Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where NOT to Shop In Austin: LuLuLemon


So as most of the six of you know, I have a kickass job now. That said, it's rather labor intensive, as I have to generate forty article ideas per month, write up articles for each, and acquire photos for the posts. Often I take my own photos. Often I ask folks to recommend places they love here, so I can keep my ongoing list fresh and not miss places I haven't heard of before.

Toward that end, I was in yoga the other night, when I noted my friend was wearing some new yoga pants. She explained they cost a fortune, but that she'd been given a gift certificate to LuLuLemon, a chi-chi yoga clothing store on Sixth Street. I've been doing yoga for over a decade now and I practically live in yoga clothes, which also give me the added benefit of accommodating my ass, which has been growing lately courtesy of all the fancy restaurants I've been reviewing (another lovely part of my job). My friend noted that the service at LuLu is pretty kooky, that they rush the customers, gush over them, write their names on dressing room doors, etc. Intrigued, I figured I'd include the store for my next round of stories.

So I popped by today-- it's right behind Waterloo Records. When I walked in, two harried clerks were waiting on one woman, who interrupted her checkout to take a phone call. Though she stepped out of the store to yap, the clerks ignored me and ignored me. Then the woman came back in, decided she didn't want her purchases after all, prolonging my wait. When she was at long last finished, one clerk turned away, while the second moved from behind the counter, setting off to another task. She realized I was still waiting-- and hello, I was standing RIGHT THERE-- and said, I shit you not, in an extremely impatient voice, "What do you want?" Then, seeing the puzzled look on my face, she corrected herself, "How can I help you?" though this, too, was delivered in a most exasperated tone.

I identified myself as a writer and said I was hoping to take a few interior shots. She said she'd check with her manager. She came back and announced no, they "don't do that." So I asked for the manager. A woman appears from the back of the store, looks at me like I'm an idiot, and we have an exchange that set my Bullshit Meter flashing and blinking. She said, very dismissively, that their company is "based in British Columbia" and they "don't do advertising." I explained I wasn't selling advertising, that I was a writer with a major company and it's my job to highlight companies in Austin of interest to visitors. She said she hadn't seen the blog. I asked if perhaps she had a computer, to which she snapped she did.

Of course at this point, I had no interest in writing about them-- I'm not sending people to a store that treats customers like complete shit. There are too many excellent places in this town for me to write about. But I stuck around, wondering just how rude this woman would be. I asked her if they just don't get press coverage or what? She said no, they only do grassroots, no press coverage. I seriously doubted this and now that I'm home at my computer-- Hey, Guess What Miss British Columbia Yoga Store Manager I HAVE A COMPUTER TOO!!-- and, as I suspected, of COURSE they have press coverage. They have a WHOLE PAGE OF PRESS COVERAGE at their website.

So I'm wondering-- why did they treat me like shit? Is it because I weigh more than eighty-five pounds? Is it because I do not match the profile of the young, hip, demographic they are courting-- fat wallets/skinny asses? Admittedly, I was wearing one of my '70's lesbian ensembles, of which I am so fond (when I am not in my yoga clothes). Call me paranoid and overly suspicious, but I've seen that look before, times I've gone places in Austin where the hired help conveys that they don't want my kind around, clearly judging me by my appearance, which doesn't meet their standards.

Okay, fine. Fuck you LuLu. I'm going to keep shopping for my yoga clothes at the locally owned Whole Earth Provision Company, where the staff is always super pleasant. Might I encourage the rest of you to do the same. Boy it just chaps my poly-clad ass when bonehead boutique clerks act like their shit doesn't stink.

Bye-bye LuLu, I hardly knew ye.

34 comments:

kategetty.com said...

spike, yer a bad ass. that place won't last.

sweatybetty said...

I am a twenty something, fairly slim yogi and I don't get treated very well either at this store - except for the time I was eyeing a Manduka. A $100 yoga mat? Would be nice but I'm having a hard time justifing that. Perhaps the clothes are technical and stylish, but I don't need $80 stretchy pants to practice yoga. Isn't that a bit the antithesis of yoga? Namaste, y'all.

Civy said...

I feel the same about stores like this as I do about bike shops: There are too many in Austin to go to one that has bad service.

Thanks for the review, I'll be staying away.

Black Magic said...

spike,
you hurt
we all hurt.
not cool.
piss off, lll (triple L shit)

Patrick Larson said...

Love it Spike! Bad service never goes unnoticed in Austin.

Kathleen Vale O'Hara said...

OMG, I laughed OUT LOUD! Loved it, likely because I've had a few similar experiences around town at stores catering to the skinny youth or surgically altered crowd...good riddance, just like kategetty.com said, that place WILL NOT LAST, especially in a town where boomers are coming out of the woodwork and clawing, kicking and screaming to the Austin of their youth! Love ya!

Anonymous said...

What a biased review! It is obvious that your comments are not made from a place of reason, intellect or fact, but are rather the opinions of an emotionally immature person who creates stories and reacts poorly when her feelings get hurt... Were the people at lululemon REALLY that bad? Or are you just a bit too sensitive? I have shopped there many many times and can only say that the people and the service are both stellar. They always go above and beyond for me and everyone else in the store (that I have seen).

If they would not let you take pictures inside the store, it was probably for good reason -- most corporations (those that are publicly traded) do not allow photos to be taken of the insides of their stores. It's a good business practice, that's all.

What is this "huge company" that you work for? It seems that most (if not all) of your blog posts are negative. It seems like you look for the worst in every situation! A self-proclaimed "controversial" provoker. Watch out -- nobody likes negative energy. If you're not careful, you, your little blog and your six little followers will be gone before lululmeon! lulu is here to stay!

If you don't post this comment, we'll know why -- censorship runs rampant among those whose argument won't stand on its own... ;-)

Spike Gillespie said...

wait, let me guess-- an ANONYMOUS comment posted in defense of a store where i was treated like shit for ASKING permission to take photos i could just have taken without asking. hmm... couldn't be an employee/manager making this post. you know what i think is totally pussy? anonymous comments, especially angry ones, especially posted by someone claiming to be all into yoga. so i will post your comment-- IN SPITE of your threat, not because of it. and i will challenge YOU to unveil your identity. meanwhile, i promise you i will outlast lululemon. and if you missed the link, i happen to write a guide for austin at http://austin.jetblue.com. i also write a column for the austinist.com. and, if you would scroll through here, you would see an overwhelming majority of positive stories about austin at this very blog. i live to celebrate this city and all the good places/people in it. i don't give a shit about corporate policy about photo taking. what chaps my ass is crappy customer service and a dismissive attitude, both of which i experienced IN SPADES at lululemon. the manager lied to my face and said the company doesn't "do press." the company, in fact (and as previously noted) has an entire page dedicated to press. so, ANONYMOUS, enjoy giving your cash to a store that treats people like shit. I, personally, have no intention of following your lead. Now, I wonder if you're a manager or a clerk...hmmm...

Hyde Park Theatre said...

Hurray, Spike!

kategetty.com said...

... to think that someone is calling spike gillespie negative just makes me guffaw. yer like ... i mean ... i dont even have words. (and i always have words.) i've never been into lulu. never will. i can just smell the pretension. and the dwindling customer base. ( i should run by their store, yelling, "do you even know who spike is? because everyone else in austin sure as hell does. and crossing spike, well -- not that smart. but naming a shop lululemon.... also not brill city.)

Oliver said...

Anonymous is a weasel and an ignoramus. And a gutless one at that. Signed, Oliver Franklin.

MaryAnn said...

oh, ANONYMOUS, if you only had a clue. i'll bet you haven't been in austin that long. oh well. spike, it sounds like your visit was a LULU of a LEMON. visiting this store doesn't sound inviting to this long-time, gray-haired blogging yogi either.

indigo warrior said...

I buy my yoga clothes at Target. And you know my ass is at least twice as big as yours. And probably older than yours too.

This is why a lot of 'local' shops don't get my business and big box stores do. I'm still participating in my local economy (it's not like big box world buses in the staff) and I'm treated like a human 99.9% of the time.

academy of smarty pants said...

Sigh. It's ok to hit 'em hard the first time, Spike, but relax on the comments, eh? We, your loving fans, want to think you've worked the vitriol out and are now relaxed. And probably doing some yoga in pants from Academy.

Academy. They won me over with $6.66 Converse in the 80s and I've bought all my sportswear there ever since (except when I find brand-new never worn workout clothes at the Goodwill). They've opened more over the US and my far-flung peeps never fail to login to FB and say WOW you won't believe this new store in town!

Try a review of Academy and make yourself feel great about a place with good stuff and reasonable service for less than $20/item, OK?

We love you, and want to see you chill soon; Lu-lemon ain't worth more than an hour of your precious time and energy in this fast-paced world.

Spike Gillespie said...

uh smarty? i'm not sure who "we" is but, uh the "vitriol" as you describe it comes courtesy of... oh crap just forget it. and for the record, i already DID write a piece about academy. it will be posting very soon. and here's a hint-- when you want someone to "chill" didactically expressing yourself is sure to backfire. i'm just saying... ommmmm

Esther said...

hah! i read somewhere that the sure fire way to piss someone off anywhere in the world is to tell them to "relax" or "calm down". It NEVER works. Good Job Academy.

Brenda Thompson said...

Telling someone to "smile" is as bad or worse.

Jeremy said...

http://www.lululemon.com/media/

And a full "press coverage" page no less.

Jeremy said...

I love it when folks get caught up in their lies. Especially smug "my shit don't stink because I spend more money than I have sense" folks.

Anonymous said...

Stay classy, Austin.

Sue J said...

has anyone googled customer service lululemon???
apparently Austin isn't the only place their service SUCKS!!!!!!

Thanks for the heads up Spike, I won't be wasting my Baby Boomer dollars there!

Wendy Corn aka gr8wendini said...

Whoa Nellie--I mean Lulu! What's really ironic about this posting and your LuLuLemon treatment/experience is that they pay for & send their employees to the 3-day life transformation seminar--Landmark Education: "The Forum". I personally did this kinder, gentler EST work 10 + years ago and it was empowering etc. for the most part. It's distressing to be in the new-age/spiritual/yoga service industry and not have more conscious life affirming people behind the counter. Lululemon was just cited in the NYT yesterday (4/25/2010)on the cover article of the Styles section: " A Yoga Manifesto"

Eric said...

The thing that bugs me about this sort of blogging--bitching about customer service--is less the pain of listening to people whine when their retail servants are insufficiently helpful and smiley--though that's annoying too--than the complete willingness of the writer to throw other workers under the bus. Store clerks, you might have guessed, are very poorly paid and have to deal demanding, pushy, and angry people all day long. Expecting them to be happy about this state of affairs, to slap a smile on their face and forget all about the crappiness of their job just because you walked in the door, is the exact opposite of solidarity. It's siding with the bosses.

Spike Gillespie said...

Eric,
For the record, I did fifteen years of food service and perhaps ten of retail. I totally get it that people have bad days, get burned out, and have to deal with shitty customers. I like to think that this experience informs my actions now that I'm on the customer side of the counter, and if I enter a place and it's really busy, or someone is clearly having a bad day, I go out of my way to be understanding. But across-the-board, my experience at LLL suggested that the attitude I encountered was rooted in a dismissiveness that had to do, in large part, with my appearance-- I was slumming it as I noted, and I believe this netted me bad service.

When I walked in the store, I said "hello" and waited very patiently while TWO clerks waited on ONE customer who, at one point, walked out mid-transaction to talk on her phone. When she stepped away from the counter, the clerks did not use this opportunity to say hello. I wasn't expecting a butt smooching or even, necessarily, a fake smile. But if one signs up for a clerk job, one is agreeing to at least acknowledge customers. And if one feels too hard-pressed to deal with the public, one should get thee to another form of work that doesn't necessitate interacting with the public.

When finally the other customer left, clerk one turned away, and clerk two made as if to head off to another duty, as if I were invisible. Then she turned to me and said, in a very irritated fashion, "What do you WANT?" I found this pretty shocking and, from the look on her face when she realized what she said and how she said it, the clerk also seemed to realize she was being less than friendly.

I very clearly explained I was a writer. And let me say here that I did not say this in hopes of some special treatment. I was hoping to follow some protocol, to let them know I hoped to take pictures and tell folks about their inventory. I don't think it's fair to "sneak around" and also, when I do state my intentions, often this lands me in a conversation where I gather good details about a shop that I then go on to share with my readers.

Also, something else I didn't mention in my original post-- most often, I simply pop by a store and chat with the folks to see about writing up their business. In this case, I'd actually emailed LuLuLemon HQ ahead of time to let them know I wanted to write up the store. I sent this note to their media contact (which is one reason I knew the manager was lying when she said they "don't do press.") I never heard back from HQ, which should've been my first clue not to go there.

The same day I went to LLL, I also went to Emerald City Press for the purpose of gathering info. The workers there were so friendly I wanted to take them home and feed them dinner. I also attended a FuseBox Festival event and, again, the organizers were totally nice. And that night, I ate at Texas French Bread, also to review it, and the service was beyond spectacular.

I repeat, I do not need a verbal blowjob when I go to these places. But I show up cheerful, I state my goals clearly. And if a place doesn't want to good press, that's their business, and I'm fine with not writing about them. It was the WAY they treated me that sucked.

Eric said...

I think what bothered me most about this post was that you mentioned almost the exact time you went there. It would be pretty easy for an employer to read this and figure out who was working at the time and discipline them, fire them, or otherwise make their lives miserable. That's kind of a yucky thing to do to someone who's trying to make a living working a bad job.

If you demand that a business take care of your needs as a consumer, that's reasonable. But if you want a certain level of service and interaction during your shopping experience, then you are demanding a performance from the employee. I suppose that's your right, but I think it's kind of crappy, and I bet most employees agree with me. The employee owes you the delivery of the product, but he or she doesn't owe you a communal experience. It's unfair to expect humanity from someone who is placed in a dehumanizing situation.

In your fantastic hit piece on Mackey and Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago you did a similar thing, when you made a comment about giving a free bag of pot to sandwich makers who fulfilled their orders correctly. Why? Why, in the course of a wonderful takedown of employers, did you have to take a swipe at minimum-wage employees who, smartly, are giving the barest of efforts? It makes you sound whiny, petulant and antiworker, when I bet in real life you are none of those things.

Spike Gillespie said...

Eric,
in the interest of sparing my six dedicated readers a ridiculous "argument" in which, clearly, we are not going to agree, this will be my last public post to you. and i will not publish any more comments from you. if you want to take it private, you may email me at spikegillespie@gmail.com and if i feel like it, i'll write back.

for the record, a lot of sandwich makers smoke pot. shit, a lot of people smoke pot. i told you, i did 15 years of food service-- i'm not on the outside making judgements, i'm speaking with the authority of been-there-done-that. also for the record, i ALWAYS "overtip" food service workers, including (and especially) sandwich workers. and i know that some of these folks are easily clearing a good bit more than minimum and i think that's great. and i also know a lot of them, if they choose to (as i did) do have opportunities beyond retail and food service. some stick with it because you don't have to think a lot at work (something i liked, preferring my off hours for reading and writing). some have no ambition. whatever.

i feel like you're suggesting these "poor" retail clerks have such "hard" lives. hello? this is america, 2010. let's keep it in perspective here and consider the plight of, say, uneducated, oppressed women. or any other person/group of people genuinely suffering.

i did not expect "exceptional" service from the lululemon workers. i did not even *expect* a "yes" answer to my question. they were flat out rude. not just one of them-- two were blatantly rude and the third turned away from me. that is unacceptable. that the manager lied to me in such a blatant fashion is also unacceptable. i think you are forgetting that i entered the store CHEERFULLY with an offer to HIGHLIGHT their store and give them a POSITIVE PLUG. a simple "i can't do that without clearing it first" would have sufficed and i would have been on my way. instead, they treated me like shit and i said so. and if it happens again at another place, i'll say so again. i'm not going out of my way to decry mediocre service, but blatantly shitty service does, in my view, merit noting.

i hope those workers find some more suitable work soon. it doesn't help anyone if they're miserable, not to mention the irony of the alleged *idea* behind the shop-- to make us feel "better" through yoga.

James J. said...

I have been to many a Lululemon stores in California and New York. I wear a lot of Lululemon clothing and have attended their free yoga classes in the past.

But I will NEVER NEVER NEVER shop at the Austin Lululemon store. Did I say Never? I wouldn't want one penny of my hard earned money going to this shop. I went here about a month or two ago and received the exact same treatment as Spike.

I walked in and was completely ignored. I kept browsing around the store, checking things out, while at the same time continuously trying to make eye contact with the two salespeople (who were talking to each other behind the cash register)... no smiles, no hello, no 'how can i help you.' Although they did look my way now and then.

At one point, the manager walked in, looked me over and then started talking to the other employees. I felt like It felt like walking into a high school clique of mean girls who were judging you based on your looks/weight/clothes.

Granted, I've been to other Lululemon stores and have been greeted warmly by workers there. But I will not support such crappy customer service. I was disappointed to say the least. In the past, I was all Lululemon all the time for my workout gear. After my experience with Lululemon Austin, I have branched out to Title 9 (just around the corner on N. Lamar), Athleta (online), and Nike for my workout clothes.

Thank you Spike for making the broader Austin community aware about how people are treated at this store. You would think in this economy, people would want to please their customers... not shun them away.

MarkAustin said...

Yep, I had a bad experience there, too. AND it was after I purchased clothing there. Never been back. Good quality clothing but the snots that run the place should work in a back room somewhere...

Linnea said...

I'm happy to sign my name on this review and express how surprised I am that you had a bad experience at Lulu. It's one of my favorite places to shop for yoga gear (though it is VERY pricey), and I've found the staff to be wonderful.

I've also been to many Saturday morning free yoga classes at Lululemon -- they feature one studio a month and have a different instructor each week. It's a great way to "shop" all of the yoga instructors in town and find a studio/style that's a good match. And did I mention it's free?

The folks I've see at the free yoga classes (and in the store shopping) are all ages, all body types, and have all levels of yoga experience. There's one older couple that's there every Saturday that are the opposite of the Lulu "brand" -- the husband is quite limited mobility wise (Parkinson's, perhaps?) and the wife wears kind of odd clothes and lines her mat with newspapers. Odd, but not out of place. The class environment is very positive.

My in-store shopping experience has always been positive, too. Not overly attentive (which I appreciate), but they'll start me a dressing room, grab sizes, and give me an honest opinion on their products -- what they like to wear, how an item looks on me.

They also hem shirts and pants (for free, thank goodness), and I never feel pressured to buy anything.

Again, just sad to hear about your experience, but I respect that it sucked for you. :-(

Linnea said...

P.S. I agree that Target is the best (non-local) place to shop for yoga clothes. And I need to check out Whole Earth!

Spike Gillespie said...

Hi Linnea,
thanks for posting your thoughts and your experience. i'm glad you get good service and enjoy the free classes. i wish i'd had a similar good experience-- i love recommending good finds in austin.
happy yoga-ing.
spike

Hannah Marie said...

Hi!

I happened upon this blog through a google search - I see it's a bit old but thought I'd comment anyway!

I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I'm a Canadian and am usually proud of Lululemon -they are usually polite (we are Canadian after all!) and the products are great and come with a lifetime warranty - that's how I justify spending more on them.

I stopped by a shop today to pick up a key cuff ($10) and when they heard about my bike trip across Canada to raise awareness about Israel-Palestine they insisted I take some free socks ($15/pair) for the trip! Most businesses want nothing to do with our trip because of the political message so I was very surprised when the jumped at the chance.

All I'll suggest is that if you're ever in Canada stop by one and expect a much better experience :)

Cheers!

Hannah Marie said...

Hi!

I happened upon this blog through a google search - I see it's a bit old but thought I'd comment anyway!

I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I'm a Canadian and am usually proud of Lululemon -their products are great and come with a lifetime warranty - that's how I justify spending more on them.

I stopped by a shop today to pick up a key cuff ($10) and when they heard about my bike trip across Canada to raise awareness about Israel-Palestine they insisted I take some free socks ($15/pair) for the trip!

All I'll suggest is that if you're ever in Canada stop by one and expect a much better experience :)

Cheers!

latina linda said...

Lululemon is a very bad managed place all across the country. I have been to many stores and most of them want you to look a certain way to be treated "right". I am quite short and they NEVER offer me COMPLIMENTARY hemming, however I see blondes get special treatment. I had a horrible experience today where they would not give me discount that I deserved and treated so poorly the manager called me later to apologize. THAT WAS MY LAST VISIT TO THE STORE.
when you have a product, no matter how expensive it is, you can't discriminate people.