In 2016, This American Life spoke with a man named Derek. He tells the reporter about a pair of L.L. Bean boots that were given to him when he got married in 1992. Around 2007, the boots finally had enough and started to fall apart, as boots do.
While your natural inclination might be to throw those boots in the trash and buy some new ones, Derek knew that L.L. Bean had a return policy that basically boiled down to “any item, anytime, any reason.” So, he returned them. The return person at the counter asked why he was returning the 15-year-old boots, he said they’d given out after all that wear and tear, and she handed him a check for their full value. That was it.
The episode has lots of other stories like this. One person returned an elementary school backpack from L.L. Bean when they were 30.
It was one of many transactions like it under L.L. Beans’ lax return policy that spoke to the Maine company’s folksy charm and honest service. Perhaps it speaks to a gullibility within a company that should have known better as it grew or perhaps it speaks to the way our society has evolved to see flexibility as a weakness, but regardless, L.L. Bean has officially scrapped the return policy citing a surge in those abusing it.
Per the Press Herald:
L.L. Bean executives said the decision was prompted by a growing number of customers abusing its generous satisfaction guarantee policy. In the past, L.L. Bean would accept almost any return in exchange for a new unit of the same product, the most comparable product currently available, or a store gift card valued at the last known sale price of the returned item.
“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,” L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith said Wednesday in an interview.
Good work, guys.
Now, you’ll only be able to return a product that was purchased within the last 12 months or has a manufacturing defect. They’ve also created a new proof-of-purchase requirement that tracks purchase records in case you try to use the “I don’t have the receipt” excuse.
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) February 9, 2018
L.L. Bean says that social media was mostly to blame for abuse of the system, though their own promotion of the policy certainly didn’t help. Not to mention that a secondary market of people collecting old L.L. Bean clothing items and returning them for profit was starting to take a real bite out of sales.
So there you go, you monster. You could have returned that stinky, old jacket for cash, but noooo, you had to get greedy and ruin it for the rest of us. Way to go…