L.L. Bean Looks to Update Free Shipping, Returns Policies

In an effort to remain competitive and cut costs, iconic brand L.L. Bean is considering changes to its famous free shipping and returns – in part a reaction to abuse of the very generous policies.

Other cost-cutting changes L.L. Bean plans to make, according to The Associated Press, include changes to its pension plan and a reduction of 500 workers.

For years, L.L. Bean has offered free shipping on all orders, and its wide-open returns policy, which includes items coming back after years of use, has led to expensive abuse. Company officials said they will make announcements later this year about their shipping policy and fraud prevention efforts going forward.

Another brand famous for its extremely generous returns policy – Nordstrom – last year instituted changes aimed at curbing customer abuse. The company now requires a receipt or a form of ID to get a cash refund. Customers who can’t produce either will get the refund in the form of a Nordstrom gift card. That option has always been in place but is one that’s becoming more common, said Nordstrom spokesperson Emily Sterken.

“Our approach is to be fair and reasonable with our customers, and we ask that they be fair and reasonable with us in return,” Sterken said. “There have been some very rare cases where, based on an atypical return history, it’s clear we’re not doing a good job of taking care of a customer. In those situations, we may make the decision to part ways.”

MCM Musings: These must have been difficult decisions for two brands that have driven a ton of customer loyalty and lifetime order value through the years based on their generous return policies. But unfortunately human nature being what it is, at some point the economic reality of growing abuse by unscrupulous shoppers is causing them to do a rethink and partial reset. Still any changes will likely be a matter of degree, and customers who abandon them will largely be the offender crowd anyway, while the loyal base remains.

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