Lululemon Test for See-Through Yoga Pants Sparks New Outrage

Getty ImagesOn the heels of the highly-publicized recall of Lululemon's nylon and Lycra yoga pants, some women report that the Vancouver-based company is asking them to try on their too-sheer pants and bend over in front of sales associates who will assess them before a return is permitted.

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Last week, the yoga-inspired athletic company had to recall 17 percent of the pants (sold for roughly $100 each) bought between March 1 and March 8th because the fabric was too see-through, inspiring a wave of "I see London, I See France" jokes across the Internet. On March 18th, Lululemon wrote on its blog:

"At the beginning of March, our stores and ecommerce site received some black luon women's bottoms that didn't meet our high standards. The materials used in construction were the same but the coverage was not, resulting in increased sheerness. We want you to Down Dog and Crow with confidence and we felt these pants didn't measure up."

For unknown reasons, the company wouldn't disclose which pants were affected by the glitch, only explaining their relationship with manufacturer Eclat Textile: "The items affected are certain styles of women's bottoms in our signature black Luon fabric." and that they "have not yet determined the cause of the sheerness. We have been producing luon with Eclat since 2004. We have been in conversation with our primary contact at Eclat since we first discovered this issue and our sourcing manager for raw materials is currently at Eclat’s facilities in Taiwan."

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Lululemon invited customers to return any pants they bought either online or in stores for a full refund or exchange. But a blogger who tried to return her pair had a shocking experience, writing on Lululemon's Facebook page:

"I went into my local store to return my Astro pants and Invert crops, both purchased this month. I was asked to BEND OVER in order to determine sheerness. The sales associate then perused my butt in the dim lighting of the change room and deemed them "not sheer". I felt degraded that this is how the recall is being handled. I called the GEC to confirm this is their protocol, and they verified that yes, the "educators" will verify sheerness by asking the customer to bend over."

A company rep responded to the post by writing: Hi ______,

What's the name of the local store you went into? I'm sorry to hear about your experience and I'd like to follow-up with them directly on this. In the meantime, if you're not comfortable with the Invert Crop and Astro Pant that you've purchased due to sheerness, we want to make that right for you. Please email me with the details of the two items, such as size and color, if known and your full shipping address so we can work on a solution for them. You can send this information to geconline@lululemon.com.

~ Siva

And then:

Lululemon Athletica Hi ___________,

We don't need to see our guests in the garments to deem them sheer. We want our guests to be comfortable in their products and will make it right for them if they feel their black bottoms are sheer.

~ Siya

According to Bloomberg last Thursday, analysts asked Chief Executive Officer Christine Day how employees were handling returns, whether the company was changing suppliers and how the pants became malfunctioned in the first place. Day said, “The truth of the matter is the only way you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over. Just putting the pants on themselves doesn’t solve the problem. 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.”

But when Shine reached out to a store located in New York City's Union Square, a salesperson said trying on pants for an associate was optional but not required. And a company representative at the Lululemon's Guest Education Center told Shine that bending over for a sales person is not standard policy and that employees have been told to discontinue the practice which is "not OK."

A media representative also told Shine: "Guests who purchased black luon women’s bottoms since March 1st, either online or in stores, and think they have affected product are welcome to return them for a full refund or exchange, no questions asked.  We do not require guests to demonstrate the sheerness of their bottoms. If they feel like they have affected product we will make it right and process the return. You can’t actually tell the affected luon is sheer just by looking at it, touching it or even trying to put your hand through it. It’s truly only when the weave is stretched 4 ways (eg. when in downward dog) that transparency becomes obvious. When trying on clothing, guests are welcome to move in the clothing to ensure they are comfortable with the level of coverage."

So if you do try to return your pants and you're asked to bend over, you can always say no; that you're not required to demonstrate their sheerness. And hopefully that will end a scandal that's been "sheer" madness.

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