L.L. Bean Dumps It's Unlimited Return Policy After Customers Abuse and Return Items Found in Trash and at Thrift Stores
From Daily Mail:
L.L. Bean's generous return policy is going to be a little less forgiving, after people have abused the policy and are returning items they bought at thrift stores and found in the trash.
The company, which has touted its 100 percent satisfaction guarantee for more than a century, is imposing a one-year limit on most returns to reduce growing abuse and fraud.
The outdoor specialty retailer said returns of items that have been destroyed or rendered useless, including some purchased at thrift stores or retrieved from trash bins, have doubled in the past five years, surpassing the annual revenue from the company's famous boot.
'The numbers are staggering,' CEO Steve Smith said. 'It's not sustainable from a business perspective. It's not reasonable. And it's not fair to our customers.'
L.L. Bean announced Friday that it will now accept returns for any reason only for one year with proof of purchase. It will continue to replace products for manufacturing defects beyond that.
The family-owned company is prepared for a backlash, but the changes honor the spirit of the founder's original guarantee, said Shawn Gorman, L.L.'s great-grandson and the company's chairman. Internal surveys indicate 85 percent of customers are OK with the new return policy, he said.
Over the past five years, the company has lost $250 million on returned items that are classified by the company as 'destroy quality,' said L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem.
'Destroy quality' items are destined for the landfill. First-quality products are returned to store shelves and 'seconds' are sold at outlets or donated to charity.
It's not uncommon to hear stories of people clearing out basements of used or unwanted L.L. Bean products, sometimes decades after their purchase. Some customers replace the same items year after year to get the latest outdoor gear. Some even head to thrift stores, yard sales or junkyards to retrieve L.L. Bean items that they then return.
Gorman knows first-hand: He said a shirt that he had donated to Goodwill, with his name printed in it, was once returned to a store.
On a recent day in the returns department, Dawn Segars recounted the story of a family that cleared out their grandfather's attic and returned a pile of 20- to 30-year-old clothes. They ended up walking away with a $350 gift card.
Behind her, in the next room, an unpleasant odor wafted from a bin containing returned items, including well-worn boots, ripped bedding, dog cushions and other items.
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