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L.L. Bean Eliminates Lifetime Return Policy After Abuses

Freeport, Maine bootmaker L.L. Bean is getting rid of its no-questions-asked lifetime return policy, thanks to growing abuse of the generous program, says the company.

All returns must now be made within one-year of purchase, executives announced on Friday, adding that the policy, which has been in effect for over a century, was never meant to be used as an unlimited replacement scheme. 

“Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent,” said L.L. Bean chairman Shawn Gorman in Friday a letter. “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 says the policy should only affect a small percentage of returns, and that if a customer finds a product to be defective after one year, the company will make efforts to reach a “fair solution,” he said.

“We stand behind all our products and are confident that they will perform as designed,” states the new return policy on the L.L. bean website. “After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.”

That said, customers who are known for “past habitual abuse” of the return policy can take their broken boots and pound sand, as they will not be allowed to return or exchange products even within one year of purchase, according to the site. 

To protect all our customers and make sure that we handle every return or exchange with reasonable fairness, we cannot accept a return or exchange (even within one year of purchase) in certain situations, including:

• Products damaged by misuse, abuse, improper care or negligence, or accidents (including pet damage)

• Products showing excessive wear and tear

• Products lost or damaged due to fire, flood, or natural disaster

• Products with a missing label or label that has been defaced

• Products returned for personal reasons unrelated to product performance or satisfaction

• Products that have been soiled or contaminated, until they have been properly cleaned

• Returns on ammunition, either in our stores or through the mail

On rare occasions, past habitual abuse of our Returns Agreement

Slate author Justin Peters is exactly the type of person responsible for the crackdown. In a Friday article, Peters brags about having ripped off L.L. Bean for the past six years – often bringing his mother along for what she called his “scam.” 

“I needed new shoes, and so I went to L.L. Bean to buy a new pair of the same ones that had served me well for a year. Imagine my surprise and delight when the sales associate told me of the store’s generous return policy and invited me to exchange my old shoes for new ones, free of charge. What’s more, I also got a $10 gift card because of an in-store promotion of some sort. Not only did I get free shoes, I also got free money. Six years later, I still count this as one of the greatest days of my life.

I haven’t spent a dollar on closed-toe shoes since then. Every year, around Christmas, I would drive to the L.L. Bean store in the Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Illinois, near where I grew up, to exchange my old shoes for new ones.  Over the years, it became a cherished family outing. My mother, who is amused by my sense of thrift, insists on accompanying me on what she refers to as my “scam.” “You’d better not tell anyone about your scam,” she routinely warned me. “If too many people catch on, they’ll stop doing it.”

I feel no guilt about taking L.L. Bean up on its offer. If they didn’t want people to take the swap, they shouldn’t have offered it!”  –Justin Peters

Thanks Justin, good to know you’ll abuse an honor-based policy at the drop of a hat instead of paying for yourself like a responsible adult. 

You too Meagan:




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