The latest turn of events in the Lululemon PR crisis indicate that the “pantsgate” scandal is not yet “behind” the company. After issuing a recall on their too-sheer yoga pants earlier this week, a disconnect may be emerging between Lululemon Athletica’s corporate damage control efforts and its stores.
According to customer complaints on social media and fan sites, sales associates have allegedly demanded that patrons put on their Lululemon pants and bend over to prove that the pants are see-through enough to warrant a refund.
If the recent accusations are true, then the company is throwing gas on the Lululemon PR scandal fire rather than stomping it out. The company pledged to issue full refunds to its devoted customers so that is exactly what they should do. It there is any truth to the accusation that the company is subjecting its customers to demeaning abuse then it will only serve to do further damage to the already tainted image of Lululemon.
When asked why Lululemon didn’t implement quality control tests on the product to avoid such a problem in the first place, Chief Executive Christine Day provided this somewhat humorous answer:
“The truth of the matter is, the only way that you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over,” said Day. “So just putting the pants on themselves doesn’t solve the problem. Because it passed all of the basic metric tests and the hand feel is relatively the same. So it was very difficult for the factories to isolate the issue and it wasn’t until we got in the store and started putting it on people that we could actually see the issue.”
While the company took quick action to manage the initial Lululemon reputation challenge, Lululemon’s crisis PR efforts should be aimed at making sure that the company is perceived as bending over backwards for their customers, as opposed to asking their customers to bend over.