L.L.Bean Ends Unlimited Return Policy, Blames Customer Abuse
L.L.Bean will scrap its unlimited lifetime warranty and no longer accept returns on any product it has ever sold regardless of the condition or age of the merchandise. The Portland Press Herald reports L.L. Bean executives made the decision as a result of a growing number of customers abusing its generous satisfaction guarantee policy. Previously, items could be returned anytime without proof of purchase. From now on, products only can be returned if they were purchased within the previous 12 months or have a manufacturing defect. “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. In addition, L.L. Bean will now request a proof of purchase as well.
Total Retail’s Take: Say it ain’t so! In my opinion, L.L.Bean's product return policy was one of the strongest in retail and helped create intense customer loyalty. It’s a shame it has to be revoked after nearly 100 years. That said, I understand this was a move L.L.Bean had to make if customers were taking advantage of the generous return policy. Twelve months is a reasonable amount of time to make a return. L.L.Bean told The Portland Press Herald that it blames social media and its own marketing promotions about the guarantee for the increase of long outstanding returns. “The satisfaction guarantee and the intent of the guarantee is very much still intact. We make great stuff and we stand behind great stuff,” Smith said. “But we've had a huge growth in abuse, and fraud, and a misinterpretation of that guarantee.” Unfortunately, L.L.Bean Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman said the cost to the retailer of abusive and fraudulent returns had become so great that it eclipsed total annual revenue from sales of the company’s flagship Bean boots.