LL Bean says no more unlimited returns

  • Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
11:13 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 Nation & World

Known for its unlimited return policy, LL Bean is saying no more to accepting returns of its products, no matter the condition or when the item was purchased.

The company is citing cases where customers have gone to thrift stores and looked in trash bins for LL Bean-branded products, only to return them to the stores for refunds or exchanges, The Associated Press reported.

Company officials sent letters to customers Friday morning, NPR reported.

Now LL Bean will only accept returns for one year with proof of purchase. It will still replace items that have manufacturing defects after the one-year deadline.

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Returns of items have doubled in the past five years, outpacing revenue from the company’s iconic boot.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP
FILE - In this March 16, 2016, file photo, shoppers exit the L.L. Bean retail store in Freeport, Maine. L.L. Bean is tightening its generous return policy by imposing a one-year limit on most returns to reduce abuse and fraud. Executives say returns of severely worn items have doubled over five years. Under the new policy announced Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, the company will accept returns for one year with a proof of purchase and will continue to replace products for manufacturing defects beyond that. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Over five years, the company as lost $250 million on items that were “destroy quality,” LL Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem told The AP

Those items are sent directly to landfills. First-quality items are put back on store shelves and sold. Seconds are either taken to outlets or donated to charities, The AP reported.

“Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales,” NPR reported.

When Leon Leonwood Bean, the founder of the company, accepted returns of 90 of the first 100 hunting shoes he produced, he returned customers’ money and redesigned the boot that made the company famous. He also started the company’s guarantee policy, The AP reported.

The company is also adjusting its free shipping to include a $50 minimum to qualify. It’s also cutting overhead by offering early retirement deals and adjusting workers’ pension plans, according to The AP.