The news broke this weekend.
“In a letter to customers Friday, the Freeport-based outerwear giant said it would no longer honor a lifetime replacement guarantee that had become an integral part of its reputation. Instead, it will only replace items that are returned within 12 months, and for which customers can provide proof of purchase. After a year, it will replace items that have defects, on a case-by-case basis.”- via L.L. Bean’s Legendary Return Policy Has Ended – Boston Magazine
The returns policy change follows discouraging news from last week that LLBean is laying off 10 percent of its 5,000 employees and implementing other belt-tightening procedures. The measures, announced last February, started Jan. 1, with the aim of reducing its workforce by 500 full-time people.
In 2017, Maine’s fifth largest employer took a political hit when one of the heirs and board member, Linda Bean, came under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for political donations that she made to the pro–Donald Trump organization Making America Great Again.
Unfortunately, Linda Bean’s support for Donald Trump backfired when President Trump Tweeted her up:
“Trump’s message landed with the subtlety of a hand grenade. Suddenly, the brand had been hijacked, those tote bags now symbols of political partisanship. In an anti-Trump frenzy, longtime customers cut up their L.L. Bean credit cards, returned orders, and pledged allegiance on Facebook to competitors Patagonia and REI.”-via Boston Magazine ( 2/21/2017).
At the same time that yesterday’s LLBean news arrived in my computer’s in-box, I received a pleasant surprise in my rural mailbox- a package from Patagonia that contained my 10 year old pair of tights with a sticker and a thank you note.
A Thank You note was also included, which read, in part:
“Thank you for fixing your gear. As consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer, thereby reducing the need to buy more. Thank you for sending your gear into us for repair and for being loyal to the threads that have carried you of mountains and maybe even been passed down through generations. If you’d like to share your Worn Wear story or learn how to fix your own gear, visit: patagonia.com/wornwear
I was pleasantly surprised at the level of service I obtained on my repair. I originally brought the tights back to the Patagonia Outlet (Freeport, Maine) where I bought them to see if they would repair a short leg zipper that allowed the tights to be put on and off while wearing shoes. The salesperson volunteered to send the garment into Patagonia in Reno, Nevada, where they would assess the damages and determine if the garment was able to be fixed.
Not only did they put in a brand new zipper, they repaired an assorted 12 holes/tears that had accumulated over 10 years of year round use.
I have always been a lifelong customer of LLBean, and have only used their return policy in a reasonable manner. I decry the abuses that the returns sales agents have had to endure, but I regret they have dropped the lifetime return for those of us who don’t abuse it.
L.L. Bean’s foundation policy is strongly linked to its brand , so it remains to be seen whether this change will assist in improving the last two years of LLBean’s flat sales.