Bean Backorder Says The Magic Words

I just had a pleasant experience with a back order from L.L. Bean. How can you have a good experience with something that’s been on backorder for six weeks? Well, let me tell how.

First the background: On April 1, I ordered five pairs of chino pants from the outdoor gear and apparel merchant. Four were in stock; one pair was on backorder.

The customer service rep told me immediately that the color would not ship until May 15, six weeks later! But I liked the color, and the price, so I let the item remain on backorder.

The four other pairs of pants arrived in two days. (Second-day delivery is standard—and free—when you use an L.L. Bean credit card.) And the backorder arrived before May 15 much to my surprise—I’d forgotten about it. Who hasn’t been disappointed with a backorder that arrives well after the projected arrival date?

But just as important, I found something of real interest printed on the backorder’s order/packing slip. On the line above the item was this message:


It struck me, how many times do we thank customers for their patience when we disappoint them? And better yet, how many times do we follow through with the promises we make on backorders?

But then, that’s why I always use L.L. Bean as one of the standard bearers for high customer service.

Curt Barry ( is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a multichannel operations and fulfillment consultancy.

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