LL Bean imposes limits on its return policy, citing fraud

LL Bean retail store in Freeport Maine. – AP

While the change in L.L. Bean's return policy is sad news, there are still plenty of stores where you can return items literally forever, although some require a receipt and may apply only for certain product categories. "Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales", executive chairman Shawn O. Gorman wrote. Customers will have one year after purchasing an item to return it, accompanied by proof of purchase.

The policy allowed customers to return products years, or even decades after they purchased them, according to NPR.

In a follow-up conversation with Outside, an L.L. Bean spokesperson elaborated that in the last five years, the percent of returns that violate the guarantee policy-which was created to protect customers who received defective products-had doubled to 15 percent, costing the company approximately $250 million. She said she had recently bought a pair of $200 L.L. Bean boots, which she said were already falling apart. "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".

More news: More Flu-Related Deaths Were Recorded In The US

The change in policy highlights one of the trickiest parts of retailing: offering simple and hassle-free returns policies without falling victim to abuse and scams. It represented a vestige of quality, goodness, and integrity that American manufacturing is supposed to be known for - and it lived on at this one company, in a world dominated by industrial chintziness.

While some customers saw this coming, given that other brands with generous policies, such as REI, have also gotten stricter, many others expressed their disappointment on social media. Thus the satisfaction guarantee was born. Plus, it was a policy that said "we trust our customers to act honestly, and forgive those who don't", which assumed the best and not the worst of us humans.

Spokesperson Carolyn Beem told the AP that the company has lost $250 million on returned items classified as "destroy quality", which end up in the landfill, while first-quality products find their way back to store shelves and "seconds" are rerouted to outlets or donated to charity. It let generations of customers know that if they became unsatisfied with a purchase for any reason, at any point, L.L.Bean was willing to accept the item back.

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