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L.L. Bean Ditches Its Lifetime Return Policy Citing Customer Abuse as the Reason

(Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

L.L. Bean customers wishing to exchange their worn-out boots for a brand new pair a decade later won't be honored with a popular store policy anymore.

The outdoor retail company announced they've scrapped their lenient satisfaction policy that offered unlimited returns on merchandise.

It looks like the 106-year-old retailer is modernizing their way of conducting business.


The change is effective immediately and was prompted by increasing accounts of abuse. The policy originally offered new unit replacements, the latest available model, or a gift card valued at the last known sale price for the returned item, but store spokesman Mac McKeever said that about 15% of returns abused the generous policy.

Some customers took advantage by returning merchandise damaged beyond repair, or ones that have been purchased at second-hand stores like Goodwill or yard sales.

One customer brought in worn slippers damaged from years of wear and tear in exchange for a new pair, citing they were "displeased with quality."

A non-lifetime guarantee.

Giphy


Under the modified policy, merchandise can now be exchanged if they were purchased in the last 12 months, or if there is a defect.


According to Press Herald, store executives imposed a new proof-of-purchase requirement. The stores' computers will keep transaction records moving forward, forfeiting the need for receipts of future transactions.

The retailer also has implemented a new proof-of-purchase requirement. L.L. Bean's computer systems contain transaction records going back four years, so a receipt isn't necessary unless the item to be returned is more than four years old, the executives said. It also now requires a $50 minimum purchase for free shipping.

Loyal customers may no longer be faithful.




L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith explained the reason for the sudden change in policy in an interview.

What we have seen, and it has come to the point where we had to act upon it, is a small but growing group of customers who are interpreting the guarantee as a lifetime product replacement program, and that was never its intent.

Customers interpreted the guarantee to their liking, according to L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman. He confirmed the policy abuse in a letter to the Los Angeles Times.

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.



There will be some wiggle room beyond the first year store warranty if there is a manufacture defect in the product. Gorman said that the company would be willing to work with the customer to come to a "fair solution."

On its website, L.L. Bean's policy states:

We stand behind all our products and are confident that they will perform as designed. After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.

The Freeport, Maine-based company found that abusive returns doubled in the last five years, resulting in a $250 million loss within that time. McKeever said, "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."

It's just business as usual.


You can't please everyone.




H/T - PressHerald, Twitter, LAtimes