Bad news for fans of the increasingly-rare lifetime return policy: clothing and outdoor retailer L.L. Bean announced today that it has revised its lax return policy, leaving behind their famously generous guarantee after over 100 years. According to a letter to customers from L.L. Bean Executive Chairman Shawn O. Gorman, the decision comes after “a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting [the] guarantee well beyond its original intent” by using it to return “heavily worn products” and to seek refunds for “products that have been purchased through third parties, such as yard sales.”
It seems that the company’s former return policy – which allowed customers to return items without proof of purchase and for decades after buying – has become a liability in recent years. And how could it not be when there are monsters running around out there buying old L.L. Bean for pennies on the dollar and then returning them for full price. According to a statement to the Associated Press from CEO Steve Smith, the increase in people abusing the policy is “not sustainable from a business perspective. It’s not reasonable. And it’s not fair to our customers.”
The company hasn’t banned returns entirely though – the new policy still allows customers up to a full year to return products with proof of purchase. Their announcement also assures that after one year, the retailer will “work with…customers to reach a fair solution if a product is defective in any way.” The letter also reinforced their commitment to “quality service, trust, and getting people outdoors,” and assures customers that the company will “continue to honor one of the best guarantees in retail, with no impact for the vast majority of…customers.”
While it’s sad to see such a long-standing policy change, responses to the announcement on L.L. Bean’s Facebook page suggest that customers are understanding about the reasoning, with many people directing their anger at people whose abuse of the policy forced its change rather than at the company itself.
You can still find lots of products with lifetime warranties (many made right here in America), however. Get those goods here.