Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Consumer affairs

From superfoods to yoga, this 500bn-plus global industry often comes at a high price

Exhausted from working 15-hour days running her own marketing agency in London, Jo Millers evenings would consist of a cocktail of takeaways, Ubers and impulse purchases. Id end up spending 100 at Waitrose, grabbing a takeaway or going out for dinner as I didnt have the energy to cook. At the train station Id feel the need to buy something, so Id end up spending loads at Oliver Bonas. It was all instant gratification.

That was two years ago. Since then, Miller has closed the business, moved to Margate and launched a new career as a sound therapist, using a combination of alchemy crystal singing bowls and her voice to relax clients. And with the life shift, she has dramatically focused her time and money on one particular area: wellness.

Instead of unhealthy takeaways and excessive shopping, the 42-year-old spends 18,000 a year on her wellbeing. This includes 3,200 a year on a transpersonal psychotherapist, 3,000 on retreats, and 1,000 on supplements, probiotics and vitamins. She also receives a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box, has a CrossFit membership and enjoys regular treatments such as massages.

Jo Miller with her alchemy crystal singing bowls in Margate

For Miller, wellness is about people reconnecting and being comfortable in their mind and spirit level. Before, people were distracting themselves through consumerism. Now, Miller says, she has completely switched her expenditure. Wellness is the new currency, she adds.

But at 18,000 a year, how can Miller afford it? For her, its about refocusing her life choices. I spend very little on anything else. I dont have a mortgage and I have lodgers to support the money I make from working as a sound therapist.

Miller is far from the only person spending their hard-earned cash on wellness, which can range from spin classes and meditation sessions to organic food and kombucha drinks. In fact, the global market for health and wellness reached 532bn in 2016, and is expected to grow to 632bn by 2021, according to Euromonitor International.

Yoga at the Soul Circus festival, soundtracked by Faithless star Maxi Jazz

Wellness encapsulates everything from superfood-charged smoothies to sleeping aids and yoga mats. Festivals, which used to be primarily focused on music, are also placing more emphasis on wellness.

This years Womad devoted two acres to its spa and wellbeing area, and featured 40 vendors and therapists offering everything from meditation with a Buddhist monk to shamanic healing. Wellness festivals such as Soul Circus in the Cotswolds, which costs up to 199, are also sprouting up, giving festivalgoers the chance to tap into everything from meditation and kids yoga classes to nutrition demos and sober morning raves. I wanted to create a balanced event that left you feeling rejuvenated and inspired rather than hungover and unhealthy, says Soul Circus founder Ella Wroath.

James Veal, 42, a project manager working in central government, describes his wellness journey as a slow burn for the best part of a decade before he seriously ramped it up two years ago. I started feeling my age a little I felt stiff when exercising, and I was reaching that midpoint where I thought I have a whole other half of my life left and I want to make sure it is in better quality, he says.

James Veal takes fitness seriously including climbing

He invested in a Vitamix blender (from 299) so he could make smoothies from nuts, leafy greens and a micro algae supplement, which sets him back about 100 for two months supply. He now spends about 30 a week buying organic food from the local farmers market plus 50 on an Abel & Cole delivery.

He also has plans to visit a wellness retreat abroad. Im fortunate as I have some disposable income, so it doesnt feel like a huge sacrifice, says Veal, who estimates he spends about 250 a month on his wellbeing. However, his health kick means the Londoner spends less eating out, as he avoids food that may contain pesticides, and he has cut back on alcohol. The result, although more costly, has had benefits. I feel amazing. Its honestly been a revelation to me I sleep much better, he says. I used to have occasional periods of insomnia, but Ive lost weight, my skin is clearer, and people comment that my skin is glowing.

But is this level of wellness only attainable to a few middle class high earners with the income and some might say credulity to afford the high spending? Gwyneth Paltrows wellbeing business Goop, which has been under fire for endorsing treatments such as vaginal steaming and inserting jade eggs, stocks aromatherapy oil for $85 (66).

Demonstrating the Vitamix food blender, which costs from 299 and upwards. Photograph: Alamy

The trend has developed a reputation for being quite expensive and elitist, says Sarah Housley, senior editor of lifestyle at trend forecaster WGSN. At the more luxury end of the market, wellness also became a way for people to show off their wealth more subtly than by buying an expensive handbag or car instead, they could go to exclusive yoga classes and drink expensive juices a trend that we call wellthness.

Gina Clarke, 31, a freelance PR executive, says she moved to a more wellness-fuelled lifestyle in 2016 after she visited her parents and saw they had invested in a juice blender. After a quick Google and realising the health benefits, I was soon juicing up my own smoothies, she says. I used to have a green juice for breakfast and then something avocado or egg-based for lunch.

However, she soon found keeping up the lifestyle was too much to bear. Ive gone to my fair share of yoga retreats but found it so hard to recreate at home. My yoga ball lies deflated a little like me. I soon realised the search for the Instagram lifestyle was getting a bit too tiring alongside work and a family life. Now my stress levels have come down considerably.

Gina Clarke says wellness can be an affordable lifestyle. Photograph: Scott Miller/Wiltshire Photography

Despite the pricey fitness studios and 10 green smoothies, Housley says wellness can be affordable: You can drink more water for free, you can do yoga or pilates from a YouTube video at home.

Veal is the first to admit that he undertakes wellness activities that dont cost money: he meditates twice a day for 20 minutes and runs several times a week.

Housley says there is a move to more conscious conversation around wellness, with a focus on making it more accessible and inclusive. People are increasingly trying to find a balance, shifting their priorities from self-care to community care, and theres a growing backlash towards brand partnerships that exclude certain people or dont truly support the community, she adds.

Wellness, including reflexology, has become more of a focus at festivals such as Womad. Photograph: Alamy

Despite the myriad of trends that crop up in wellness, whether its acai bowls or forest bathing, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, believes the essence of what keeps us healthy remains the same.

These include not smoking, only drinking alcohol in moderation, getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet and taking regular exercise, she says. She warns against fads that claim to improve health and wellbeing.

They might be well-intentioned, but they are often not supported by robust clinical evidence. Trends can be useful for raising awareness of new or changing health issues and for getting people involved in improving their own health, but by definition they might not be around for long. Thats why its essential that as a society we all work together to encourage each other to lead healthier lifestyles, not just for a few months of the year, but permanently.

Read more:

Short-term sublets can turn into a nightmare, but a tribunal ruling offers some hope to long-suffering residents

I first realised I was living next door to a weekend sublet two years ago. Late one Saturday night I heard boys yelling and loud music, and the thumping against the walls was so hard one of my picture frames fell off and cracked on the floor. I presumed the neighbours had a teenager who was throwing a cheeky party while their parents were away. When it happened again the following weekend I assumed it was a repeat. However, a few weekends later it was girls yelling, playing what I recognised to be the true hymn of the hen party, You Can Leave Your Hat On. Suddenly it made sense: I was living next door to a sublet playing host to hen parties and stag dos most weekends.

Ive had men wrestling on the floor outside my flat, someone trying to kick in my door, and fights that have left blood smears across the corridor walls. Id refrained from complaining to the building manager or letting agents and tried to deal with the host directly.

I had nothing against someone trying to make a little extra cash over the weekend. It was when it became clear the property was being entirely used for short-term rentals, and after my second phone call to the police, that I started complaining. I complained to the building manager, to my landlord, to the council. So far, nothing has been done.

Weekend sublets such as those offered on Airbnb and have revolutionised holidays. But Im not the only person to have a bad experience. Paul, a teacher with a flat in Edinburgh, noticed people trundling by his apartment with luggage. Then he was kept awake by late-night noise. The irritation was that it was very difficult to get in touch with the owner via the Airbnb website. I had to pretend to be interested in renting it in order to send them a message, he says, and he claims that the problems have left people in negative equity.

If you want to hear a real Airbnb horror story, how about the one involving the riot police who were called to a flat in Brixton, south London, after 150 people arrived for a party that turned into chaos? In that case, reported in the Times in May, residents had apparently called the police on several occasions to break up parties in the flat, which had been let through the website. One complained that a partygoer landed with a crash on to his balcony from above and knocked on his window to get back in.

In the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), which handles disputes over property and land, the residents alleged that the Airbnb host had breached several terms in his lease agreement, and the tribunal judge agreed, saying the defendant appeared to be using the property as a guesthouse. Its the first known ruling against an Airbnb host by the tribunal but probably wont be the last.

Plenty more alarming tales can be found on, a website dedicated to helping hosts and guests share their stories about the risks and dangers of using Airbnb.

Cal King, shows editor at TV channel Comedy Central, rents a flat in London next door to one that is empty quite a lot of the time, and then each weekend a different group of raucous people turn up and have parties. He is sanguine. In a way, I quite like knowing that even though theres pounding tropical house at 1am, chances are theyll be gone tomorrow.

Katie Gray, a barrister at Tanfield Chambers, says that in the first instance you should see if there can be anything done informally, for example by having a conversation with tenants or the host directly. If this does not work, she suggests you gather as much evidence as possible. Keep a diary of events, record the frequency of the lettings, and the dates and times of the nuisance.

The legal avenues available to resolve disputes will depend on whether the property is leasehold or freehold. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

The legal avenues available, should it come to this, will depend on whether the property is leasehold or freehold. For leasehold properties, owners or tenants will have to report the issue to the freeholder of the block, who will be the people able to take action.

In terms of longer nuisance sublets, local authorities may offer protection. For example, in London, stays longer than 90 days require previous planning permission.

If you are selling your property, things become a little tricky. You are required to complete a property information form disclosing any disputes or complaints about the properties or properties nearby. If you have been in a dispute about an Airbnb letting and you do not inform the buyer, you could be liable in court for misrepresentation and potentially be asked to pay damages to the buyer. In an extreme situation the sale will not go through.

Airbnb now has well over 1m properties and is active in 200 countries. One of the key features of the website is the review function: guests can review the properties they have stayed in, and hosts can review their guests. Though neighbours have, until recently, been left out in the cold.

Two weeks after the Brixton case emerged and was widely publicised, Airbnb launched an online tool for neighbours of its hosts who experience problems and want to make a complaint. The site reviews whether your complaint matches up with an active Airbnb listing, then messages the host. If problems persist, the website says it can suspend or remove them from Airbnb entirely. However, it is not clear if anyone has yet been banned. Airbnb says just one in 18,000 UK guest arrivals has prompted a complaint via the tool.

The overwhelming majority of Airbnb hosts and guests are good neighbours and respectful travellers, the company says. We want to do everything we can to help our community members be good neighbours.

In a recent blog, it pledged to treat each case seriously. Hosting is a big responsibility, it said, and those who repeatedly fail to meet our standards and expectations will be subject to suspension or removal from the Airbnb community.

The cities cracking down on Airbnb

The idea of Airbnb and other short-term lets as an alternative to over-priced hotels may soon be over, writes Patrick Collinson. Many cities have begun to introduce new rules, after residents complained about being overwhelmed by weekend visitors banging wheelie bags up stairs, breaching building security rules, and loud parties. Pressure has also come from hotel groups and local politicians who have lost revenue from hotel taxes.

In June, a court upheld Berlins de facto ban on short-term rentals. People who let more than 50% of their apartment on a short-term basis without a permit risk a fine of 100,000 (85,000). City authorities were concerned that the availability of affordable housing was being severely threatened by the rise of short-term letting. Munich and Hamburg have also taken steps to curb
short-term lets.

San Francisco
The city that is home to Airbnbs HQ is also one of its fiercest opponents. Hosts have to register with the authorities; if Airbnb advertises an unregistered property it can be fined $1,000 (755) a day for each listing. An action group in the city has posted wanted flyers. The crime? Airbnbing our community and destroying affordable housing for immigrant, minority, and low income families.

New York
The citys rental laws ban apartments in buildings with three or more units from being rented out for less than 30 days. Landlords who flout the ban can be fined as much as $7,500. But home sharing where the host is present is legal. Critics say that short-term rental companies like Airbnb are flooding the citys housing market, reducing available housing stock citywide by 10%, according to a study released in June.


Barcelona is popular for Airbnb rentals. Photograph: kiko_jimenez/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Catalan city has been among the most aggressive in fighting Airbnb, slapping a 30,000 fine on the site for hosting illegal tourist lets in 2014. Flat owners have to list their apartments with the citys tourism register, obtain a licence and be responsible for collecting the daily 0.65 tourist tax.

The Spanish capital set a minimum stay of five nights in private homes and apartments which, given the typical three-night stay on Airbnb, ruled out most rentals. But the directive was later overturned in court.

The 1,600 short-term lets in Icelands capital have to operate under strict rules introduced in June. The legislation limits the number of days residents can offer rentals in their properties to 90 days a year before they must pay business tax.

Read more:

The company has handed out ticket vouchers as part of a lawsuit settlement but the list of shows buyers can use them on isnt exactly a whos who of pop culture

Ticketmaster quietly unveiled a treat for tribute band fans on Tuesday, dispensing millions of dollars of free ticket vouchers to customers as part of a class action lawsuit settlement.

Excitement over the settlement quickly dissolved as people learned that the true value of the payout is dependent on a persons tastes and geography.

Live in Chicago or Seattle? As of Wednesday afternoon, the vouchers could not be used at any shows in those cities. Are you a fan of Dolly Parton or Gwen Stefani? Hopefully you live close to Chula Vista, California, or Raleigh, North Carolina. Tech website the Verge described the deal as a garbage fire legal settlement.

Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) June 22, 2016

These Ticketmaster vouchers are like finding money in your couch cushions, then realizing it’s foreign currency from a failed state.

Zoe Camp (@jzcamp) June 19, 2016

One day my grandkids will ask how I spent my youth.
“Well, sonny, I followed @pitbull around the country, thanks to a ticketmaster lawsuit”

The offerings were particularly dismal for some of the countrys most populated cities New York Citys 8.4 million citizens must travel out of state to use the vouchers unless they want to see act such as a tribute band to Guns N Roses, 80s heavy metal group Queensryche or Norwegian electronic duo Lemaitre.

Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) June 22, 2016

the shows you can attend with ticketmaster vouchers are perfect if you’re a 37-year-old who lives in his van

The vouchers were made available as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit with customers who purchased tickets between 21 October 1999 and 27 February 2013. For each ticket purchased in that period, customers can get one voucher, up to 17 vouchers. Some people are also eligible for $5 or $2.25 discounts on future purchases (to see if youre one of these people, log in to Ticketmaster, and select the Active Vouchers section).

Use of these vouchers is first come, first served. So even though Ticketmaster said that the vouchers expire in 2020, ticket availability is actually dependent on how many other people use the discounts and vouchers before then.

Louis Peitzman (@LouisPeitzman) June 22, 2016

The problem with these Ticketmaster vouchers is that I almost talked myself into getting tix to see the Goo Goo Dolls in Sarasota Springs.

While the listings seem dismal, there are some good gigs nestled between lounge singers and 90s-themed dance parties, such as Dead Kennedys in Philadelphia next week, Flight of the Conchords in Atlanta, Modest Mouse in Chula Vista, California, and Dolly Parton in Mountain View, California.

Then, of course, there are the offerings for tribute band enthusiasts vouchers can be used across the country for tributes to: Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, the Doors, Journey, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, REM, Stone Temple Pilots, the Rolling Stones, Kid Rock, Elton John, Van Halen, Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath.

The list will be updated through the terms of the settlement, and people can subscribe here to get updates when new shows are posted.

Jozen C. (@jozenc) June 21, 2016

Ticketmaster tried to give some wack concerts as part of their settlement deal but didn’t know I’m Seal’s biggest fan so who’s laughing now?

Read more: