LL Bean changes lifetime guarantee to 1-year return policy

Sean Reid
February 10, 2018

L.L. Bean's new store in Colonie, N.Y.

"Some view [our guarantee] as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years", wrote executive chairman Shawn Gorman, who is the great-grandson of founder Leon Leonwood Bean.

Not once til then had I taken advantage of L.L. Bean's unbelievable, lifetime return policy - even though I had purchased many items from them over the years, including a backpack, a compass and many turtlenecks. If the product is actually defective and the customer tries to return it after a year, the company said it will work out a "fair solution".

I had never heard of a clothing store that was open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but being a diehard Bean fangirl - and proud owner of their duck boots - a night of lost sleep seemed a small price to pay for a pilgrimage to the retail mecca.

It's a momentous change considering that the previous policy had persisted for more than a century and was an integral part of the L.L.Bean brand.

"Based on these experiences, we have updated our policy".

L.L. Bean's outdoor gear - including its signature Bean Boots prized by campers and hipsters alike - is no longer guaranteed for life. In 2013, REI went from a lifetime, no-questions-asked return policy to a one-year return policy.

And the famed ME clothier says it's ending the century-old policy because some customers were abusing it. Notably, the option for "repair" means that not all returns at Patagonia stores end in the customer walking out with a brand new product, sometimes just their refurbished old one. Plus, it was a policy that said "we trust our customers to act honestly, and forgive those who don't", which assumed the best and not the worst of us humans. "The satisfaction guarantee and the intent of the guarantee is very much still intact", Smith added. It represented a vestige of quality, goodness, and integrity that American manufacturing is supposed to be known for - and it lived on at this one company, in a world dominated by industrial chintziness. For example, they would try to turn in items they bought at Goodwill or a yard sale, costing the company about $250 million in the past five years, according to a spokesman.

The original intent was that Bean didn't want customers to be dissatisfied with his products.

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