LL Bean ends no questions asked return policy

Chelsea West
February 10, 2018

The "100% satisfaction guaranteed" required no receipt or proof of purchase and L.L. Bean offered to exchange or get a replacement for even the oldest and most beat-up items a customer said they were unhappy with, whether they'd actually bought the items from L.L. Bean, or just picked 'em up at a garage sale. "Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years".

Now, as L.L. Bean announced Friday, the company will begin enforcing a one-year limit on most returns.

It's a momentous change considering that the previous policy had persisted for more than a century and was an integral part of the L.L.Bean brand. Our commitment to customer service has earned us your trust and respect, as has our guarantee, which ensures that we stand behind everything we sell. "When I'm spending $70 for kids' snow trousers, I need to know that the company is putting enough care, quality and effort into them that they're not going to break 14 months down the road".

The retail industry had $3.5 trillion in sales a year ago, with 10 percent of that, or $351 billion, lost to returns, according to a report from the research firm Appriss Retail. "But we have had a huge growth in abuse, and fraud, and a misinterpretation of that guarantee".

Gorman knows firsthand: He said a shirt that he had donated to Goodwill, with his name printed in it, was once returned to a store. They ended up walking away with a $350 gift card. Much like L.L. Bean, REI made the change after abuses to the system grew too rampant and too expensive to sustain, as reported in this Planet Money podcast. "And we weren't allowed to confront them about it".

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In a letter sent to customers and posted to the brand's Facebook page, L.L.Bean explained that people were abusing its famously generous policy. You'll now have one year after purchasing an item to return it, accompanied by proof of purchase.

The guarantee has always been a selling point for Bean products.

Ms. Zaleski said she and her family went out of their way to visit L.L. Bean stores and had spent $3,000 on the company's products over the holidays.

The updated policy does not limit returns on products that are defective in materials or craftsmanship. Plus, it was a policy that said "we trust our customers to act honestly, and forgive those who don't", which assumed the best and not the worst of us humans. "I liked the idea that they would withstand my kids tearing them apart".

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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