L.L. Bean Makes Changes to Longstanding Returns Policy

Nearly a year after signaling changes to its legendarily forgiving return and credit policy due to abuse, iconic outdoor clothing manufacturer L.L. Bean is now limiting returns window to a year after purchase and requiring proof of purchase, the company announced in a Facebook post.

“Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent,” said L.L. Bean executive chairman Shawn O. Gorman, a great-grandson of the company’s founder, in the post. “Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.”

Gorman said L.L Bean will work with customers who seek to return items after the 12-month period, “to reach a fair solution if a product is defective in any way.”

“This update adds clarity to our policy and will only affect a small percentage of returns,” Gorman wrote.
“It will also ensure we can continue to honor one of the best guarantees in retail, with no impact for the vast majority of our customers.”

L.L. Bean’s move comes five years after competitor REI decided to limit returns to 12 months after purchase, with some exceptions, after its customers also took advantage of a generous policy.

Reactions to the decision were mixed in replies to the post from L.L. Bean’s devoted customers. Several spoke of relatives who worked at the store and knew the founder who shared his name with the business.

“This is disappointing,” said a man from Indiana. “While I have never exchanged or returned anything, the willingness to stand by your product more than others was instrumental in my decision. This move no longer gives you the same edge and will likely impact my future purchases.”

“It is about time,” said a woman from Maine. “So many people abuse this policy. As I have waited in line for customer service I have been appalled at what people bring back and how old their merchandise is. Worn-out slippers, please.”

“I have stood in line behind people returning very old, well-worn items to get new,” agreed a man from Massachusetts. “I have to believe the same people are posting complaints about the change now.”

The updated policy has even led to a lawsuit, filed by a customer in the Chicago are who claimed L.L. Bean misrepresented its policy and created a “breach of warranty.” A company spokesman said all items purchased before Feb. 9 2018 are exempt from the new policy, which should effectively vacate the cause of action.

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