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L.L. Bean, Citing Abuse, Tightens Its Generous Policy on Returns

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  • Mar 16th, 2018 11:43 pm
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L.L. Bean, Citing Abuse, Tightens Its Generous Policy on Returns

L.L. Bean, Citing Abuse, Tightens Its Generous Policy on Returns
The purveyor of outdoor products, famous for its 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, said that a growing number of customers had abused the policy by treating it as a “lifetime product-replacement program.” The retailer will immediately begin enforcing stricter rules for shoppers seeking to exchange items or obtain or get refunds. Under the new policy, consumers will have a year to make returns, and will be required to provide proof of purchase...

L.L. Bean’s decades-old refund-and-replacement policy, one of the most generous in the retail industry, had increasingly been abused, Mr. Gorman wrote. “A small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent,” he wrote, adding that some people had sought “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.”...

L.L. Bean’s turnaround is similar to a change in policy at the outdoor retailer REI. In 2013, after people bragged of taking used REI products bought at swap meets to the store for cash refunds, the company began requiring customers to make their returns within a year of purchase
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Wonder when Costco will follow suit ?
"I felt a great disturbance at KFC as if millions of chickens suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced." RFD user stephroll
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It sucks, but I can't blame the companies here. I don't understand how people can even thinks it is remotely OK to do crap like this.
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Evil Baby wrote: I don't understand how people can even thinks it is remotely OK to do crap like this.
I've seen someone return a pair of LL Bean duck boots that were clearly years old(*) and well worn to exchange for a new pair because "they didn't last as long as I expected them to."

Some people simply have no shame.

IMO Bean should have implemented some sort of intelligent system so that someone whose return rate is low gets the benefit of more than 1 year or warranty. Or at least follow REI's policy of replacing stuff after 1 year if the issue is a manufacturing defect. Maybe Bean will exercise more discretion but not publicize the exact policy in order to thwart abusers.

(*) according to the clerk who looked up the item number.
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So many people, on this site in particular, initiate way too many returns.

I often see people write "buy now, think later" and end up changing their mind. The rest off us have to pay for it.
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sprung wrote: Wonder when Costco will follow suit ?
But Costco already has your purchases in their system.
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sprung wrote: Wonder when Costco will follow suit ?
Costco did this years ago. There's a reason they limit the return period on electronics now, and this is it.
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Evil Baby wrote: It sucks, but I can't blame the companies here. I don't understand how people can even thinks it is remotely OK to do crap like this.
This.

A lot of the general population has no integrity any more.
Sadly
bylo wrote: I've seen someone return a pair of LL Bean duck boots that were clearly years old(*) and well worn to exchange for a new pair because "they didn't last as long as I expected them to."

Some people simply have no shame.

IMO Bean should have implemented some sort of intelligent system so that someone whose return rate is low gets the benefit of more than 1 year or warranty. Or at least follow REI's policy of replacing stuff after 1 year if the issue is a manufacturing defect. Maybe Bean will exercise more discretion but not publicize the exact policy in order to thwart abusers.

(*) according to the clerk who looked up the item number.
Agree

Would not be surprised ... publish one thing (to CYA) and then use a discretionary system
Ottomaddox wrote: But Costco already has your purchases in their system.
So does LL Bean

If you ever shop there IRL or on the website, they keep a database on your purchases.

Makes it easy to do returns, or find out stuff like size / colour you bought the last time etc

We have used this knowledge legitimately several times over the decades and found it invaluable

Once when a pair of boots came apart (manufacturers / design defect) a few years after purchase ... and LL Bean replaced them with a new pair that had been redesigned in the interim to fix the problem. New pair cost more... but it was a straight exchange. No problem, and great service.

The second was when one of the kids lost a beloved sweater we had given him as a Christmas Gift ... I called them up and they were able to check our records to find when we bought it (years earlier)... they helped us to order another of the exact same style, colour & size. Made my sons day.

LL Bean is an AWESOME Retailer

Too bad some folks figure they can take advantage of their more than fair policy ... scammers make it awful for the rest of us
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1 year for reporting problems is still very generous policy.
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peanutz wrote: 1 year for reporting problems is still very generous policy.
Generally yes. But what about manufacturing or even design defects that could take longer to manifest? Consider a badly sewn seam that separates or a fastener that breaks because it's too small or the soles of boots wear out faster than they did on the pair they replaced.

Keep in mind too that LL Bean charges premium prices for high quality merchandise and exceptional customer service. In that business model customers expect more after-sales service than they would from, say, Wal-Mart or even The Gap, etc. That's the reputation that LL Bean earned for itself over the past many decades.

Now LL Bean has broken its longstanding trust with loyal customers. I get that they have to thwart abusers. But this move seems like a high-handed way to do it. (Unless, as supposed above, their actual practice remains more liberal than their new official policy.)
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shwab wrote: So many people, on this site in particular, initiate way too many returns.

I often see people write "buy now, think later" and end up changing their mind. The rest off us have to pay for it.
Some people see the best bargain is getting something for nothing, and they don't care how they go about it.
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bylo wrote: Generally yes. But what about manufacturing or even design defects that could take longer to manifest? Consider a badly sewn seam that separates or a fastener that breaks because it's too small or the soles of boots wear out faster than they did on the pair they replaced.
The article stated that LLBean would work with customers to provide a fair solution should products show defects after the return window had closed.
Keep in mind too that LL Bean charges premium prices for high quality merchandise and exceptional customer service. In that business model customers expect more after-sales service than they would from, say, Wal-Mart or even The Gap, etc. That's the reputation that LL Bean earned for itself over the past many decades.
I disagree with the assertion that LLBean charges premium prices. I am a regular LLBean shopper and find the prices to be low with regard to the quality provided. LLBean does not compete with a discount retailer like WalMart. Even with the CDN exchange and duties, I find it less expensive to shop at LL Bean than most CDN retailers.
Now LL Bean has broken its longstanding trust with loyal customers. I get that they have to thwart abusers. But this move seems like a high-handed way to do it. (Unless, as supposed above, their actual practice remains more liberal than their new official policy.)
I don't see how it has broken its trust. It is still standing behind its products and its service is being adjusted to reflect an unfortunate and very real business situation. There have been several threads recently on the huge number of returns affecting the retail industry. Fact is that we all pay through higher prices because of return abuses. LL Bean is taken proactive steps to curb this abuse. Nothing high-handed about any company taking steps to curb abuse.
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shwab wrote: So many people, on this site in particular, initiate way too many returns.

I often see people write "buy now, think later" and end up changing their mind. The rest off us have to pay for it.
Impulse buying is what stores want you to do. They just hope you will be too lazy to return.
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skeet50 wrote: The article stated that LLBean would work with customers to provide a fair solution should products show defects after the return window had closed.
Fair enough ;)

Their revised warranty page substantiates this. "OUR GUARANTEE: We stand behind all our products and are confident that they will perform as designed. If you are not 100% satisfied with one of our products, you may return it within one year of purchase for a refund. After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship."

It's interesting to note that Eddie Bauer has so far maintained their unconditional lifetime warranty: "Our Guarantee: Every Item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund."
I disagree with the assertion that LLBean charges premium prices. I am a regular LLBean shopper and find the prices to be low with regard to the quality provided. LLBean does not compete with a discount retailer like WalMart. Even with the CDN exchange and duties, I find it less expensive to shop at LL Bean than most CDN retailers.
I admit that Wal-Mart was a poor choice for comparison. But I disagree that Bean's regular prices are generally competitive with Canadian name-brand retailers after allowing for duty, taxes and exchange. There are exceptions of course.
I don't see how it has broken its trust. It is still standing behind its products and its service is being adjusted to reflect an unfortunate and very real business situation. There have been several threads recently on the huge number of returns affecting the retail industry. Fact is that we all pay through higher prices because of return abuses. LL Bean is taken proactive steps to curb this abuse. Nothing high-handed about any company taking steps to curb abuse.
We agree in principle. I just think they could have handled this a bit better, e.g. in communicating it to customers (they didn't(*)) and in how they presented it to the media, e.g. emphasizing the benefits to loyal, responsible customers, who won't be significantly affected, in Bean's attempt to thwart the abusers. Instead this got spun into a loss for everyone.

(*) at least not by e-mail, which is how they normally communicate with us. That suggests they may have been apprehensive in sharing this news with us. That too is puzzling since responsible customers should see this as a benefit. It even took until yesterday for them to say something on Facebook (a medium that not everyone uses): https://www.facebook.com/llbean/posts/10155636619902415
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Well, I am a LL Bean customer and this doesn't change my opinion of the company one little bit. And having previously worked in retail, I am more than familiar with the amount of merchandise that is returned and the return abuse that occurs.
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Ottomaddox wrote: But Costco already has your purchases in their system.
That and Costco is a membership club so to compare them to LLB is apples to oranges. You have to pay them $60 a year just for the privilege of shopping there, so Costco is already $60 ahead before you even return one item. (and if you don't return anything for your first, say, 5 years, they're $300 ahead).
But return too many things such that you come out ahead of them and they can revoke your membership. Like this guy:
https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3034015

In the case of LLB they don't have that $60 "cushion" to work with. Rather than ban individual customers for returning too much, easier to just tighten up the policy. 1 year is still more than generous -- most stores it's 30-90 days if that. If you use an item as intended and it's defective, that issue SHOULD appear in your first year of use. Beyond that falls in the realm of "normal wear and tear"; if LLB wants to repair such items free of charge, or exchange it, more power to them, but after a year you should not expect to be able to return for a full refund.

(Edited to add) somebody mentioned Eddie Bauer. I used one backpack (might have been the old "Campus Day Pack", early 90's model!) from EB from high school through university, and I used it several years after that as my "personal item" on board planes (easily fit under the seat). After maybe 25 years of use , it was beyond done. I guess they could have repaired the zippers and restitched the shoulder straps... I never once considered bringing it back for a refund, exchange, or repair after 25 years, even though apparently I could have!
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EastGTARedFlagger wrote:
(Edited to add) somebody mentioned Eddie Bauer. I used one backpack (might have been the old "Campus Day Pack", early 90's model!) from EB from high school through university, and I used it several years after that as my "personal item" on board planes (easily fit under the seat). After maybe 25 years of use , it was beyond done. I guess they could have repaired the zippers and restitched the shoulder straps... I never once considered bringing it back for a refund, exchange, or repair after 25 years, even though apparently I could have!
Just yesterday I finally got rid of a LL Bean winter jacket that I have been wearing every winter for the past 24 years. Throw it in the washer and dryer and it was good to go. The only reason I cannot wear it now is this past year I have lost a lot of weight and it is too big for me. My sister and her husband bought the same jackets at the same time and they still wear them also. I had a wool lined barn coat from LL Bean that I bought at the same time 24 years ago and my BIL is still wearing that one.

It's that quality that keeps us loyal to LL Bean and the reason why this Spring we will be taking a trip to New Hampshire to buy a new wardrobe from LL Bean.
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EastGTARedFlagger wrote: (Edited to add) somebody mentioned Eddie Bauer. I used one backpack (might have been the old "Campus Day Pack", early 90's model!) from EB from high school through university, and I used it several years after that as my "personal item" on board planes (easily fit under the seat). After maybe 25 years of use , it was beyond done. I guess they could have repaired the zippers and restitched the shoulder straps... I never once considered bringing it back for a refund, exchange, or repair after 25 years, even though apparently I could have!
I had a similar experience with an Eddie Bauer down parka. My "honesty" actually worked against me. After many years of use, and probably occasional "abuse", some of the internal stitching began to separate. I took the parka to EB's flagship store in Toronto in the fall to get it repaired before winter. The clerk was hesitant. She wanted to just give me a new parka. I didn't think that was fair to EB since repair was both feasible and less costly. So she took the parka and sent it in for repair. Anyway despite regular followups the parka didn't come back until the next spring. So my "honesty" actually cost me the use of the parka for the season. The repair did eventually get done and I'm still using that parka now ~15 years later. But if I had it to do over again, I'd have just taken a new parka. Oh well. Live and learn...
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skeet50 wrote: It's that quality that keeps us loyal to LL Bean and the reason why this Spring we will be taking a trip to New Hampshire to buy a new wardrobe from LL Bean.
Be careful with relying on today's quality based on experience with 24 year old quality. It's not always the same.

In addition to the EB down parka in my previous post, a couple of years ago I bought an LL Bean synthetic parka to replace a cheap Land's End synthetic parka that had worn out. [Why two parkas? Because the EB down parka is too warm on mild winter days and inside malls etc. I wanted something that would be more comfortable around 0°C. I continue to wear the EB down when the temp drops well below zero.]

I bought an LL Bean Rugged Ridge Parka a couple of winters ago. It fits great and does its job quite well. But they've made sacrifices in both material quality and design. For instance the nylon shell material makes a rustling sound when moving. I've never encountered this before with parkas. Also the zipper is a very small gauge. It's quite finicky to zip and unzip. I'm also concerned that it will break after a few years. There are several reports about this in the reviews. While I'm confident that LL Bean will do the "fair" thing should the parka fail, IMO the quality is not up to par.

A second example. I bought my wife an LL Bean fleece housecoat many years ago. After it wore out I bought her a replacement from LL Bean last Christmas. The new one is clearly made from a thinner material and isn't as warm as the previous one even though it's the same model. The new housecoat is "good enough" so we're not returning it. But it's still not as good as it used to be.
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bylo wrote: Be careful with relying on today's quality based on experience with 24 year old quality. It's not always the same.

I bought an LL Bean Rugged Ridge Parka a couple of winters ago. It fits great and does its job quite well. But they've made sacrifices in both material quality and design. While I'm confident that LL Bean will do the "fair" thing should the parka fail, IMO the quality is not up to par.
I agree that LL Bean is really a company based on past perception vs todays quality. They quality has gone down, as they have, like everyone else, moved production for some of the clothing to the usual factories that everyone else does.

What surprising to me about this move was that I found their prices high in general- and therefore I always thought (and I believe this to be the case for most brands- that if you check their books they will allocate some money for "warranties" or " Return Reserve") that the return policy was priced into the cost of the goods I was buying (and they also removed the free shipping).

$45 for the non iron oxford is pricey. If the quality is there, with the warranty- sure it might be worth while. If the quality is the same as everyone else, and there is no guarantee on the quality, then why would I spend MORE on shirt of LLbean? Are they going to lower their prices? I doubt it.

I expect Lands End to make the same move- their sales have been sliding, quality is way down, prices are high, and probably have the same abuse on the returns.

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