A short rant about the casually sexist sales assistant in Lush

Now before I start, I just want to say that I have nothing against Lush as a company or shop (apart from from the smell obvs). I don’t want people missing the point and saying on Facebook that I don’t appreciate how much care goes into the products or anything. I mention the shop by name for context. That is all.

Lush bath bombs, sexist

Bath bombs for atmosphere

So. We were in Lush at the weekend, (which you’ve probably gathered by now.) It was me, my fiancé and Belle. Belle likes to go in and rub things on her hands and then make us look at them/sniff them/stroke specific patches to feel how soft they are. I was already a little out of sorts, as the smell was making me want to throw up in the jute shopping bag I was carrying, (like the good middle aged, middle class woman I am.)

We were approached by a suitably effervescent young man, offering to help us, should we need any assistance rubbing things on and off our hands.

“Do you need any help with anything?” he asked fiancé, as I was busy sniffing Belle.

“No, I’m fine thanks,” said fiancé.

“I see,” said the shop assistant, chuckling to himself, “you’re just here to carry the bags and pay!”

I bristled.

Fiancé saw me bristle.

Shop assistant chuckled again, oblivious to the bristle.

“Smell my hand!’ said Belle.

Am I being unreasonable to be offended by this? I know he was just making conversation, but it’s almost the casualness of statements like this that offend me so much. Firstly of course there’s the massive casual assumption that just because I’m a woman, I won’t be earning enough to pay for my own shopping, and that I need a man to do that for me. Secondly, I find it insulting on fiancé’s behalf, that as a man, all he’s good for is opening his wallet and carrying my shopping. Heaven forbid we should be out together as a family because we enjoy each other’s company. Shock horror!

And this guy was young – whatever happened to the enlightened youth, challenging the old way? What does he imagine our family set up looks like? Am I at home during the week, scrubbing pots and ironing shirts to earn my treats at the weekend? Or am I being a dick even getting worked up about it?

We left soon after, but I couldn’t shake the agitation. As we walked home I wondered – will there ever come a time when these gender stereotypes will disappear, or should I accept it as friendly banter and move on?

“Feel my hand,” said Belle, bringing me out of my internal debate, “isn’t it soft?”

“Yes darling, yes it is.”

Image – Peartree / Shutterstock.com



  1. 19 September, 2016 / 10:22 am

    Yeah this would piss me off completely and well done for staying chill as i might have been more likely to throw a snide comment that way. I went mad at someone at the weekend when in conversation about a friends partner when asked about potential wedding bells, they said oh has she been making some sounds then?! What like some animal barking to alert the want of commitment. hell no. Oh and don’t get me started when we were looking at a cars howroom and they turned to my OH and said i bet next you’ll be getting your wife one too then hehe…erm no eff off i’ll buy my own thanks! You get angry lovely. sometimes people just don’t really think through there comments

    • Jo Middleton
      19 September, 2016 / 11:47 am

      But all woman are waiting to pounce on men and steal their sperm and tie them into marriage aren’t they?! Haha! I’m picturing you now – I wouldn’t mess with you Lori ;-)

    • Stacey
      21 September, 2016 / 6:25 pm

      Cut him some slack he works in retail and deals with difficult people every day and part of his performance is probably measured on customer service, He was just trying to interact no matter how clumsy.

  2. 19 September, 2016 / 11:04 am

    It’s probably not how he really is. I’ve heard the same shopping with my kids and their doing all the looking and I’m just observing. Though now that I think about it, I’ve never had the comment or such when hubs is with. You can feel insulted. Perhaps stores need to update their floor banter.

    • Jo Middleton
      19 September, 2016 / 11:48 am

      Yeah with parents/kids I think it’s fair enough, because kids don’t have any money, but it felt like a weird thing to say to a couple. You’re probably right though, he just needs better banter!

  3. 19 September, 2016 / 11:53 am

    Yes, you’re being unreasonable.

    If you have to look for somewhere to be offended, you are living a very charmed life indeed.

    • Jo Middleton
      19 September, 2016 / 12:05 pm

      I didn’t go out of my way to look for it Kelly, and I’m pretty laid back about most things, but it did hit a nerve.

    • 12 January, 2017 / 11:45 am

      I actually agree with Kelly MD here. Too many people are looking or waiting to be offended and take too much that is said out of context. It’s really not looking good for the future as this is now very common.
      My advice would be take it easy darlin’ , chill out babe or something like that. OK love?
      That’s better. LOL

  4. 19 September, 2016 / 12:25 pm

    I think he was trying to be friendly, my dh waits outside Lush he just wouldnt go in. We had a very camp male assistant telling us about only having a shower so he couldnt use the bath bombs, myself and dd had a laugh and left! Its a bit of banter so you will be happy in the store and buy things I wouldnt get offended!!

    • Jo Middleton
      19 September, 2016 / 12:27 pm

      Well that’s the thing Sandra, I’m sure he was trying to friendly and didn’t mean anything by it at all, which is kind of why it’s a bit weird!

  5. 19 September, 2016 / 12:40 pm

    No I would have bristled too. I’ll never forget bumping into one of the school run dads one morning when Greig and I were sharing a train into Leeds. ‘Where are you two off to?’ he asked? Greig replied he was on his way into the office and before I could add that I was on my way to a meeting, the guy laughed, ” oh don’t tell me, he’s off to earn it and you’re off to spend it!” Ha ha! how funny!!! Of course, I’ve got nothing better to do with my time but shop. And because I’m around for the school run, I couldn’t possibly be working from home the rest of the time, earning my own money to spend on what i wish, should I actually be going shopping (which would be fine also). I got really angry/upset about it at the time and though Greig sympathised I don’t think men will ever truly get it or know how it feels to be patronised in this way.

    • Claire
      22 September, 2016 / 2:39 pm

      Oh god, I had a similar thing when I was dropping my daughter off at nursery the other day. A dad in a suit was dropping his kids off at the same time, must have noticed that I was distinctly NOT dressed for the office, and said “Ahh, Mummy’s going home to put her feet up this morning then?” Errrm no, I work from home on Mondays thank you – I’ll be doing half a day’s work this morning while she’s at nursery, and the other half this evening after my husband gets home! He didn’t say it maliciously or anything, he was just trying to be friendly, and of course if I was a SAHM going home to relax for a bit there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that! It just bugs me when people assume!

  6. 19 September, 2016 / 1:28 pm

    Casual sexism is the worst because it’s kind of hard to get cross about in the heat of the moment – i.e. it’s not meant as an insult and the guy who said it probably didn’t give it a second thought. Which is worrying. I find myself getting more irrate by these kinds of comments as my girls get older.

  7. 19 September, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    Oh that would definitely wind me up too!! I get the “making conversation” but he could have said so many other things instead!

  8. 19 September, 2016 / 2:14 pm

    Ugh! I would have been just as horrified. As Molly says, casual sexism is the most dangerous and anyone who brushes it off as ‘banter’ or ‘shop floor chit chat’ is massively missing the point.
    I was once in M&S with my (then 4 yo) daughter and an old lady walked past, paused and said “Aren’t you beautiful? Your mummy must be so proud!” and it was all I could do to not say “Well actually, I’m proud of her because she is confident and ambitious and funny, not because of how she looks” – there’s no way she would have said the same to a little boy. You can kind of excuse it from someone older, but a young chap? Ugh.

  9. Tracy
    19 September, 2016 / 7:29 pm

    I am sure the shop assistant couldn’t give a stuff about who was paying really he was just trying to be friendly and said the first thing that came to his head . I think you really need to stop over thinking and and leave the poor boy alone!!

  10. Michymoo
    19 September, 2016 / 8:06 pm

    I think that it was a bit banter and who cares how you earn money or don’t. It was probably, when you sit over thinking it, sexist, but at end of day just banter. I am sure there are many remarks that you have made in the course of a lifetime, and possibly in a blog, that have offended or alienated someone unintentionally but that person likely didn’t even bother to write in their “dear diary” about it as not everyone thinks the world must think of them before opening their mouth or obtain background info on how exactly they spend their day.. be it enjoying each others company or otherwise.

  11. anne wallwin
    19 September, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    It would have narked me too!

  12. 19 September, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    I must admit I probably wouldn’t have been offended by this and I would have seen it as a joke, I have had people say the same to my husband actually. But when I think about it I guess deep down, it is fair enough to have been wound up about it. There are so many assumptions with his statement- I can see why it hit a nerve completely. I am sure there was nothing meant by it but there are so many other things he could have said to casually make conversation. xx

  13. Deborah Mackenzie
    19 September, 2016 / 9:02 pm

    How did you not say anything to this very ignorant and sexist young man.
    I would find it very insulting and even in the text of ‘making conversation’ it is just plain WRONG!

  14. 19 September, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    It won’t have been badly intended but that’s the point: this stuff is too deeply ingrained in our culture. The other one that gets me is when we meet someone new and they ask my OH what he does and don’t ask me anything. It’s not intended to be sexist but that doesn’t mean it isn’t.

  15. claire sen
    19 September, 2016 / 9:34 pm

    My husband goes there himself ‘for a treat’ sometimes while I hold the bags by the door. (The smell is too overpowering and I need to stay near fresh air!) I imagine that would really confuse the sales assistant you got if he saw that role reversal. You’re not unreasonable at all to be annoyed, I would be too.
    I was also in my local branch at the weekend with my daughter who’s only 5 and the male assistant asked if we fancied checking out their new product called ‘french kiss’. Now, having just got back from france and my daughter being overly excited about anything french, I’ve been asked many times what a french kiss is since saturday. I’ve so far managed getting away with faking not hearing her!

  16. lisbeth
    19 September, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    Oh god this is where I say things like: “No dear, he’s just here because he’s good at oral sex” and look away in an uninterested fashion. This really embarrasses everyone of course… :/

  17. Jacqui Roberts
    20 September, 2016 / 5:29 am

    Poor lad had an attack of verbal diarrhoea,I imagine his boss has told him to approach customers even stuck up ones, He probably hates his job anyway without someone getting offended at his banter. I feel overcome by fumes just walking by this shop (makes me speak in tongues) imagine having to work there, and having to converse when you’re at that most awkward stage in your life. Next time just say oi cheeky and tell him instead of moaning about it behind your keyboard.

  18. Lisa Dolson
    20 September, 2016 / 9:58 am

    I would have called him on it and said, excuse me? I think i am capable of buying my own treats thank you, and also,…how heavy can a bath bomb be that I need someone to carry it for me….seriously…I think my fair, conditioned, fresh hands could handle it. :-) Then he will know in future to think before he tries his sales patter.

    • Jane
      4 February, 2017 / 6:05 pm

      Yes absolutely . To be fair he probably couldn’t think.of anything else to say and made a clumsy joke. He probably works an 8 hour day trying to be cheerful and relate to all his customers of all ages/backgrounds and runs out of banter! X

  19. 20 September, 2016 / 10:41 am

    I totally feel you with this! Why is it still okay to generalise that woman are not self sufficient in terms of finance, in fact why should it even be thought for a moment we can’t be the main bread winners? I do suspect he was only young and perhaps making conversation but still. Like you said what happened to the youth being forward thinking!

    Laura x

  20. Claire
    20 September, 2016 / 11:02 am

    Yeah, I think this would have irritated me too. It reminds me of a sign I saw outside our local hairdressers the other day – jokingly advertising the hairdressers as a “wife creche” where men can drop off their partners for the day, leaving them free to play golf or go to the pub. Because obviously that’s what ALL men do on a Saturday, while ALL women want to spend the day getting their hair done. I know they’re just trying to be a bit funny and quirky and do something different from their usual advertising but the stereotypes are SO outdated!

  21. 20 September, 2016 / 11:13 pm

    Casual sexism winds me up no end. (Along with incompetence and technology not working)

  22. Karen Taylor
    21 September, 2016 / 7:34 am

    I think you may be being a little over sensitive and defensive tbh. It was just a rubbish throwaway comment to make conversation, and the financial situation of your family will probably not have crossed his mind. Plus, was your fiancé holding the bags?
    Working in lush is hardly what some may consider a ‘masculine’ job so I doubt he’s some sexist monster.
    I think we’re all to quick to get offended by things these days.

  23. Emma
    21 September, 2016 / 2:45 pm

    Why do you even care what people say that don’t even figure in your life. To be honest i couldnt care less if he’d hurled abuse at me…i dont know him and he doesn’t matter to me. Wolves dont lose sleep over the opinions of sheep

  24. Peggy
    21 September, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    Not sure how u stayed calm… my partner and I run a pub. We had an issue in the cellar which I was fixing.. obnoxious male customer told me I had better get ‘hubbie to come fix it’ lol I ripped him a new arse hole for being a chauvinist before fixing the problem myself.

  25. Martha
    21 September, 2016 / 8:30 pm

    If it upset you enough to blog about it and upset you enough to name the shop, even if it was just for context, then TELL THEM. As a company Lush are sooooooo pro equality in every sense; man, woman, animal, human. If they knew you had left a store feeling this way they would be genuinely sad!! Whichever shop you went to will likely have their own facebook page or email customer services. And no i dont work for them, i just love their products and their ethos as a company. DO IT!!!

  26. Leila
    21 September, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    Two things
    1. During the Brexit vote build up my MP wrote to my husband to ask him to vote a certain way, Presumably my vote was immaterial or to be decided by my husband
    2. Our financial advisor called my husband about a remortgage. He told him to call me as I sort out that stuff, he still hasn’t called. Presumably only men make household finance decisions and such people don’t know how to speak to women.

    • Leila
      21 September, 2016 / 9:24 pm

      No you are not being over sensitive

  27. Leila
    21 September, 2016 / 9:27 pm

    Latent sexism is not ok, it reinforces the subconscious expectations of our children. I’ll stop now xx

  28. 22 September, 2016 / 7:41 am

    my husband has this theory, that people say the most banal and stupid things when they are simply grasping for conversation filler. This doesn’t mitigate the subject matter of course, just the circumstances for the young, inexperienced, man.

    I’m more impressed you were in there in the first place. It stinks.

  29. Maz
    22 September, 2016 / 3:20 pm

    This is exactly the kind of attitude that made me hate working in retail. I love people but unfortunately too many people walk around shops with huge chips on their shoulders, little respect for retail workers and seem to be waiting like coiled springs for any reason to launch an attack. That young man probably didn’t want to speak to you at all. And the smell probably makes him feel sick too. But it’s his job and he was just trying to be friendly. Have you considered shopping online in future? I think you should.

  30. Andi
    22 September, 2016 / 5:42 pm

    You need to get a grip. This poor lad probably thought he was being friendly and chatty. I think if we spend our lives looking for things to be offended by we’re going to have very miserable lives.

  31. 26 September, 2016 / 12:29 pm

    I hate stuff like this, I always awkward laugh and then feel annoyed about it for the rest of my day. I’d be annoyed too. I had a boyfriend who used to really play up to that role like ‘rolling his eyes commenting on my purchases like he was paying for them’ and joking with the sales assistants..depsite the face it was my money, SO WEIRD! x

    17 October, 2016 / 7:12 am

    Get over yourself. Flippant comments are just that.

  33. Suzanne
    26 October, 2016 / 7:27 am

    I would have commented. Fairly light but pointed. I think these things need to be challenged. Surprised how many people disagree. I grew up with my mum taking time to complain to companies who didn’t include her name on joint accounts/letters/cards so guess it has always been the norm for me. If someone makes a comment about their circumstances then I might laugh along (eg. Taking the Missus out shopping) but any presumptions about me and my circumstances get quickly corrected. Just like ‘oh you’re a working mum. Presume that means you work part time?’

  34. 12 January, 2017 / 12:00 pm

    Well. Where to start. First of all you say at the start of the rant that it is not specifically to do with Lush. Unfortunately it is. Really. I would never go in there for two reasons. I think it stinks and I think it is shit. Why does any man want to go in there? I cannot think of a good reason. I wouldn’t say that your fiancé was asking for such a comment or even trying to justify the sales assistant’s comment but it just wouldn’t have happened had he stayed out of the shop like any normal man. I think most men could have a good old rant about Lush so it really is as much about that particular shop as anything.
    “Casual” sexism? Muck fe!! (spoonerism). I must be missing something. Just laugh at things a little more. Rant as well of course from time to time but try not to go out looking for “isms”…
    Love this Rants section by the way. Absolutely love it. In fact it has inspired me to do something similar. The problem is where would I stop? LOL.

  35. 18 January, 2017 / 6:48 am

    You mean you don’t spend you time washing pots and pans and being taken out at weekend for treats? Describes my life. Okay, so it doesn’t. And no, that kind of language isn’t acceptable.

  36. 6 February, 2017 / 10:05 pm

    Shop.assistant would have learned the hard way if it has been me and the hubby cuz the only 1 paying would have been me lol. He would have been surprised that the real life scrooge walked in haha xx and yes ur right to b offended. What a dark age excuse for a man!!

  37. 12 June, 2017 / 12:59 am

    I’m with you on this one but would be tempted to order my fiance outside as if talking to staff; Nothing in here is worth my notice, Jeeves let’s go.

  38. 6 July, 2017 / 1:22 pm

    I think there’s a slight overreaction here. I wonder if you would laugh at Michael McIntyre having a routine about a “man-drawer” or when females refer to Man flu as a thing. Lee Evans had a routine about men holding the shopping and sitting in the chair of bewilderment outside women’s changing rooms and we all know we’ve seen those men and there’s a basis in truth. To be fair the vast majority men out shopping with a woman, particularly in a shop targeted primarily at the female market are not there by choice and yes in a fair many cases they are holding the bags. My husband is in a wheelchair and I usually leave the bags over the back of the chair! I think there are greater things in this world to worry about. It’s a good point for discussion though.

  39. Paula Powell
    3 December, 2017 / 7:36 am

    It must be worse for women in the USA, as I’ve noticed men there spend a lot of time on the internet whining on about women. Like those ones who claim they don’t want women, but instead of leaving women alone to have hero gentlemen types that women prefer, they spend their time trying to make women feel bad about themselve

  40. 16 February, 2018 / 1:19 pm

    Almost every experience I have had in LUSH has been awkward, their sales technique is to be overly familiar to the point of no freaking boundaries whatsoever, probably why I rarely shop there anymore! The last time the guy would not let go of my hand after doing the hand massage and it was actually creepy. You are not being oversensitive at all imo, that kind of comment is super outdated, sexist, and probably bizarrely works on some people, like my in laws, not that they would ever go in LUSH!

    • Jo Middleton
      16 February, 2018 / 3:16 pm

      I was in there again today actually and found it so intrusive! Two separate women asked me if I was shopping for myself or for a gift, and was I treating myself, and did I have much more shopping to do – all those awkward things where you want to just say ‘none of your damn business!’

      • 16 February, 2018 / 3:51 pm

        Ugh! Mind your own business is right! :-0 I have noticed in general shop assistants are asking how is your day what are you up to now etc. more and more lately and I find it SO awkward! I know it’s their training but it has gotten way too Americanized (I say this as an American who has lived in the U.K. a long time! ;-0)

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