Soap and karma

So there's this amazing soap store called Lush. They sell more than just soap - cosmetics and bath bubbles and massage bars are part of the lineup - but really, when you walk in, you're in a soap store. Except that it looks like a deli.

Everywhere you look, on wooden platforms of various heights, are giant hunks of soap. Huge blocks that look bright and tasty enough to eat. There are big chunks, small chunks, balls and bars and sticks of soap. There's even a giant Jello blob - made of soap. Your sheer instinct is to cut into a giant block, break off a big piece, and take a deep whiff of its fruity scent. Lush is so tactilely stimulating that it's overwhelming. In a good way.

I saw a product in Lush a year ago, at the store on Newbury Street in Boston. It was called something like "Milk soap." It smelled amazingly delicious. Unfortunately, I didn't buy it right then, but I figured I'd get it another time.

However, a year has gone by, and I've been to three Lush stores in three cities. None have carried my product. When I recently visited the Lush in Toronto, I asked about this specific product, and the woman filled me in on a very strange business practice that Lush employs.

She said, "We run on karma." Apparently, according to this source, Lush has a resident Karma Expert, who "gets a feel" for which products should stay in the stores, and which should go. And quite often, the products she pulls are the most popular ones. The woman further explained, "The company believes in a sort of Buddhism, which says we shouldn't get too attached to material possessions."

Okay, hold up. Sure, I agree that life's too short to get obsessed with your stuff. And sure, I buy the idea of karma, the version I know, which says that what goes around comes around. But you are a business! Since when does it make sense to systematically discontinue your best-selling items?

Now, I have heard of this phenomenon in other arenas. Zara does an amazing job of rotating product like, once a week, and that keeps customers coming back way more often than the industry average. Fine, I get it, it's the thrill of the fashion hunt.

But how often do you buy soap? Every two months? For a soap store to cherry-pick away its top items makes NO sense to me. People love those products! Is the goal for them to say "Oh hell, I didn't like that product anyway" and switch to a new one? Because while some people embrace that kind of change, I don't.

I want my milk soap.

I'm happy for Lush that it's doing so well, especially given its little comeback story on the website. But come on, guys. Your karma expert might be at peace with the world, but to me she's just spinning bad business.

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