December 3, 2013

28 Things I Learned While Working For Lululemon Athletica

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Lululemon Athletica
Lululemon Athletica

I worked at the infamous Lululemon Athletica for a year and a half. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about human nature and of course, sheer stretchy pants. Not all of this happened to me, but I have seen this first hand.

1. Every company has bad apples. The trouble with Lululemon is that they’re easily disguised in smiles, pretty faces and small talk. You don’t find out about the general two- faced problem with managers until it’s too late.

2. When dealing with a bad apple, agree with everything they say or else they will make your life a living hell. To the point where you leave a company that you once loved. My store manager regularly accused me of doing and saying things that I never said and it got too exhausting to handle. She even smiled when I started crying.

3. Lululemon has it’s own language and if you don’t speak it fluently, good luck being accepted by the people who hired you. People who can speak it really well and actually believe in it are termed “Lululicous”.

4. If you’re male, childhood friends with your boss and/or a suck up, you’ll climb that ladder no matter what. Internal promotions are usually based solely on likeability with your boss, and in a company that is 95% women, it’s all about whether you can tow the line safely.

5. Virtually every internal promotion occurs because someone is friends with the regional manager, store manager, or assistant store manager.

6. You won’t get promoted if you’re friends with the sales associates. I have been encouraged many a time to cut social ties with the people I work with in order to have a shot at growing in the company.

7. A store manager actually got away with paying their sister in law 25% more than the rest of us. They can alter your pay based on how much they like you. Usually they tweak pay according to likeability during score card season, but it also happens when they first hire you.

8. A different store manager didn’t like one of the floor managers under them and changed meetings to mornings because she couldn’t go at that time for medical reasons. She then was told that she didn’t fit her role as a floor manager and should step down.

9. Store Managers change every 6 months. It’s a stressful job but usually they just get promoted or fired. A customer service associate (or “educator”) who had been at the store for 5 years told me that she didn’t care who came or went- she always outlives management and just needs to be under their radar.

10. They can accuse you of giving a bad customer service experience even when there are no customers in the store. It doesn’t even matter if the logic is flawed- they’ll find a way to make you leave if they don’t want you there. It’s called being “coached out” in Lululemon terms.

11. Sexual harassment isn’t their concern if you’ve left the company because of it. In fact, if you’re male and saying gross things to other employees its more likely to BENEFIT you than anything else- you’ll likely get transferred to a different store where you’re promoted a month later (this indeed happened much to the dismay of the good apples in the company). They value straight males above any other type of employee- having a penis is like a constant “get out of jail” free card.  Oh and if you’re the accuser- you’ll be labeled as a trouble maker and someone who engages in “background conversation”.

12. Background conversation (i.e. gossiping) will get you fired. Despite the fact that manager meetings consist mostly of background conversations about their employees. It’s rephrased as “discussing their development”.  They’ll discuss your personal life, who you’re friends with in the store- even how many dogs your mother has. All on company time.

13. We don’t sell clothes, we “educate.” It’s background conversation to openly say that you don’t like a product. It’s also background conversation to mention that you need more hours to another coworker.

14. During a morning meeting, the manager will mention what clothes fit who well, and what won’t work not so well. I once was told that I shouldn’t buy something because I am not a size 6 — in front of 5 other co-workers.

15. If you are a size 6, then you’ll be given free clothes to wear, termed “promotions”.

16. The company attracts amazing people. After a year though, you either leave or try to become a manager. There aren’t many people who stay without wanting to get promoted.

17. Head office cares. Free treats, great health benefits, free fitness classes- you name it, they’ll do it for you. The trouble is that head office doesn’t get to see the horrible things that managers get away with.

18. If you miss talking to a guest, you’ll get called out on it by a manager. But only if they don’t like you.

19. I was once told that I am allowed to question store processes but not challenge them. Still not clear on what the difference is.

20. It is completely up to one managers sole discretion on whether they hire you back, transfer you or how they discuss you to another store. And they’ll smile at you regardless of whether they give you a bad reference or not. Although, usually they don’t get back to you at all if they don’t like you.

21. Lululemon will do almost anything for their customers. You are also more likely to get what you want if you’re rude as opposed to nice because we have to say yes whenever the customer gets openly upset. It costs the company more to say no initially in the store and deal with a store complaint at the head office than to just say yes. Nevermind the fact that this customer just screamed at you for 15 minutes for no reason other than the fact that they missed their Starbucks- they get what they want.

22. The clothes are actually really cool. They’re overpriced yes, but most of the time, they’re worth your money. I still love how innovative Lululemon is, despite all the scandal.

23. They will pullback product based on quality issues. But then they’ll send the same item to stores 3 months later on a different name. It could be an innocent mistake but I am not so sure.

24. Employees workout at store meetings — it’s really amazing.  Lululemon is ahead of the curve when it comes recognizing how important and related health is to the workplace.

25. Funnily enough, looks aren’t a huge deal once you get hired. I was never asked to put on makeup or do my hair once I worked at Lululemon. They’ll hire less attractive people if they have amazing personalites. It’s not as superficial as everyone thinks. Most of the time, if you feel great and act happy, they don’t hold it against you if you gain weight.

26. While I worked at Lululemon, the majority of my store was unhappy. They complained constantly and then put smiles on as soon as a manager walked up to them. If you’re sensitive and feel empathy, it’s a really hard place to work.

27. No matter how many free workouts you get, if your boss is a bitch, you’ll come home crying everyday anyways.

28. For a lot of people, it is what you make of it. The people who had been working with the company for years never ceased to amaze me in their positivity and nonchalance. It was beaten out of me 6 months in — however, we can all learn something from that attitude. TC Mark

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