L.L.Bean ends its famous ‘lifetime replacement’ guarantee
L.L.Bean, which has touted its 100 percent satisfaction guarantee for more than a century, has initiated a new one-year limit on returns and exchanges due to rampant abuse.
In a letter to customers on its Facebook page, Shawn Gorman, executive chairman, wrote, “Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. 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.”
L.L.Bean said returns of items that have been destroyed, rendered useless, acquired from thrift stores or retrieved from trash bins have doubled in the past five years, the costs of which have exceeded the annual revenue from the company’s iconic duck boot. Abuses are believed to have accelerated as return stories have been shared across social media.
“The numbers are staggering,” Steve Smith, L.L.Bean’s CEO, told The Associated Press. “It’s not sustainable from a business perspective. It’s not reasonable. And it’s not fair to our customers.”
The retailer said it will, however, continue to replace products for manufacturing defects beyond a year after purchase.
The return policy on the site now reads: “If you are not 100 percent 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.”
Edgar Dworsky, founder of the consumer resource site, Consumer World, said in an e-mail to USA Today, “We’ll have to see how consumers react, but I think most will still consider their new policy very fair.”
In February 2017, L.L.Bean indicated it was exploring overhauling its generous return policy while saying it was offering voluntary early retirements to employees to shore up profitability. At the time, the company also said it was exploring eliminating year-round free shipping and last week indicated it was imposing a $50 minimum for free shipping.
- A Letter to Our Customers – Facebook
- LL Bean dropping its unlimited returns policy – The Associated Press/CNBC
- L.L. Bean, Citing Abuse, Tightens Its Generous Policy on Returns – The New York Times
- L.L. Bean puts foot down: No more refunds on grandpa’s 20-year-old boots – USA Today
- Should L.L.Bean ditch its legendary return policy? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important was L.L.Bean’s legendary return policy to its overall success? Will the retailer face negative repercussions from ending its lifetime return policy? Do you see other retailers with generous return policies altering theirs, as well?