May 052015

After my recent review of an atrocious Lovehoney product, the Rockbox Finger, quite a few people exclaimed “Oh! That was the pumpkin-knife design!” so I knew I had to watch the short series on Netflix. While I watched I took notes of my reactions to various things. All episodes have one or two situations they’re dealing with but heavily pad the footage by showing the customer service gals on the phone or checking in with the returns department. 

Frisky Business, Episode 1: 

Well, it’s 3 minutes into the first episode and I’ve already spied more porous sex toys than I ever care to see for a lifetime. Sadface! Seeing the Sqweel in “action” for the first time; it looks fucking terrifying. A warp-speed wheel of slapping little tongues? How does that simulate actual oral sex?

We’re introduced to the returns department! Wow. “Upwards of 200 products are returned every day”. We’re shown the things people are returning. Roy seems like he’d be awesome to work with. 

This is interesting – If a box of toys comes in and it’s ripped (the packaging? the shipping box? they’re not clear) then the contents get gathered up and the staff gets to take home whatever they want. Rejects from the staff box that have hung around a few weeks get taken to a local charity shop. As they are saying this, the camera pans to a bunch of pocket pussies. That would be a damn interesting thrift store. 

HERE IT IS! THE FINGER! Oh my god. They weren’t kidding. The inventor basically stuck a Wet For Her brand Two Finger Extender Sleeve on a pumpkin carving blade. Lovehoney Owner Neal is shown numerous times taking it around to female employees to get their opinion. Somehow, the prototype seems to be less noisy than the real version. Many ladies say that it seems like they’re on the right track, with some changes. Some say that it’s a bit much at first; Neal tells them confidently that “it’ll be adjustable so you can start slowly”. I guess that bit of logic was trashed!

Next they show former Lelo founder Eric Kalen looking at the design, and it’s a second, more refined prototype. Every valid suggestion that the ladies in the office give is shot down for design reasons. At this point, the button isn’t on the very end like the final design, but close to it. One gal shows how she would hold it and says that the button would do better if it were closer to the insertable part, but Eric shows that there’s 4 batteries and clearly, no room for a well-thought-out button placement. Several people, even Neal, raise the point about the extreme noise being a negative to which Eric replies that it’s “part of the experience”. Shade is thrown, side-eyes are flying. It really seems that the final product is so much worse than even the prototypes.

Nobody discussed the pinching factor on camera, and it almost seems like it’s less of an issue with the prototypes. The battery cap on the prototypes is different, and seems to be easy to use. So with all the talk about “yes, we’ll change that” and whatnot, I can actually see why people would pre-order this atrocity after seeing the show. It is absolutely shameful that the final product made it out the door as it is. 

Frisky Business, Episode 2:

We see a lot of Annabelle Knight, their product video review personality, in this episode. There’s a part where she’s showing off half a dozen or so low-quality, porous dildos. They’re prepping to do demonstration videos for them. Annabelle says that she normally does video for the luxury toys but is branching out. The look of despair tinged with what I imagine to be disgust and resignation, as she looks at the small pile of disgusting dildos really tells me all I need to know. I like her. 

Also in this episode they are choosing the winner of the latest Design competition. During the final round-table meeting, we are introduced to Eric Kalen again and Tracey Cox a “sexpert” who has her own line of sex toys via Lovehoney. During the description of a toy that is meant for the g-spot she is explaining what it’s meant to do, to the camera, and then says “IF the g-spot even exists”. 


Frisky Business, Episode 3:

Nothing special to note, really. A trade show, some Betty Page stuff. More customer service and returns dept peeks which is clearly how every episode will go.  I’m wondering how I’ll get through all 6 episodes. My desire to watch is flagging.

Frisk Business, Episode 4:

We get to see them setting up Lovehoney Australia. In order to see how they should market, I guess, there have been polls on what each region of Australia likes. Results for Brisbane – Anal Ease. Anal Ease?!?! REALLY???? Nooooo please no! Australia, just say no to Anal Ease!!

Frisky Business, Episode 5:

Coco de Mer – I somehow had no idea the two were related! Coco de Mer is their “upscale” boutique shop in the heart of London, looks like. They only carry the luxury toys; they definitely carry all of the overpriced Lelo Special Edition toys. Here one of the shop runners is showing Shiri Zinn glass dildos and talking about temperature play – they suggest putting it in the microwave. Um……no. Absolutely not. For one, that’s dangerous to the user and for two, these Shiri Zinn dildos are the silly ones with rhinestones and metal glued to them. She may have also recommended the freezer for the cold aspect, I’m not sure. I was too horrified by the microwave comment to pay attention anymore.

And another “high end” spin-off of Lovehoney is their Blue Bella home parties – basically they sell lingerie for skinny white women. No lie, there is not a single POC in their photographs. They claim to carry sizes up to 26, but when you click on 26 or 24 or even 22 you get a big ole “there’s nothing here” page. Erm. Absolutely no real plus-size options. You might find a few things that would fit US Size 16, but it’s primarily just a couple of pairs of panties.  

Frisky Business, Episode 6:

My interest is really at the bottom rung about now, since each episode has been very padded with returns department moments and customer service department moments. Every close-up shot they show in the warehouse is a cheap, porous item. Most of the returns are cheap, porous items. I’m just so sick of seeing cheap, porous toys!!! Ugh. They are talking about how they have to rename very crude products like Pipedreams “Fuck Me Silly”; well, here’s a thought: don’t fucking list this shit? They claimed to have come about as a company specifically “friendly to women” yet they carry sexist/racist products like this Pipedream line.

New Trend discussed: “Sex toys for men are on the rise”. Ha. Punny.

Final Thoughts?

Despite the fact that the episodes started to bore me after awhile, I enjoyed the behind the scenes look, overall. It reminds me that I could never actually work in a warehouse like Lovehoney because I wouldn’t be able to tolerate seeing all the manky, porous sex toys in droves. And overall, the people there mostly seem damn cool – they seem like people I’d like to work with and know. Besides seeing the tons of porous, gross toys the other thing that concerned me is their famed 1-year return policy – I’m not keen on the specifics of their return program. Unless I missed it, they never explain what their criteria are for deciding if something was used or not.  I saw many items trashed, but also a few were determined “unused” and put back on the stock shelves. I would feel better knowing the exact criteria used because honestly, if I clean something well and the packaging isn’t tamper-proof I think it could look new & unused. 

 Posted by at 2:17 pm

  11 Responses to “Frisky Business – A Look Behind the Scenes at Lovehoney UK”

  1. I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes, after the first documentary from a few years back, which was a hit, I thought this series would be just as good but I think it peaked with the documentary.

    LH stock all sorts but their returns policy is pretty much the best going about!

    They produced the 50 shades line, aired tracey cox etc, so they are the money runners. In 2010 they were very customer focused but over the past year, it’s more like they lay it all bare to get you in and once there, they aren’t bothered. If that makes sense?

    LH are ‘ok’ for me, not the best UK sex toy retailer about,

  2. Which is the best retailer in your opinion for the UK?

  3. For non – porous, I would say mimi de luxe. But as an over all, I think I would have to say They have retail stores all over the UK as well as their online store, then it would be Bondara as a runner up.

  4. While I now take a lot of issue with a lot of Lovehoney’s practices, I do think they have served a useful function for the “sex toy buying public.” I ADORED Lovehoney when I was first getting serious about shopping for sex toys, mostly thanks to their wide variety in stock, detailed product descriptions, appealing (although not necessarily “good” considering the products) sales and offers, and most importantly, reviews. Yes, they do have a tendency to put the good reviews on the front page with all the negative ones buried deep, but on-site sex toy reviews involving any sort of thought or useful information is still kind of a rarity, and to the uninformed shopper, it’s nice to be able to immediately write off a toy on the product page itself, instead of having to hunt for reviews on other sites.

    However, I think the thing that Lovehoney does best for the sex toy market is providing a simple and convenient avenue to introduce people to sex toys. Lovehoney very clearly (despite carrying a few “luxury” toys) is set up with the goal of letting curious customers try out a variety of different things at a low cost/risk (ignoring the health risks associated with porous and otherwise nasty toys of course). The most obvious sign of this is their “3 for $___” offer that they are running constantly. Ignoring the “you get what you pay for” quality of these offers, the variety alone is something to be commended, as it encourages customers to branch out and try something new. For example, someone might at first just go looking for a masturbation sleeve and a cock ring, but when they can add a butt plug for only $5 more, making that mental leap can be much easier than if one would have to seek out and purchase that item specifically.

    But then comes the issue of returns. Obviously there is a lot of debate around where to draw the line, especially if you take the materials into consideration, but in general I have never been a fan of “absolutely no returns” policies for any product. But whether or not the returned items can/should be resold is not the issue here. Instead, I feel like having a return policy at all (and such a flexible/extensive one) is really commendable, for the same reasons I mentioned above where it reduces the “risk” involved with purchasing a sex toy. While it baffles me beyond belief, apparently a huge portion of the sex toy market is people buying toys as a surprise for a partner/spouse or close friend, and obviously there’s a huge gamble there that you might end up buying something that the other person has no interest in at all. Even when buying for yourself, as a lot of people apparently did from the clips of the returns department in the series, you can misjudge what you would like and under/overestimate the size or amount of power you might need. Since there isn’t really any place or way to reliably/safely sell or donate unused toys (at least for people who aren’t really involved in a community for it), a lot of people probably get stuck with wasting their money on something that will either take up space or go in the trash. This is something really important to consider when there are already so many other social hurdles to get over before getting up the nerve to buy a sex toy.

    That being said, for anything besides a “first time toy,” Lovehoney doesn’t do much right, and what they do, other places (like Shevibe) do them MUCH better. Their prices are reasonable, their site design and layout is alright but not very unique, and while their product descriptions tend to use phrases like “skin-safe rubber” that don’t adequately represent the risks of some product materials, at least they seem to be a lot more accurate about the materials than a lot of other retailers. But all of this is brought down by their absolutely baffling toy-design decisions, likely more to do with the fact that most of the decisions are being made by clearly unqualified (as in not really trained in engineering or design) men who just don’t know any better and are just taking cues from what already exists on the market or what sounds good in theory. The owners are very clearly business men first, sex toy makers second, and while they obviously can run a very successful business, I don’t feel confident that anything with the Lovehoney brand name on it will ever be truly innovative. But if they instead just stick to the basics, I think they do fairly well. I just wish they would be a bit more informative about the safety risks of some of their materials and warn people to not use their $15 jelly dildo for the next 2+ years until it disintegrates into goo inside of them.

  5. Very much agree!! Yes if I’d had the ability to buy from a place like Lovehoney before I became a reviewer, I probably would have had a chance at finding a decent vibrator; instead, I wasted a lot of money on really bad toys and eventually gave up. Of course that WAS 2006 so I can’t imagine there actually was anything decent, but still.

    I really really take issue with their “skin-safe rubber” term, and have told them that, but they won’t change it. I think it’s VERY misleading.

    I don’t think that most LH lines are in fact created by them, but I could be wrong. Example on one episode, they got in this line of BDSM toys and maybe they might have had some input into the design, but I don’t think they created them from scratch but they did come up with a product line name. I don’t know. I do know that there are many Chinese plants that offer brands a catalog to choose basic designs from, and their name gets put on them. that’s about all they do. It’s what the EF-branded items are.

  6. I want to watch this now, but I can’t decide if it would entertain me or just piss me off.

  7. I need to give this series a try. I’m always fascinated to compare my experiences from the days before clean, well-lit sex shops and online stores with those of younger women. I bought my first cheap vibrator from a truly skanky place because it was the only nearby shop. That toy’s safety and quality issues would probably make you break out in hives. ;-)

  8. I think it’s worth a look.

  9. Well, I just had a look at Nice and Naughty’s web site and I’m not impressed – hardly any silicone dildo’s, smaller choice of vibrating butt plugs than LH and the site loads ultra-slowly…

  10. I’ve seen quite a few “Lovehoney” products on other websites under another brand name which convinces me that you are right and they do not actually create (most of) the products. What I love most about LH is the product presentation videos, I find them incredibly helpful. And the huge choice – also in glass, metal, silicone and luxury toys. I really don’t know where HeatherLorall “Lovehoney doesn’t do much right,” comes from… (okay, they are selling a few strange toys – like the Finger – but these are a tiny minority. On the other hand LH are one of the few European retailers of Vixen Creations… That more than makes up for the Finger in my opinion).

  11. I don’t work for Lovehoney, so I don’t know for sure, but I would think that the first indicator for whether an item was used or not was the note enclosed with it. Because as LH state clearly that you are allowed to return used items, there’s no need to lie about whether you’ve tried something out or not. I’m not the only one who feels a moral obligation to tell them exactly what I think is wrong with the item when I return something…
    Whereas the legally required “return within 7 days if unwanted, unused in its original packaging” (yep, that’s EU law – buyers have the right to return mail-order purchases within 7 days) could induce people to try cheating…

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