Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
Finance | By Cynthia Curry

LL Bean Drops Its Century-Old Lifetime Return Policy

LL Bean Drops Its Century-Old Lifetime Return Policy

L.L. Bean's return policy has been nothing short of exceptional since its inception in 1911: its products carried a lifetime guarantee. "Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years", the statement read.

Gorman said customers were seeking refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.

Not once til then had I taken advantage of L.L. Bean's awesome, lifetime return policy - even though I had purchased many items from them over the years, including a backpack, a compass and many turtlenecks.

In a letter to customers this morning, the label announced that it was nixing its generous lifetime return policy in favor of a one-year return limit for most purchases with a receipt. She said she had recently bought a pair of $200 L.L. Bean boots, which she said were already falling apart.

Gorman says the company has updated its return policy based on the abuse of a small portion of customers.

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The outdoor specialty retailer said returns of items that have been destroyed or rendered useless, including some purchased at thrift stores or retrieved from trash bins, have doubled in the past five years, surpassing the annual revenue from the company's famous boot. "It's not fair to the customers who honor the original spirit of the guarantee and it's certainly not sustainable from a business perspective". In February of 2017, it started freezing worker pensions and offering incentives for workers to take early retirement, which it expected to slim its workforce by about 500 people.

But Jen Tedesco, a homemaker in upstate NY, said she was "really disappointed" with L.L. Bean and what she said was a "one size fits all, super-stringent policy that is going to alienate customers".

Leon Leonwood Bean, the company's founder, is credited with launching the policy when 90 of his first 100 hunting shoes were returned. It also warned at the time that it might have to rethink its return policy. Thus the satisfaction guarantee was born.

L.L.Bean has stood for quality, service, trust, and getting people outdoors ever since my great-grandfather founded our company over 100 years ago - and that will never change.

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