Lululemon: If You Can't Beat Your Customers, Ban Your Customers
from the interesting-strategy dept
Clothing maker Lululemon appears to be schizophrenic. I know, weird, right? But that’s the only conclusion I can come to for a company that started off by mocking Olympic trademarks, then dipped into the realm of suing other designers over patents on designs for yoga pants (side note: when will this yoga fad thing be over?). In one moment it’s “Trademark? Lulz!” and the next they’re bludgeoning poor Calvin Klein with a freaking yoga pants patent. But it might be time to do a wellness visit on the company, since it appears to have completely lost its damn fooled minds.
See, Lululemon hates when people resell their clothing more than ants hate sociopathic children with a new Sherlock Holmes play set. Previously this manifested itself with a sternly worded FAQ on their website and very strange stocking techniques that amount to a not-making-much-of-our-shit strategy. That appears to have changed, however, since recently reports of customers attempting to sell clothing on eBay being harassed by Lululemon employees and banned from buying more products on the website have come flooding in.
Several customers told Business Insider they had been confronted by company representatives after attempting to sell items on eBay, and even more are complaining on the brand’s Facebook page. Many said they have been blocked from buying items from the company’s website. The policy is frustrating to customers because of Lululemon’s stringent return policy, which only allows returns of unworn merchandise within 14 days of purchase, even if the item was a gift.
Let’s be clear here: Lululemon policies make it nearly impossible to return clothing, regardless of the reason for the return, even it was a gift. Anyone looking to unload these items, new or used, on the secondary market is facing confrontation with the Lululemon Gestapo and then being blocked from purchasing more stuff from their website. Should it not strike you immediately, this is insane. In many cases, the items being sold are no longer produced or in stock by Lululemon. They aren’t even attempting to compete with these sellers. On top of that, many of these sellers are, of course, loyal Lululemon customers. This isn’t taking your ball and going home, it’s taking your ball and then lighting the other kids on fire. Which, I’m told, isn’t a nice thing to do.
Both Kristin and her husband were loyal customers who have “closets bursting with Lululemon,” she said. She decided to sell the item on eBay because it didn’t fit and she had missed the return window. Kristin says she was unable to persuade Lululemon to unblock her IP address from the online store, and felt the company treated her “like a criminal.”
“They said we are welcome to shop in their stores, and in that case, I should have donated the item,” she said. “But part of the appeal of purchasing Lululemon products is that it does hold resale value.”
Not anymore, Kristin. Lululemon appears to be telling you quite clearly that what you thought was appealing about their clothing doesn’t actually exist. Pretty nice of them, actually. Now you’re free to spend your money on apparel by companies that don’t have an eight-year-old’s understanding of the right of resale and how to treat customers.
Eric Lewis, founder of the blog LuluMen, said he was also chastised by the retailer for trying to sell a pair of pants he bought at a recent warehouse sale in Canada. After the college student posted the pants online, he said a Lululemon representative phoned him to say his actions were against policy and he would be banned from its website if he continued selling items on eBay.
“Why is Lululemon targeting a student who is selling some used items on their own eBay account?” Lewis asked. He estimates he’s spent $10,000 on the brand’s clothing in the past five years, but has sold fewer than 10 items on eBay.
Who can say, Lewis? But I’d highly recommend running an experiment designed to see if any other clothing companies are as insane as these folks. It’s an easy experiment that mostly just involves buying from anyone other than Lululemon and seeing who manages to treat you like a human being.
Now, perhaps you’re thinking that there must be some rational explanation for this. I mean, Lululemon wouldn’t do something so obviously harmful to their own business without a competent reason, right?
A company spokeswoman told Business Insider that the policy is for the good of customers, and is meant to protect them from buying counterfeit products. “Bottom line, if it doesn’t come from us, we can’t educate, we don’t know the history of the garment, and we can’t guarantee its’ authenticity,” the spokeswoman, Alecia Pulman, said in an email.
Ah, yes, scary counterfeit products that nobody is actually fooled by are the reason this is good for your customers. Unless their names are Kristen or Lewis, you mean? Or anyone else who dares to sell something they bought legitimately on the secondary market? Wait, who is this helping, exactly? Because I can promise you this won’t help Lululemon’s brand image.