L.L. Bean’s generous century-old return policy is about to be a whole lot less generous. The retailer, after touting a 100 percent return guarantee on any product ever sold – regardless of condition – is finally scrapping the policy.
L.L. Bean’s announcement in a memo to employees and in a letter to customers represents a major policy shift for a 106-year-old company that used its satisfaction guarantee as a way to differentiate itself from competitors.
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. The outdoor specialty retailer said returns of items that have been destroyed or rendered useless, including some purchased at thrift stores or retrieved from trash bins, have doubled in the past five years.
Previously, items could be returned anytime without proof of purchase.
No more. 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 last Wednesday in an interview. In addition, L.L. Bean will now request a proof of purchase as well.
The company joins a list of other retailers that have tightened their return policies. Outdoors retailer REI, which was once jokingly dubbed “Rental Equipment Inc.” and “Return Everything Inc.” because its unlimited returns policy, imposed a one-year restriction five years ago. Other retailers have been narrowing the window for returns or imposing new conditions.