Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

LL Bean, Citing Abuse, Tightens Its Generous Policy on Returns

Way to stomp on our hearts LightRocket via Getty Images
| 10 February, 2018, 09:50

In an email sent to customers on Friday morning, Maine-based L.L.Bean announced that it has made a decision to kill its no-receipt-needed lifetime return policy because too many people were abusing the system. It claimed some people tried to return heavily worn or destroyed items and saw the policy as a "lifetime product replacement program". Gorman references customers "interpreting [the] guarantee well beyond its original intent" by expecting refunds or new product for old, worn, or consignment-bought purchases. Customers will now have only one year to return an item - and that's with a receipt.

For more than a century, L.L. Bean has offered lifetime returns on its products.

In a follow-up conversation with Outside, an L.L. Bean spokesperson elaborated that in the last five years, the percent of returns that violate the guarantee policy-which was created to protect customers who received defective products-had doubled to 15 percent, costing the company approximately $250 million. After a year, L.L.Bean will still take returns for items that are defective because of the materials or craftsmanship.

The brand stresses that the change will only affect a small percentage of returns, and they're still standing by the quality of everything that they sell. "It's not sustainable from a business perspective".


L.L.Bean is known, by many of us, for three main things: duck boots, ads with golden retrievers, and a lifetime guarantee on its products. The now-defunct lifetime return policy had been in place for 106 years.

The company is also imposing a $50 minimum for free shipping as part of a belt-tightening that includes a workforce reduction through early retirement incentives and changes in workers' pension plans. Outdoors retailer REI, which was once jokingly dubbed Rental Equipment Inc. and Return Everything Inc. because its unlimited returns policy, imposed a one-year restriction five years ago. The company is expecting backlash but promises to "continue to honor one of the best guarantees in retail".

"L.L. Bean to us is a quality name, and that means they should stand by their word", Ms. Zaleski said. Thus the satisfaction guarantee was born.

It's not uncommon to hear stories of people clearing out basements of used or unwanted L.L. Bean products, sometimes decades after their purchase.

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