LL Bean Ditches 106-Year-Old Unlimited Return Policy

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L.L. Bean said on Friday it was scrapping its iconic 106-year-old lifetime returns policy in the wake of what it said was a "small, growing number" of customers abusing the guarantee that lets shoppers bring back items at anytime, even years after a purchase. The company's returns page now reads: "If you are not 100% satisfied with one of our products, you may return it within one year of purchase for a refund". Customers will now have one year to return L.L. Bean products, and they must provide a receipt. The company used to put it like this: "Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way". The company is expecting backlash but promises to "continue to honor one of the best guarantees in retail". While I felt a twinge of guilt entering the reason code "01 Quality Unsatisfactory" (after all they had lasted longer than any other shoes I've bought) their return policy clearly allowed it, and I meant to partake for the first time ever.

The news drew a mixed reaction on social media, with some excoriating the retailer and others saying the change is justified. My mother-in-law has been wearing the same L.L.Bean watch for at least as long as I've been alive, having sent it in to be replaced a couple of times. "It doesn't change my opinion of the company at all". "When I'm spending $70 for kids' snow trousers, I need to know that the company is putting enough care, quality and effort into them that they're not going to break 14 months down the road". The rate of abusive returns had doubled over the past five years, costing the company around US$250 million during that time, according to McKeever.

"Destroy quality" items are destined for the landfill.

It's not uncommon to hear stories of people clearing out basements of used or unwanted L.L. Bean products, sometimes decades after their purchase.

Now, items will only be covered for one year.

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Gorman said the change in return policy "will only affect a small percentage of returns".

On a recent day in the returns department, Dawn Segars recounted the story of a family that cleared out their grandfather's attic and returned a pile of 20- to 30-year-old clothes.

Behind her, in the next room, an unpleasant odor wafted from a bin containing returned items, including well-worn boots, ripped bedding, dog cushions and other items.

Now, the policy extends for one year only. "It's not as good as unlimited, but still good", he said.

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