L.L. Bean just made a drastic cut to its legendary return policy

  • L.L. Bean is scaling back its legendary return policy.
  • Previously, customers could bring back items bought at L.L. Bean’s stores and online any time they felt it didn’t live up to their expectations. The return policy covered the full lifetime of the item.
  • Now, items will only be covered for one year.

One of customers’ favorite things about shopping at L.L. Bean has changed overnight.

The famous “100% satisfaction guaranteed” return policy is no more. It used to be that customers could bring back items bought at L.L. Bean’s stores and online any time they felt it didn’t live up to their expectations. The guarantee covered the item’s full lifetime.

Now, the policy 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.

Customers who purchased items before today can still return items after a year, so long as they can provide a proof or purchase for the item.

L.L. Bean’s was one of the most generous return policies of any store in the US. It allowed customers to exchange any item for a replacement if the customer was unhappy with it in any way, with no questions asked, no matter how old the product was.

L.L. Bean relayed the news to customers in the form of an emailed letter from Shawn O. Gorman, the company’s executive chairman and great-grandson of founder L.L. Bean.

In the letter, Gorman wrote that it was people who took advantage of the generous return policy that forced the company’s hand.

“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.”

The company did not specify what would qualify as a defective product after the one-year period was up – only that they must be defective due to materials or craftsmanship.

In his letter, Gorman said, “We will work with our customers to reach a fair solution if a product is defective in any way.”

L.L. Bean also outlined a number of rules regarding when it will not accept a product under any circumstances – even within a year. Those are:

  • Products damaged by misuse, abuse, improper care or negligence, or accidents (including pet damage)
  • Products showing excessive wear and tear
  • Products lost or damaged due to fire, flood, or natural disaster
  • Products with a missing label or label that has been defaced
  • Products returned for personal reasons unrelated to product performance or satisfaction
  • Products that have been soiled or contaminated, until they have been properly cleaned
  • Returns on ammunition either in our stores or through the mail
  • On rare occasions, past habitual abuse of our Return Policy

The decision has been a long time coming for L.L. Bean, as it first began reviewing its policy a year ago. Business Insider tested the policy and found it lived up to the hype.