For many in Maine, L.L.Bean is synonymous with local pride. The company has been making outdoor apparel for over one hundred years, and it has become famous both for its iconic rubber boots and the extremely generous unlimited return policy.
So last week when L.L.Bean announced it would change its legendary unlimited returns policy, customers throughout New England shared their surprise, and many also shared stories of how they had used the policy themselves.
“My Dad had a friend who after 20 years lost a button from a shirt and brought it in for a full refund,” said Claudia Quinn, herself an L.L.Bean customer. She added that her dad would tease his friend for this return, and that she thinks the company’s “generosity has been taken advantage of by many.”
Another customer, Shawn Box, said he knew many people who profited from the policy.
Besides replacing items customers had bought themselves, “I had college friends in the '90s who bought things on lawn sales and returned them,” he said. “I knew people from work in the 2000s who bought off eBay and returned them.”
This trend of people returning items they found from third-party sellers is one of the primary reasons L.L.Bean changed its policy. It’s such a problem, in fact, that many second-hand stores will actually slash through the L.L.Bean label to avoid these returns.
The quality of the company’s goods was noted by many, and is largely the reason why many customers don’t feel the unlimited return policy is necessary. Jennifer Albee said that “I wear my mother's Bean boots that are probably as old as I am.”
Barbara Erkson, a native of upstate New York, said that her father would regularly order his work boots from L.L.Bean. “One pair never fit quite right and they sat in the box unworn for many years,” she said. “We happened to go to Maine and he brought them along to return. They were 15 years old at the time, never worn and they gave him a full refund at the price then. He actually made money on the deal.”
Even those who continue to think highly of the company had stories to share about what the policy meant to them. Kate Casparius, a Maine Public employee, said that her dad received a pair of L.L.Bean's famous boots while he was serving in Korea and called it “the best package he received.”
“My dad wore those boots for over 20 years,” she said. “When they began to wear and fall apart he drove to Freeport, went to L.L.Bean, with his old pair of boots, no receipt, just the story of a Marine and his boots, and L.L.Bean happily replaced his boots, no question asked.” In fact, Casparius said, they thanked him for his service. All these years later, Casparius’ father is still a loyal customer of L.L.Bean.
One customer in Chicago has filed a lawsuit against L.L.Bean, alleging that the company has breached its warranty by changing the unlimited returns policy. However, most customers see the change as long overdue and wish the policy a fond farewell.
A spokesperson from L.L.Bean has said purchases made before Feb. 9, 2018, are not subject to the new policy as long as there's proof of purchase. For purchases made after that date, customers can return items up to one year, with proof of purchase.
Some responses were submitted through social media and may have been edited for length and clarity.