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If the way to a mans heart really is through his stomach then the way to a woman's must be through her beauty products! But if - like me - the idea of visiting a shop like Lush feels too demasculinising then help is at hand in the form of Lush Times Online, or as it is more commonly known www.lush.co.uk. Now we blokes can show our caring sharing side without leaving the computer save for grabbing a credit card, and if any ladies find they are too far away from a Lush shop this is the ideal way to keep your stock of favourite bath ballistics and bubble bars high. Typing in the website address takes you to a simple looking but informative front-page from where all manner of options are available, from gift ideas and special offers to products, find out more and quick order.
♦ Products ♦
Running the mouse cursor over the products tab reveals a drop down menu giving a page each for New Products, Bath Ballistics, Bubble Bar Slices, Soaps, Skincare, Close Up, Fresh, Gifts, Bath & Shower, Hair Care, Massage Bars, Hair Colour and Fragrances. Pages load instantaneously on a broadband connection and each consists of a description of the product and its effects on the mind, body or soul. All of the products are accompanied by a clear picture as well as the price. Clicking on any products picture brings up a page offering a far more detailed description together with a complete ingredient list, the weight of the product in grams and advice on what specifically the product can help with. For example, those looking for a Bath Bar or Ballistic to invigorate and enliven will find that information easily and thus won't inadvertently by an item designed to aid sleep! If a product appeals it is a simple matter of pushing the Add to Basket button and then either continuing to browse the site or pushing the Checkout button. It is worth noting that Fresh ingredients (those made to order) can only be delivered to the United Kingdom.
♦ Quick Order ♦
If you are a seasoned Lush-ite and know the products required without having to look for them then the Quick Order tab is a godsend. Clicking this button delivers a very large page listing every Lush product alphabetically in a table with prices. It is then simply a matter of entering the quantity of each item required and hitting the add to basket at the base of the list. There are also buttons to reset the table as well as one called preview so checks can be made if you wish to stay within a fixed budget.
♦ Specials & Gifts ♦
These two sections provide all manner of gifts and goodies for that special day or person. Four different wedding favours box are available as well as the imaginatively titled "Dude box" for ushers and attendants, and a range of corporate gifts are available with prices starting from as little as £3 per person. If you just want that individual package for that special someone to look good then clicking on the Gifts tab is a must, this page offers a plethora of box-sets and goodie bags designed to suit budgets from £2 to £100. At the bottom of this page is a tiny link to click if you want any of your purchases gift wrapped, for an extra £3.50 whatever you have bought will be ensconced in pastel paper and bedecked with a suitably matching ribbon.
♦ Find Out More ♦
Find Out More is the tab to click if you wish to know a little of what goes on behind the scenes at Lush. Everything from Lush's testing policy (they are firmly against cosmetics being tested on animals) through pregnancy advice with regards the use of there products is covered here. There is also an option to join the Lush mailing list as well as interesting pages on the history of the company and offline shop locations both in the United Kingdom and abroad. Finally there is a Contact us section where consumers are invited to get in touch via email, telephone or fax.
♦ Visiting the Checkout ♦
Once you have a bulging virtual shopping basket there comes a time when it has to be paid for. Clicking the basket icon brings up the list of the items you wish to purchase so that final checks and alterations can be made. Once happy that all is in order the Cashier button takes you to a standard looking page on which name and address details need to be entered, a good point here is that you can enter the person who is going to pay for the goods in one box and the person who you want to receive the goods in another, that way the invoice goes to the payee and a gift unburdened with paperwork wings it's way to that special someone. Towards the bottom of this page is a box to enter a personalised message should you wish, this will be printed onto a small white card with the Lush logo. Once this page is navigated successfully you are taken to a secure page where most major credit and debit cards are accepted, entering your card details and submitting them concludes the ordering process save for a page giving you a unique reference number for your order - save or print this page in case there is a problem with your order.
♦ Postage, Packaging & Delivery ♦
Postage and Packaging is charged at £3.95 for normal delivery or £5.95 for next day delivery if the order is placed by 1pm. Unless the gift wrapping option was selected the order will arrive in a brown box sealed well with Lush emblazoned masking tape, once you manage to get through that obstacle you will find the box well packed with shredded newspaper with the goods ordered nestled protectively within. Most of the products that don't come in tubs and bottles are encased in a plastic wrapping for extra protection and to eliminate cross contamination - nobody wants their cheeky little monkey bubble bath bar to pick up the sent of a sex bomb ballistic now do they!
♦ Returns & Customer Service ♦
Sadly, I had cause to complain to Lush just a couple of weeks ago - they had delivered the wrong parcel to the lady I love. Sending an email to the address provided was a waste of time, I was emailed back to be informed there would be little chance of my email being read as the company were inundated with orders following some new product lines, (Makes me wonder why when sending that email they couldn't of just read mine and sorted the problem there and then!) A couple of unsuccessful phone calls later I finally made contact with a human being and explained the problem, the operative was very helpful and apologised numerous times for the mistake. A new Parcel was despatched and that arrived safe and sound the next day, however a courier was also instructed to pick up the wrongly delivered parcel which has not happened to date.
♦ My Thoughts ♦
Well, Lush online is an easy to navigate website that loads quickly and has just the right combination of text, pictures and useful information. Some of the products look good enough to eat and the inclusion of ingredient and usage information is a boon. There are a couple of niggling issues which although don't affect the overall use of the site too much could be improved to make ordering easier. Firstly, if you wish to order more than one of a particular product you have to click on said product to add one every time, this can be avoided if using the quick order page or going to the online shopping basket but it would be far easier to be able to add the quantity required on the products page. I also feel that some sort of free postage incentive should be offered when a certain price threshold is passed, no such offer is currently available and I feel that it would show those placing larger orders that Lush recognises and rewards that fact. Finally I could not believe that there is no way to buy an online Lush gift voucher - this would make life so much easier and prove to be a charming present, and then the person who actually wants the Lush products can choose for themselves. These small points mean that I award Lush online four stars out of five, it is still by far the best way for us lads to buy beauty products and can only add up to numerous brownie points from those that matter.
Pictures of lush.co.uk
The Bath Ballistics Product Page - Clicking each product brings up a more detailed explanation