There is always a proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back; This straw is named Ida. However, the ludicrous bullshit that stems from Lelo continues, and worsens, through the years. Every year I make sure to update this post.
In 2008 when I first started reviewing sex toys, I got to review a couple of Lelo toys pretty early on in my career. Back then, “luxury” vibes were not as prevalent and seemed so….posh. So fancy. So very, very different from the garish, neon dreams of CalExotics and Doc Johnson, at 5-10 times the price. And with a price tag like that, surely they’re better, right?? So I felt let down when I didn’t love my first Lelo toys. They weren’t quite powerful enough for me. But I thought it was my fault. I was the problem, not Lelo. They were trying so hard, you see. And so, I kept making excuses–trying to be objective, and state that just because it wasn’t perfect for me, Ms. Picky Clit-o-Steel, didn’t mean they weren’t great sex toys. After all, I was reading so many other glowing reviews.
I’ve become more jaded as the years pass, this is true. I’ve seen a lot of luxury sex toys come and go. And the opinions I tried to mold into objective statements years ago have lost their luster; they have chipped away like the metallic paint on their Insignia line. I am left with nothing but unapologetic (harsh?) truths. I have replaced my old “trying to hard to be objective” with a tempered balance of honesty and realism.
Let’s run this down, shall we? Abridged version, go:
- Elise – Great size, and a promising two motors that sorta work for me, but the placement of that second motor was a bit odd.
- Mia – Geek-appeal, the first USB rechargeable vibe I’d ever seen, but the vibrations were poor and buzzy. I was bummed.
- Bo cock ring – Neat; for 2008, it was inventive – rechargeable, posh, etc. Vibrations were meh. It wasn’t silicone.
- Gigi – Better than the bird-beak tips most toy makers thought felt nice on a g-spot, but unfortunate button placement combined with a too-short length and mediocre vibrations made for sad bedfellows
- Luna Beads – They actually worked, and remain to be the most intelligent kegel ball system out there
- Isla – They decided to put design over function. The metallic paint on the plastic portion chips off terribly after 6 months to a year of use. At first, Lelo wouldn’t replace them under warranty. Paint chipping off inside my vag seems to be a defect, you know?? Piss poor vibrations and a worthless shape.
- Mona – Good shape, good length, vibrations seemed to be an improvement from all other models but could be more.
- Tor II cock ring – No longer “inventive”, they now make it out of silicone but it’s less stretchy. Too tight for above-average. Better vibrations, though.
- Tiani – Tiani 1st Ed was shit. Sense Motion failed, but then they fixed it. Vibrations were so weak it was pathetic. Internal arm offered nothing.
- Tiani 2nd Ed – Internal arm slightly better, still meh. Vibrations improved, but not Wow. Better for couple’s play (but not sex) than the We-Vibe 3.
- Luna Beads Noir – Total WTF. Better colors, but the whole reason I liked the Luna Beads is negated. There’s no going up in weights gradually, since you only get 2 beads of the higher weight.
- Luna Beads Mini – Also, total WTF fail. The ball is same size as regular Luna Beads, so it doesn’t provide as much sensation in use. They didn’t work at all.
- Smart Wand Medium – Again, the technology failed. SenseTouch was a bomb. Medium was a nice size but the vibrations were infuriatingly bland.
- Smart Wand Large – Technology still shit, but vibrations knocked my socks off. Caveat: Works best with an attachment meant for the Hitachi Magic Wand. Doesn’t hold a charge in between uses very well; others have reported quality issues w the motor
- Ina 2 – Better than the Original Ina in design and vibrations, but somehow still not quite enough to be great for me.
- Mia 2 – Still has design issues, unfortunate button placement/difficult to clean, but vibrations greatly improved. I still prefer my We-Vibe Tango, though.
- Mona 2 – Improved vibrations, still not enough for power queens like me and not on par with Smart Wand Large, but great shape and size.
- Gigi 2 – Better vibrations (still less than Mona 1), but it’s not enough for me.
- Ida – Saw Piph’s review, said NOPE. I’m done. A rotating internal arm, a flat disc that vibrates. My husband’s penis is thicker than average, and my body type won’t work at all with a flat disc. Did they even test this with human genitals?
- At this point, I have to stop listing each sex toy failure out in this bulleted fashion and simply tell you to keep on reading. I’ll talk about the ridiculous products every year as they come out, with an update for each year. Lelo has become a sideshow circus event.
Decline in Quality
I’ve heard rumors from trusted industry people that the quality of Lelo sex toys has drastically dropped over the years. More and more people are returning under warranty. If you were around in ’08, you’d have seen the gradual, subtle decline in packaging to cut back on costs. They cut back on costs of packaging and clearly cut back on costs for materials and workmanship, yet their sex toys keep the ridiculously high price tags. And then, this summer, they raise their wholesale prices. What does that mean for the consumer? Not a lot. You’ll probably not really see much change. The stores won’t want to raise prices, because they need to stay competitive, both with each other and the Lelo direct sale site. It just means that the retailers now make a good bit less from a Lelo toy.
Inconsistent Customer Service
A lot of readers come to me with problems with their Lelo toys, and tell me that they tried to contact Lelo for a warranty exchange, but were ignored or told they couldn’t be helped. I would, each time, take it to social media and get their issues fixed that way. But I shouldn’t have to do that. In my post about Lelo’s metallic paint flaking off, I had readers contacting me who were reading the warranty info and thinking their issues were not covered under warranty. Lelo said that they would honor a warranty replacement; however I did have to mediate between customers and Lelo a few times, when Lelo would just flat-out ignore customer service emails and warranty repair requests.
Since I’ve been working with Lelo, I’ve gone through more “handlers” than I can count. Turnover is normal in these businesses, but this is excessive. In the beginning, the info they would provide to me would be correct and helpful. In the past year, it’s been frustrating and wrong, often. The saga of the Luna Beads cleaning method was the worst of them all. I looked like an ass, but at least I was able to get Lelo to send them new Luna Beads.
In addition to their overpriced vibrators, Lelo also has a small line of way overpriced lingerie. A $400 robe, anyone? They won’t make plus-size options. They just won’t. Their XL is a US 12. If you really want a pair of their overpriced PJ pants, you’ll have to pick the “Men’s” version, because the men can have pants that fit up to a 46″ waist. The men’s robes also go up to XXL. In the land of Lelo, it’s ok to be a husky man, but they only want to cater to thinner femmes. This trend is not unique to Lelo. Not at all. It’s just simply another nail in the coffin.
*New* Patent Trolling
Sarah picked up on this gem while I was on hiatus due to moving house. When Lelo created the Tiani they were violating a patent held by Standard Innovations, makers of the We-Vibe. Standard Innovations sued and eventually won the rights in the US – Lelo cannot sell the Tiani here anymore. So in 2015 Lelo decided to become a patent troll – they bought a patent for “inductive charging” as it relates to “personal massagers”. What’s inductive charging? In short, exactly how the We-Vibe is charged – it simply sits on the cradle, no magnets are involved. Lelo doesn’t make any vibrators that charge this way. They could have, since they created their stupid Wave vibrators after they bought the patent, but they didn’t. Why? That wasn’t their purpose. They didn’t invent this type of charging, that’s for sure. They sought out the original 3rd-party patent owner and bought it from them.
On April 28th, XBIZ reported, “The final decision has cleared the path for LELO to seek monetary compensation from Standard Innovation Corp., as well as all distributors and retailers that sell infringing items.” Standard Innovations fully believes that “LELO’s claims are baseless” and will absolutely continue to fight this drawn-out legal battle which will continue into 2016. The charges were initially filed in 2013, but this wasn’t reported on until April of 2015, as far as I know. Do you know what happens during a multi-year legal battle? A lot of dollars are paid in legal fees. Dollars that could be spent in R&D, developing a new, awesome product (well, if you’re Standard Innovations. If you’re LELO, dollars that could be spent creating the next overpriced gimmick). Between the legal fees of both lawsuits, it’s no wonder the products from both companies are pricey!
As Sarah pointed out, this not only will hurt Standard Innovations (makers of the best goddamn clitoral vibrator on the freaking planet) but retailers AND future innovators and manufacturers – since no one can use inductive charging now without paying Lelo. Of course, Lelo would have to go after them legally and it seems like they’re only interested in attempting to harm Standard Innovations in retaliation. So they’re patent trolls, give no fucks about creating a sex toy that steals someone else’s designs, and have the maturity of your average 9-year-old playground bully.
Wherein I am an Island
You’ll continue to see amazingly positive reviews everywhere about Lelo, but mixed in with a healthy amount of negative reviews. I’m not saying they’re wrong, those positive reviews. The vibrations are strong enough for some women. But these days, there are other options for sex toys made from safe materials that come with a warranty. Options with better workmanship and better vibration, or a lower price point. Nobody is perfect and no one sex toy/sex toy manufacturer will be perfect for every person. I’m just saying that I personally am done. I can’t fully support Lelo anymore. I can’t keep agreeing to try more and more Lelo toys, only to be let down time and again. I can’t get more and more jaded, as I read their copy (which frankly feels like outright lies many times) that promises “intense” vibration or “intense” g-spot stimulation, when it’s truly mediocre at best. Intense. Lelo, you keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means. I KNOW INTENSE. You have missed that mark by a lot, in all cases but one or two.
I’ve been brewing with these thoughts now for months. However I’d managed to still hang on to a little shred of hope…..a hope that was flat out obliterated when I finally heard the full dirt on the Lelo Ida. And for the first time ever, I “reviewed” a sex toy without owning it (perhaps it should be called a commentary OpEd post instead of review) because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I retracted my agreement to review it for Lelo and suddenly in a matter of minutes, a decision I’d been wibbling and wobbling on for ages was made in a snap. Why couldn’t I just keep on reviewing for them, and take the “free” toys? Because I die a little each time, lately. Writing that review for the Gigi 2 was not easy, because I was so fucking over it already. Usually I relish the opportunity to go all OH HELL NO in a review against a bad toy, and I would have with Ida, but frankly the thought just fucking exhausted me. Ain’t nobody, especially me, got time for that shit. I’ve cut back; I want to still largely enjoy what I do, not have the life sucked out of me.
Bottom line: Lelo isn’t worth the price. They’re not worth the hassle of dealing with their promised warranty that they try to wiggle out of. They’re not retailer-friendly. They’re extraordinarily hetero-centric (and they do such a bad job at it, too). If you own a Lelo toy, and you are having problems, of ANY kind, contact them for a warranty replacement. If they ignore your email, take it public– to Facebook and Twitter. They don’t like the bad press, so they’ll help you. I’ll still recommend the Luna Beads, the Mona 2, and maybe even the Mia 2 but with warnings, caveats and presenting other options.
2014: Even Worse than 2013
I didn’t think that Lelo could sink lower than the Ida. It was a dumb fucking idea all around. Then they came out with the Ora, something that claimed to simulate oral sex. It clearly failed because less than 12 months later we have Ora 2. They’ve introduced two more “Beads” that are for the vagina and are largely gimmicks – the Hula, which just rotate oddly and the Smart Bead which you have to squeeze and may not even work as intended for everyone. Naturally. They’ve come out with a $3000 set of Luna Beads, in gold, because hey why the fuck not, right? And then…..then they come out with the Pino cock ring which was marketed exclusively for “bankers”. Only men can be bankers in Lelo’s world. This cock ring comes with a money clip and cuff links, both Lelo branded. Naturally.
2015: The Circus Continues
So far in 2015 we have the Mona and Ina Wave – I’m seeing a few positive reviews but more negative reviews. It’s nowhere near as “intense” and “mind-blowing” as they tried to claim it would be. I fucking hated the Mona Wave with a passion.
The Great Price Hike: It was announced towards the end of 2015 that all Lelo items would see a price hike, some items by as much as $30 or $40. They haven’t raised the quality; they’ve also made life more difficult for their retailers by raising the wholesale price while keeping the prices on their site the same. A number of retailers have complained about shitty treatment by Lelo reps.
24K Gold Plating: Yeah, because that’s just what we need. They took the Lelo Tiani 3 and did 24K goldplating on the remote and the metal band on the vibrator; because the price is so high, they gave a “relationship warranty” of sorts. If you break up within a year of purchasing it, they would replace it with another Lelo item. Except that the retail price of the Tiani 24K is $399 (at first they offered it at 50% off). To add insult to injury: The 24K edition doesn’t even feel any better than the regular Tiani 3. I tried it but couldn’t give enough fucks to write about it.
Scented Vibrators: Because it wasn’t enough to simply increase the intensity of the motor in the Lelo Lily, a flagship vibrator, they had to add a gimmick: Scent. some reported the odors were offensive, many were skeptical, many were uninterested, a few liked it. JUST MAKE A FUCKING VIBRATOR, LELO.
2016: The Year of the Penis
Because “male lingerie” is needed, apparently, in the form of a dry-clean-only silk “penis tuxedo”. It wasn’t a joke, although we sure thought so. In what turned out to be really poor timing, Lelo gave us a sneak peek at their next project for 2016: A condom. They told us about this shortly before April Fool’s Day so a number of people naturally assumed it was a joke – both due to timing and Lelo’s reputation. Sadly it’s not a joke, although it sort of is. They unveiled a latex condom with a honeycomb structure, are doing crowd-funding for it and, wait for it….
They named Charlie Sheen their spokesperson. A man who has beaten numerous women and who lied about his HIV status to women he fucked (without condoms). Sarah summed up my feelings on this matter perfectly, so go read her post. But then, I just couldn’t help it after I heard about what Lelo employees actually think of most reviewers, so I wrote a rage-y rant-y post about how Lelo doesn’t give a flying fuck about everyone pissed off about the Hex condom and also a rant about the Hex condom in general.
Publicity is publicity to them – negative doesn’t matter. They referred to sex bloggers and educators who were rightfully questioning their decisions as ‘whiney SJWs’. Our opinions mean zero to them – and in fact, the more we tweet, the more they can say they’re the hottest topics of conversation.
They feel they are too big to fall, too trenched in the industry to lose out. The more attention, the better even if it’s folks throwing out their Lelo toys in mass droves and swearing off never working with them again.
It’s like they know their products are just like 6 others on the market and won’t stand out on their own merit, so they resort to trickery in marketing and “innovative” or “revolutionary” technologies that barely even work. Lelo went from being first to the party to the late, drunk, rich frat boy that nobody invited. Is it going too far to now say they’re the Charlie Sheen of the sex toy industry?