LL Bean Ditches Unlimited Lifetime Return Policy as Scams Rise

Posted February 10, 2018

"Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales", Gorman said.

My in-laws are obsessive, lifelong L.L.Bean fans, largely because of the brand's legendary "100% satisfaction guaranteed" return policy.

L.L. Bean has been considering changing the policy since at least February of previous year, and is now making the change because some of us don't deserve the company's longstanding good faith.

L.L. Bean had previously allowed customers to exchange any item for a replacement if it failed to live up to expectations - no questions asked, regardless of the product's age.

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The company did not specify what would qualify as a defective product after the one-year period was up - only that they must be defective due to materials or craftsmanship.

"Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent", said Gorman. "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", he said.

"Some view [our guarantee] as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years", wrote executive chairman Shawn Gorman, who is the great-grandson of founder Leon Leonwood Bean. For years, the outdoor retailer touted a lifetime return policy, accepting returns on items purchased years prior.

L.L. Bean blames social media and its own marketing tactics for increased abuse of the program.

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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. Now, customers will only be able to return products purchased in the prior 12 months, or those that have a manufacturing defect. Otherwise, we require a physical receipt.

The Maine-based brand had been mulling the measure as a way to cut costs for at least a year.

The retail industry had $3.5 trillion in sales previous year, with 10 percent of that, or $351 billion, lost to returns, according to a report from the research firm Appriss Retail.

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.

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LL Bean is tweaking what may have been the most generous return policy in the world.