I was telling the folks in Slack the other day my most Maine story ever: I went to a holiday party a few weeks ago with about 50 people. It was a snowy day, so everyone at the party took their shoes off in the mudroom when they came in, which was fine until the end of the party when we all had to sort through 50 goddamn pairs of identical L.L. Bean boots to find our own. It was a hilarious nightmare.
There’s a reason why everyone was wearing a pair of Bean boots, though, and it’s because they are awesome, you guys. My wife’s last pair lasted her for two decades (20 years!), and when they finally ran their course, there was a small part of her that thought, “Maybe I should return them for a new pair,” because that’s a thing you can do at L.L. Bean. Because of their Lifetime Guarantee, you can return any product at any time to exchange it or get a full refund. It’s a huge selling point for the store — hell, there was a “This American Life” story on it a while back. It’s this amazingly generous return policy, but because of the quality of L.L. Bean’s stuff, it’s not a policy most people would need to use very much.
My wife didn’t return them, of course, because she’s not an asshole.
Well, now the policy has been discontinued. Why? Because of assholes. Because shitheads abused the system. Because inconsiderate dicks have been buying 10, 15, 20-year-old L.L. Bean products at Goodwill and at yard sales, and they have been returning them for full refunds or exchanges.
“We have huge numbers of customers who come in with no buying history at all, but are returning copious amounts of product,” Smith said. “And that’s things customers are buying … at yard sales and Goodwill and Salvation Army, and coming in for refunds.”
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.
It’s not just that, but parents were using L.L. Bean to clothe their children for a lifetime. A 10-year-old buys a coat, and when he outgrows it, the parents simply return it for a larger size, no matter how much use the coat has already gotten.
People took advantage of L.L. Bean’s liberal return policy, of their generosity, and now no one gets to use it anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. Customers can continue to return their stuff for up to a year, or if the product has an obvious manufacturing defect. But, you will now need proof of purchase (you won’t need a receipt, though: L.L. Bean has all your purchases on file for the last four years).
But the lifetime guarantee, the one that L.L. Bean took so much pride in, the one that its customers bragged about? It’s gone. Because of assholes.
Source: Portland Press Herald