The change is ostensibly because "a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent", according to a Facebook post by executive chairman Shawn Gorman. "Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales".
Michelle Zaleski of Marlborough, Mass., said she anxious that the new L.L. Bean policy could mean the company was reducing the quality of its products. "It's not fair to the customers who honor the original spirit of the guarantee and it's certainly not sustainable from a business perspective".
Leon Leonwood Bean, L.L. Bean's founder, is credited with launching the policy when 90 of his first 100 hunting shoes were returned. 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.
"We make good money, but we're not rich and have to make very financially responsible decisions about where we spend our money", she said.
From now on, products only can be returned if they were bought within 12 months or have a manufacturing defect. "For other items, members and customers have a year to return or exchange items they are not satisfied with". Even better, if you didn't have a receipt, they'd give you a gift card for the current selling price or replace the item. The now-defunct lifetime return policy had been in place for 106 years.
It also warned at the time that it might have to rethink its return policy.
Nothing in life is guaranteed-not even products bought from longtime Maine-based outdoor retailer L.L. Bean. I kept those boots for years, and when the soles on them finally wore down, I dutifully boxed them up, filled out the return form and waited for the replacement pair to arrive a few weeks later. Thank you for being a loyal customer and we look forward to continuing to inspire and enable you to Be an Outsider. According to Patagonia spokesperson Corey Simpson, the success of the brand's Worn Wear program helps to support their Ironclad Guarantee. "I've been embarrassed for your associates when I've been in line seeing customers take advantage of the guarantee". I assume that there are some abuses somewhere along the line.
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