- L.L. Bean changed its legendary return policy on Friday.
- In a letter to customers, the company’s executive chairman, Shawn O. Gorman, blamed a “small but growing” number of customers who have taken advantage of the policy.
- The returns of old, damaged items have cost the company $250 million over the last five years.
Scammers taking advantage of L.L. Bean’s generous policy are to blame for the change to its longtime return policy.
Shawn O. Gorman, the company’s executive chairman and the great-grandson of its founder, wrote a letter to customers explaining the change.
“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,” Gorman said. “Based on these experiences, we have updated our policy.”
No longer can customers buy an item at L.L. Bean and return it whenever they decide it does not live up to their expectations. Instead, the policy now extends for one year only. After that, customers can only return an item if it proves defective. In another change to the policy, customers will also now need to provide a proof of purchase for a return or exchange.
There are many stories of people taking items bought used at garage sales or thrift stores – or people returning very old items that are past their useful life – for a full refund or exchange.
This type of return is taking a toll on the company. The cost to L.L. Bean has added up to $250 million over the last five years, the company told the Associated Press. That’s more money than all of the revenue from one of L.L. Bean’s top-selling items, Bean Boots, over the same period of time, according to the Boston Globe.
Social media may have played a role, as people have slowly found out just how good L.L. Bean’s return policy is. Posts often bragged about how easy it is to return old items and get new ones or a full refund.
“People are saying, ‘Oh, I lost 20 pounds, I can return everything for a new wardrobe.’ Or, ‘Grandpa died, so I’m going to clean out his attic and return everything,’ or, ‘I’m upsizing or downsizing so I don’t need queen-size bedsheets, I need twins.’ And that’s not reasonable or fair,” L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem told the Globe.