritten the Lululemon manifesto (those inspirational statements printed on those red-and-white shopping bags) with directives like "Brand Loyalty: It's almost like having a personality," and "Your worth as a woman depends on people looking at your butt."
1. The CEO is pretty much the biggest jerk
Founder Chip Wilson ultimately decided the brand's name because he found it funny that Japanese people couldn't pronounce the letter "L." He's since stepped down as CEO. "It's funny to try and watch them say it," when asked about his views on the Japanese pronunciation of the company's name.
2. Fat Shaming
Amidst other complaints about sheer and poorly made yoga pants, Wilson found himself in hot water after he told Bloomberg TV in November 2013, "Frankly some women's bodies just don't actually work for it" and "it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it."
3. Lululemon MurderIn 2011, Lululemon employee Brittany Norwood murdered her co-worker Jayna Murray at the Lululemon store in Bethesda, Maryland. According to the investigators and trial records, Murray discovered Norwood was attempting to steal merchandise and confronted Norwood, who then used at least six weapons to bludgeon Murray to death. Not only did she kill Murray, but Norwood also tried to cover by staging it as a sexual assault gone bad, tying herself up and claiming to be a victim when she was found. Norwood was convicted of first-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence. Even though the two were Lululemon employees, you may be asking yourself what this has to do with the store. Some speculate that the highly competitive nature of Lululemon as a workplace may have contributed to the murder. A former employee told Cosmopolitan that the employee culture was cult-like. Whether the murder was directly related to Lululemon beyond location can't be known. Still, Lululemon probably wishes you would forget that it happened there
4. Lululemon Bag Debacle
Moving on to the infamous Lulu Lemon bags. In December 2010, Lululemon recalled some of the store's reusable bags that had been distributed since the Vancouver Olympics in February of that same year. The reason was that the bags were made in China from polypropylene, and similar bags had been found to contain high levels of lead.
5. "Inspirational Quote" Bags
It's not all "dance, sing, floss & travel." Sometimes it gets WEIRD...
Norma Columbus and her 17-year-old daughter Heather found some messages after they washed the reusable bag from the yoga-wear retailer. One side began to peel off and Heather continued to scrape away, curious about what the message said. Underneath a glossy layer of inspirational quotes such as "friends are more important than money" is the second note with a strong message about creativity and how regular aerobic exercise results in a similar "high" as drugs or sex.
"Some brief or quick-fix incidences when our minds are clear to be creative are.... when drunk or stoned...just after an orgasm," it says.
The message concludes to say that regular aerobic activity provides a longer, more sustainable high.
"The athlete's high is the most long-lasting as it can last up to six hours," the note continues to say.
"There is little difference between addicts and fanatic athletes. Both are continually searching for a way to remain in a creative state."
Norma Columbus said she was shocked to see the yoga-wear retailer's original message underneath a printed cover.
Lulu's response to this issue was a minimal email stating, "Lululemon Athletica is a company known for speaking our mind and inspiring creativity and freedom of thought in everything we do."
6. Lululemon Employees
According to HRM Today, the company's hiring process involves inviting interviewee's to yoga classes and spin sessions so that managers can evaluate potential employees in different types of atmospheres. If you ever aspire to work at a Lululemon store, be prepared to put your goals on display. Employees are required to set their short and long-term goals in ink and post them in the store for everyone to see. All of this seems pretty demeaning.
7. Lululemon Spies
The Wall Street Journal reported that CEO Christine Day doesn't use focus groups. Rather, she spies on customers herself, as does her staff:
… Ms. Day spends hours each week in Lulu stores observing how customers shop, listening to their complaints and then using the feedback to tweak product and stores. Lulu also trains its workers to eavesdrop, placing the clothes-folding tables on the sales floor near the fitting rooms rather than in a back room so that workers can overhear complaints. One customer described the experience this way: When I buy stuff at Lululemon, they have often asked me where I work out, as well as who my favorite instructors are. This is not just idle talk—this kind of information is self-consciously gathered by Lululemon sales staff and then reported back to Lululemon HQ every two weeks.
8. Lulu Lies
The brand once claimed that seaweed incorporated in clothing was performance-enhancing.
In 2007 an investigation was conducted after The New York Times disputed SeaCell's anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits.
9. One word: Naked
In 2002, the company decided to come up with a marketing strategy that offered a free Lulu outfit to anyone who would stand naked in the store window for 30 seconds in select locations. Ummm… I don't know about you but what?!
Despite the controversies over the years… Lululemon seems to be upping their sales. I think all of these things can be taken with a grain of salt.