Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System

, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
Penguin Scat, LUSH, Zone Pricing, Eggs, and the Metric System
The facial wash at Lush’s Cape Town, South Africa shop smells like the penguin display at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront aquarium. The salesgirl assured me that once it was reconstituted – or did she say regurgitated? – it was divine. And it was. So divine that I had to have it.
But I was now in the Jacksonville, Florida LUSH shop which I had looked up online. I was delighted to discover not only was Lush not a South African company, but European, with locations in the US.
And so I found myself with three different different seaweed and sea salt-based products from LUSH, the great-smelling environmentally conscious soap and cosmetics company I was introduced to in SA.
As I left the shop, I commented that it was a very good thing I did not know the prices before the total rang up; $75 or 825 Rand, or I might not have been carrying that paper bag of three purchases and two samples out of the Avenues Mall. Splurge!
Now, In my delight at a day dedicated to scouring Jacksonville for the luxuries to which I had become accustomed in Cape Town, I had been updating my Facebook status so SA friends could follow my progress finding local US substitutes for the markets and foods I had enjoyed during my month-long stay on the Cape.
, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
Posting on Facebook has become the modern litmus test and an instant poll of popularity on a subject. How many people touch “like” gathers immediate approval ratings on the topic of the moment.
Which is why I am now writing this article. As often happens, the reaction of my current or former journalism students inspired me to do what I so seldom get the luxury of doing; write.
The last time I wrote, seriously wrote for my own pleasure, was several summers ago. That piece was a commemorative article honoring a friend. It was about being a southern lady, and unfortunately, neither The New Yorker or Southern Living picked it up.
This was probably due to the ill timing of Paula Deen’s trouble, much the way some people’s weight gain could be traced back to her inspiring everyone to “add a stuck of butter” to every dish they cooked.
But back to my extravagant seaweed purchase. Former journalism student Maggie Pritchett noticed my online activity. She posted “Love that place!” so quickly that I had to pause to consider this new generation of spenders. Er, consumers.
Maggie must shop there. Maggie must know the prices better than I do. The sales ladies try everything out on you, remind you that after returning five containers, madam gets something else free, and it smells so wonderful that even other shoppers’ husbands were adding things to their wicker hampers; baskets that were immediately placed into our hands, just begging to be filled with bath bombs and foot scrubs. What a sales techinque! The instinct to fill that basket… well, it’s just natural!
Maggie must buy there. Gasp. She’s just out of high school. This place was darned expensive. Double gasp.
, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
Now, anyone who knows me knows I have the very unusual habit of 1) taking pictures of everything – friends say the worst thing terrorists could do to me is take away my camera – and 2) converting any price into the equivalent in loaves of bread or dozens of eggs.
Here is how that works. “That piece of soap, smaller than the ones I throw away at home because they are too small to hang on to, is $12? That is twelve loaves of bread. Or six loaves of bread, six dozen eggs. I could eat for two weeks on that!”
So I wondered how I walked out of a store with $75 worth of seaweed-based soaps. 75 loaves of bread. 75 dozen eggs.
Friends say I cannot compare prices country-to-country because we are earning dollars, they are earning pounds, rand, wampum, whatever. But I maintain that the bread is the universal measure of buying power.
It took a 3:00 a.m. wake up by my very noisy rooster to provide free time for me to examine how I could pay 75 loaves’ price for soap. My rooster crows The Wedding March. Daily. Magic. I am awake.
Jet lag. South Africa to America. Flying time: 22 hours 50 minutes. You cannot wake me up at 3:00 a.m. when my body really thinks it is 10:00 a.m. Sorry, but a seven hour time difference is some serious jet lag. It requires far more than one short nap to return to normality.
And my Mom, saying she can never fly coach to France again because a seven hour flight is just too long in coach? I flew and lay-overed and connected for 30 hours. I lost seven hours in time differences alone over three continents. I LOST more sleep than your entire flight time. And! Do you know how many loaves of bread or dozens of eggs first class would cost?!
, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
Maybe this is why I am awake pre-dawn having buyers remorse and writing an article in the notes feature of a cell phone, the only device within reach. I prefer writing on paper, or a PC even over a laptop, as a PC is one step closer to the old typewriter. Alas.
But this notes program is actually more sophisticated than I thought. It even has cut, copy, and paste, and typing with one finger slows me down to thinking speed; much like preferring to use the voice message feature on We Chat or text messages to actually talk because it gives you time to compose your thoughts. You can make lists with checkmarks on what you’ve remembered, then file them into folders to use again later. Brilliant!
And my thoughts on my purchase have progressed.
Actually now I am one stage further. I actually am having remorse that I am not having buyers remorse over this expenditure. Lack of original buyer’s remorse, like lack of recognizing original sin, is probably because one friend says to never regret purchases but just enjoy them after the decision to buy and the purchase are final. It’s not a sin to treat myself to a luxury, but I still feel it’s a sin to not feel guilty.
And here is something you might not know, a part of the Cape Tonian shopping secret. In South Africa, they do not have zone pricing! I am serious! The Gas Buddy app is completely useless. Well, they would say “redundant.” Petrol is the same price whether you are near the N1 or in the country.
, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
There is no geographic pricing system. A tin of tuna costs exactly the same at the Pick N Pay at the largest fanciest posh mall in the Southern Hemisphere, Canal Walk, that can be seen from outer space, as it does at the PNP in Khayelitsha, one of the shack cities that can be seen from the N1 or low-flying aircraft. Oh, yeah – their shopping malls all have grocery stores as well. It’s rather odd, but you push your trolley full of food from the grocery right to the high heels store – and keep shopping.
Suzanne Seitz, the Erma Bomback of the South, knows all about zone pricing and can explain it well. Here’s an example: “Did you know I saw the exact same shirt on clearance at the Palatka Walmart and the St. Augustine Walmart, and the one in St. Augustine was two dollars more?” She should teach economics.
Americans know the exact same tin of creamed corn will cost a lot more at the exact same grocery chain depending on the socioeconomic makeup of the area. Ace Hardware Palatka charges less for bird feeders than the one in Ponte Vedra, salad dressing will be 10 to 20 cents more depending on which city you are shopping.
, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
Which is probably how I came to walk out of Lush with $75 worth of penguin scat to rub on my face. Either that or the exchange rate is to blame.
After I spent an entire month dividing every price in South Africa by 10 to convert it to dollars, it was an entirely ingrained and automatic. So, $35 for facial scrub probably sounded like R35, which would be $3.50 because obviously facial scrub is worth about that whether I am shopping in Palatka or New York City. Three loaves of bread worth of money for a luxury. Yes ok.
This is not the first time foreign conversions have gotten me into trouble. There was the time I was told we must go surfing at Betty’s Bay, South Africa, because it was three to five.
Three to five! Fantastic! In Florida, we dream of three to five! Imagine my astonishment upon arriving at the beach to find the waves piling up. Oh. Meters. Three to five meters. Nine to 15 feet. Hurricane heights!
Then there was the biggest bungee jump on Earth near Knysna. I am not really sure where it was because we were traveling in kilometers, and there are a lot more of them in an hour than there are miles. I think it was at Bloukrans.
, Shopping LUSH in South Africa – Zone Pricing and the Metric System
Plus the speed limit is 120 something-or-others, and everyone tears about in cars the size of bread boxes; so I had no reference point and truly cannot estimate distances in another language. It was like Mom explaining that they stayed in a fancy hotel in France, and it cost them several million something-or-others.
Anyway, the bungee jump was 300 somethings, so I figured that is like ten 30-foot boats and just scary enough to brag about back home. I did it, but could not even breathe to scream. It turned out I could not get any oxygen for screaming because those 300 were meters, so it was a several mile high jump; I think?
Well, that ocean-blue sea salt facial scrub turned out to be fantastic. Their assurance that I could bring in the container for recycling was a fine idea too. Can’t wait to go get some more!
So you see; zone pricing and the metric system can be blamed for spending more on soap that smells like penguins than your electricity bill, whilst enjoying it more than eggs and bread.

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