A wildly popular clothing company for millennial moms is facing a crisis amid claims its 'pants rip like wet toilet paper'
Some LuLaRoe customers are complaining that the company's leggings are developing tears and starting to "disintegrate" after as little as a few hours of wear.
The clothing brand has grown rapidly over the last two years by building a cult-like following among millennial moms.
Most of its success has been built off of a single product: its famously soft leggings, which sell for around $25.
Take a peek at some of them here:
The company releases a limited amount of leggings in unique patterns — which it sells through a network of "consultants" who sell to their friends at parties held in homes — and customers seem to go nuts trying to get their hands on the latest styles.
But in recent months, complaints about the quality of the leggings have started piling up.
Women are sharing photos on social media of LuLaRoe leggings with large, gaping holes in the fabric (or in some cases dozens of tiny holes), and many claim that the damage appeared after the leggings were worn just once or twice. There's a Facebook group with more than 1,400 members devoted to sharing stories about the damage, a guide being passed around for how to put them on without tearing them, and even a theory about which leggings are more likely to wind up damaged.
"These pants rip like wet toilet paper," says Valerie Williams, 35, of Syracuse, New York. Williams has bought five pairs of LuLaRoe leggings. She says two of them tore as soon as she put them on.
"This must be a widespread issue," she told Business Insider.
Maintaining quality is a challenge for any fast-growing brand, but for a company like LuLaRoe, the backlash is particularly serious because it is taking place on the same forums that helped create buzz for the leggings in the first place. LuLaRoe's customers say they're having a hard time returning the damaged goods because the company's sales consultants — who buy directly from the company at wholesale prices — serve as a barrier to returns.
Some consultants, meanwhile, say they're being saddled with the damaged merchandise.
LuLaRoe spokeswoman Shana Frahm said an internal audit shows that damages are running at just 0.061% of shipped merchandise per month, and that this is well below the industry average.
"As you know we are a new brand and we have been working diligently to ensure that our customer experience is highly satisfactory," she said. Frahm declined to answer questions about whether the company is aware of problems with holes in the leggings.
But one LuLaRoe consultant claimed on Facebook in early February that the company is aware of the issue.
"LuLaRoe is working super hard to reinvent the process a bit, to stop holes from happening yay!" Nichole Ramirez wrote on February 2.
Advice for buyers
LuLaRoe sellers are also widely sharing a diagram with tips on how to avoid holes, including advice like "pull just a tad or you'll be sad!"
Still, customers haven taken to social media and the Better Business Bureau website to complain.
"Second pair of LuLaRoe leggings to get a hole... Safe to say, I'm done wasting my money," one Twitter user wrote on January 31.
Another customer wrote on Facebook: "What am I doing wrong with LuLaRoe leggings? I hand wash them, basically treat them like newborn infants without a fully formed skull, and still only have 1 pair left without holes all over."
On January 30, someone wrote a review on the Better Business Bureau website saying that three pairs of their leggings developed large holes within hours of wearing them.
"In November I put on a brand new pair of leggings," she wrote. "By lunch the whole rear end had just disintegrated."
"That ends my years long relationship with your consultants," she wrote. "No more Lula for me. Sick of paying twice what I should for clothes that disappear. THREE pairs in two months is three too many."
There are 170 reviews of LuLaRoe on the Better Business Bureau's website, as well as 210 customer complaints, and the majority concern quality issues, and primarily holes in the leggings.
On Facebook, there have been more than 50 complaints citing holes in the leggings just in the last two weeks. On Twitter, there are more than 100 complaints specifically referring to holes dating back to September.
Laura McIntyreOne theory among LuLaRoe's customers is that the holes are more common with leggings that are manufactured in Vietnam, as opposed to China or other countries. In Facebook groups where LuLaRoe is sold, customers are now inquiring about where the leggings are made before purchasing them, according to Williams, who is a member of many of these groups online.
There's no place to review LuLaRoe's products on its website, because it doesn't sell any clothes on the site.
LuLaRoe only sells products through the consultants, which the company also refers to as "Independent Retailers." The consultants — many of whom are millennial moms — buy the clothes at wholesale prices and then sell them for a markup to friends in their living rooms and in online forums.
The consultants can earn money not only from their direct sales, but also for the sales of a team of recruits. This strategy is called multi-level marketing, and it's also used by companies like Mary Kay, Beachbody, and The Pampered Chef.
For some LuLaRoe customers, this setup has made it difficult to get refunds or credits for damaged goods.
Customers have complained in reviews that when they try to get in touch with the company about damaged goods, either they can't get through to anyone or they are told to contact their consultant.
Chelsea Allhands"The quality of the clothing is extremely poor!" one customer wrote on the Better Business Bureau website on January 13. "I have had several leggings arrive with holes OR disintegrate upon first wear. Wrote customer service who basically blew me off and told me to find a consultant to replace them."
Some customers say their consultants won't do anything to replace the damage goods. Others say they can only get a credit or exchange and no refund.
The company's spokeswoman Frahm said: "In regard to returns, our direction to our independent retailers is that we stand behind our product. The retailers can take those damages back and replace or issue refunds and in turn we credit their accounts as well."
She also highlighted LuLaRoe's limited control over how consultants conduct business.
"With the independent nature of our retail structure, complaints to the BBB are sometimes regarding customer interactions with our independent retailers," she said. "We try not to interfere with how they run their businesses, aside from providing guidelines and internal policies to help shape great customer service and cultural transference."
People claiming to be current and former consultants have also complained that they can't get in touch with anyone at the company to resolve issues.
"I'm a former [LuLaRoe] representative and am still waiting to be refunded for the damaged items I submitted on May 19," one person wrote on the Better Business Bureau website in late October. "It's been over five months since these damages were submitted and I'm still waiting for money. Very frustrating... Also very happy I stopped selling it."
Another person claiming to be a former consultant said they also had trouble getting a response from the company.
"I am still waiting on five backordered shirts they will not refund or send me. Then, when the products arrived, they would have holes, look worn, etc," the reviewer wrote.
One person who said they stopped selling LuLaRoe claimed in December that the company delayed refunding them for unsold products.
"After some product would not sell we were given the option to send it back and pay a restocking fee," the reviewer wrote. "After following the process word for word on filling out the forms, paying money to UPS to send the product back, we have not received our refund or credit for that matter. You cannot talk to anyone on the phone and we have also sent numerous emails inquiring. Three weeks ago we were sent one email saying it would be process but that was it. ...As of right now we are out $1100 with no way of speaking to someone to try and resolve."
Despite these seller complaints, some women say they are getting rich off of selling LuLaRoe.
Amy McCall SwitzerAs Business Insider reported last year, LuLaRoe's top sellers claim to make six-figure salaries annually by selling the brand's clothes and managing teams of other sellers.
Some have posted rave reviews on Glassdoor, a website where employees can anonymously review the companies they work for, although the company has an overall review of 2.5 stars out of 5.
"I have been a consultant for seven months and it has been life changing. I didn't have two dimes to rub together and I am making more money in a month than I used to make in a year."
Like with most multi-level marketing companies, employees' experiences appear to be wide-ranging based on the success they have had in selling products.
But that success could become increasingly challenging to achieve if the company's quality issues start to erode brand loyalty.
Williams at least says she isn't ready to give up LuLaRoe just yet, even after purchasing two pairs of leggings that ripped open on the first wear.
"I will buy more LuLaRoe, but I'm disappointed that I have to ask now where the leggings are made before claiming so as to avoid more Vietnam pairs," she told Business Insider.
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