How do you know your heather is lucky?

You've no doubt seen people in the streets selling 'lucky' heather, but have you ever wondered where it comes from and why it's lucky? We did, that's why we tracked down Eric Acre whose company, FrondCo, is the main supplier of lucky heather in Europe.

University of the Bleeding Obvious

Mr Acre, thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us.

Eric Acre

My pleasure, Geoff.

UBO

How did you know my name is Geoff?

Acre

Just a lucky guess.

UBO

Of course. Now, we understand that FrondCo is the wholesale supplier of lucky heather for around 80% of street sellers and has captured almost the entirety of the door-to-door market. Where do you source your lucky heather?

Acre

Well, we're based in Yorkshire, right on the edge of the moors. Rather fortunately, there's loads of it up there.

UBO

I see. And how do you know that your heather is actually lucky?

Acre

Well, as I say, we just have to open the back door and scoop it up. How lucky is that?

UBO

Yes, I... Er, let me come at this from another angle. I imagine that not all heather is lucky.

Acre

Isn't it?

UBO

Well, I presume not. I mean, if that was the case people would just be able to go out and collect up any old heather for themselves.

Acre

Oh Christ, yes, I never thought of that. You're quite right, not all heather is lucky. You're probably going to ask me what the difference is between lucky heather and unlucky heather.

UBO

Yes, is it some sort of process or additive?

Acre

Yes, very good. Some sort of additive. Yes... I mean no. Because, if it was some sort of industrial process you might be able to do that for yourself, of course. No, heather is actually inherently lucky or unlucky and it takes many, many, many years of intense training to be able to sort the good from the bad. It's certainly not something that just anyone can do, oh no.

UBO

I see. Of course, there are some people who say that heather is just heather - it's neither lucky nor unlucky - and that anyone who claims otherwise is merely a charlatan preying on the superstitious ignorance of desperate and vulnerable people.

Acre

There are people who say that, yes. I've heard them say it. Sometimes they say it to my face. They come up to me in restaurants and they say to me 'Anyone who says that heather can be lucky is just a charlatan, preying on the superstitious ignorance of desperate and vulnerable people.' And what I say to those people, generally, is 'Go away and let me finish my soup.'

UBO

You don't accept their viewpoint?

Acre

Not when I'm eating soup. I think it's very rude to interrupt people with your opinions when you are going about the business of eating soup. Consuming soup with any degree of decorum is tricky enough as it is without having to put up with that sort of nonsense.

UBO

Has anybody ever said that to you when you were not eating soup?

Acre

There have been rare occasions when that has happened, yes. At such times I have been able to give their comments my full attention and, after considering their points carefully and sympathetically, I have been able to explain to these people at some length that they don't know what they're talking about.

UBO

The fact remains however that the concept of 'luck' is not something that is accepted scientifically, so the notion that some random sample of plant life could be possessed of this mysterious property is rather difficult to accept.

Acre

Well, you mentioned science and, of course, science has given us some wonderful things. I myself have recently purchased an automatic bread maker. Do you have one of those?

UBO

No. No, I don't.

Acre

You should get one, they're really rather wonderful. That's a product of science, of course. I was initially under the impression that it made automatic bread and I was rather intrigued to find out what automatic bread was. Turns out that it's the machine which is automatic and what it turns out is regular, common-or-garden manual bread, but it's not any less wonderful for that. I'm sorry, I seem to have lost track of where I was going with this.

UBO

We were talking about the scientific basis for lucky heather.

Acre

Were we? Fascinating. Well science isn't everything. There are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamt of in your philosophy - I believe it was a scientist who wrote that.

UBO

No it wasn't.

Acre

Wasn't it? Oh well, whoever he was, he was clearly a very clever chap. The point is there are some things we just have to accept, even though there is no empirical evidence.

UBO

Ah, I'm glad you mentioned evidence, because a joint survey carried out by trading standards agencies across six counties could not find any evidence that people who invest in a sprig of lucky heather are blessed with greater fortune. You are aware of this survey?

Acre

I chanced across it. It's flawed of course. As you mentioned earlier, the concept of 'luck' is difficult to pin down scientifically. How, then, do you measure it?

UBO

By buying a lottery ticket. I think you would agree that if anything could be said to be a reliable indicator of luck it would be winning the lottery. The survey recorded no significant difference between the fortunes of people equipped with a piece of lucky heather and a control group who were not so blessed.

Acre

Well I agree that a cursory glance at this 'evidence', as you rather quaintly term it, might lead you to the conclusion that those people who had trusted to the heather were no better off. But consider what the consequences of winning a large amount of money would be. You would be inundated with begging letters, you would become protective of your wealth, suspicious of family, alienate your friends and ultimately end up isolated and lonely and miserable. It is only by the great good fortune bestowed upon them by the power of the heather that these people avoided such a terrible fate. To use what I believe is a popular expression, they 'dodged a bullet'.

UBO

That's quite an extraordinary defence. I really don't know where to start with that.

Acre

Of course you don't. It's watertight. 'Move on' would be my advice.

UBO

Do you think that kind of reasoning will be accepted by the court? I understand that trading standards are bringing a case against you.

Acre

Yes, it is the case that a case is being brought against me, so to speak. But it concerns a minor labelling issue, that's all. A trifle. I am not concerned by trifles.

UBO

But it's rather curious. Let me see if I've got this right - all your lucky heather has a 'use by date'. Is that correct?

Acre

It is. Everyone's luck runs out some time.

UBO

If you say so. Although the issue seems to be that your customers' luck seems to run out quicker than most. The charge is that the limited shelf life that you give your product has no proper basis and is merely a device to put unfair pressure on your customers to keep buying more.

Acre

Well, there you have it. It's a ridiculous accusation and quite clearly a desperate bid to try and get me on some trumped up technicality. Why these people have taken against me, I really couldn't say. You would think they had better things to do than waste their time on this silliness, wouldn't you?

UBO

So you're confident that you can successfully defend yourself?

Acre

Confident? Yes, yes, I'm confident. Let me put it this way: I've been in this business for over thirty years. We have dominated the market to the extent that in many areas we are the sole supplier and we have access to stockpiles of heather that will last us for the next twenty years. To put it another way, I have all the luck in the world, or very nearly. So yes - I am supremely confident and with good reason.

UBO

Well, thank you for talking to us Mr Acre.

Acre

No problem. Now, go away and let me finish my soup.

Return to Archive 4

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