Reaction: LL Bean’s New Return Policy

By now you’ve all seen the news of LL Bean updating their ‘lifetime’ guarantee on their products.

In a letter sent from Bean Brass to the general population: LL Bean will only accept returns up to one year after purchase, accompanied by a receipt.  This is a change from their lifetime guarantee policy that has been with them for over a hundred years.  In the grand scheme of things, this is pretty major.

The change has been met with skepticism as well as with understanding.  When I hear the words ‘lifetime guarantee’, I hear an insurance policy that protects me as the consumer should something go wrong with the product.  Unfortunately, roughly 15% of the returns LL Bean were processing are what they considered ‘abuse’.  Basically, folks were finding a 20-year old pair of Bean Boots at a yard sale, and demanding that LL Bean replace them.

I’m all for LL Bean updating their guarantee.  Given that the above is absolutely abusive behavior, and shouldn’t be allowed.  I have made numerous purchases from LL Bean, and actually had to return some items because of bad fit/etc, and they have been nothing but accommodating.  I’m still an LL Bean customer, and considering the lengths they go to satisfy their customers, I don’t plan on going anywhere.

Your thoughts?

Image: Google Image Search



  1. Kyle Halstead
    02/14/2018 / 8:15 AM

     “Lifetime Guarantee”, there’s something to be said about that. The phrase alone puts them in a category all to themselves. While I get that there are people who abuse it; it’s rather disheartening to hear. One thing I loved about LLBean was their unwavering confidence in their product and willingness to stand behind it no matter what. When you buy a pair of Beans boots, it feels like you’re buying into a club or purchasing a piece of history. Those boots will stay with you for as long as you want them to. Few people make quality items they’ll stand behind. I guess LLBean has joined the modern world in terms of profit over good customer service. But that’s just my two cents. Life goes on. 

  2. Brett
    02/14/2018 / 8:41 AM

    Cabelas used to have this policy on their waders. Now that particular model is terrible. This is the first sign that quality has already been compromised…..

  3. Nem
    02/14/2018 / 9:10 AM

    LL Bean is not changing their return policy for items that don’t fit well, are an unfavorable color, or just not liked after delivery.  Normal rules apply.  What is changing is the no-questions-asked-for-a-lifetime return or exchange regardless of use.  Return are generously accepted for one year after purchase.  If I’m wrong please cite the rule change I am misinterpreting.

    And to be clear, all records for LL Bean purchases made online or in stores are maintained in their database, eliminating the need for a paper receipt.  Not long ago I called LL Bean to request a replacement set of insoles for a pair of old Bluchers.  I couldn’t remember if I’d bought them direct from LL Bean, or found them on eBay.  The customer service rep looked up the receipt, from August 2005, and gladly shipped me a pair of insoles.  I asked what the outcome would have been had I not bought direct from them she said she would not have been able to send out the insoles.  That’s absolutely fair.  In fact, I was ready to pay for the insoles, but was denied.  Point of this is, LL Bean shouldn’t be indicted for mistreatment of customers, or for abandoning their heritage for quality goods, for changing a policy that puts them in position to lose margin across their product line.  Anyone in business knows this cost of goods sold variable can be deadly and is impossible to forecast.  The 100% lifetime guarantee, as it was intended by the founder, just doesn’t work in an economy the size of ours.  
    I’ll add this disclaimer as well; I have been a Bean customer since the early 80’s and I have only once returned an item after use.  It was a pair of boots bought in the 90’s that fit poorly even after about two months of break-in wear.  I felt horrible asking for an exchange, but was assured by the company they stood by my purchase and happily sent me a different size (that I continue to wear today!).  Had they told me “sorry pal, they’re worn and therefore ineligible for refund or exchange” I would have been fine since every other retailer on planet Earth operates that way.  Not one of the retailers mentioned on the RCS blog has a better return policy.
    Just my $0.02 worth…

  4. Jeff
    02/14/2018 / 9:12 AM

    I recently bought the bean waterfowl waders, and pro waterfowl jacket after a long search, the return policy was a big consideration, I will probably stick with them, but giving it some thought for sure. I completely agree with your points above, but it’s sure nice to have the piece of mind that if they do leak, or malfunction Bean would have stood by them past one season, or a few hunts in my case.  

    • Tcb
      02/14/2018 / 9:36 AM

      I bet if you wore them twice over the years or whatever it may be they would cover it if you called. 

  5. Brad
    02/14/2018 / 9:28 AM

    I agree 100% with them.  Too many people take advantage of a good thing.  I bought my Bean Boots 15+ years ago and I’ve never had a problem.  That being said, if they fell apart this year I’d be more than willing to PAY to have them fixed, but I wouldn’t expect to have them repaired for free.  Businesses are in business to make money.  

  6. Tcb
    02/14/2018 / 9:33 AM

    I’d consider buying some things from Lands End which I consider better quality. I don’t blame them though and think it’s fair. Also don’t mind that they’re charging for shipping. That’s a huge cost for them. 

    • Tcb
      02/14/2018 / 9:38 AM

      Maybe quality will improve at LL Bean too if they can’t fall back on a lifetime Guarantee 

  7. MBB
    02/14/2018 / 9:57 AM

    I was literally boxing up a 4 year old OCBD, that I have worn a handful of times over the years. The shirt has developed multiple holes along the folds of the collar and sleeves where it has the factory non iron lines pressed in. I am wrong to want a replacement? I have other Brooks Brothers shirts that I purchased during the same time frame and have worn more that don’t have any issues. 
    The majority of my work wardrobe is from LLBean due to their “Lifetime” Guarantee. This change has made me seriously reconsider purchasing from them in the future. Like others I have said, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of quality declining.  

    • gopokes
      02/14/2018 / 10:54 AM

      I personally don’t think that is what the guarantee is really for. Wearing a shirt for 4 years and it getting holes is going to happen, it doesn’t mean a customer can buy it once and keep returning it for their whole adult life. 

  8. Trip
    02/14/2018 / 10:10 AM

    I once came across a Tumblr post of a girl who was writing about how she was exchanging her 4+ year old Bean Boots for a new pair because they were worn out, as if when she purchased her first pair, she had somehow purchased a lifetime supply of Bean Boots. I have come across some other people on the internet who seemed to use the same strategy. I think this type of abuse is sad, and obviously contributed to them having to change their policy, for which I can’t blame them.

    • Nem
      02/14/2018 / 10:24 AM

      This is exactly right, Trip.  

  9. Nic G.
    02/14/2018 / 10:33 AM

    I recently sent in my 5+ year old Bean Boots for a hefty repair in several heavily worn areas with the full understanding that I would be paying for the repairs. The customer service representative I spoke with notified me of the potential costs and if the repairs were unable to be made, a replacement fee (I’m assuming less than the full retail price). I’m happy they still offer repairs to loyal customers at a fair price and the fact that they have tightened up on their no questions asked return policy definitely doesn’t deter me as a current or future customer. I have flannels that were passed down that are almost as old as I am and I couldn’t imagine trying to return those for the simple fact that they have started to wear in normal areas after that amount of time.

  10. Landy
    02/14/2018 / 12:04 PM

    Can’t fault them for the change and the new return policy is still pretty generous. Wouldn’t be surprised if retailers start changing their return policies, especially online. Over 30% of clothing purchases made online are returned – compared to 10% in store – which I imagine come at a significant expense if free shipping/return shipping is included

  11. 02/14/2018 / 5:26 PM

    It was a great policy for reasonable people in a reasonable age. But I understand completely and support their decision to change it. In 99% of cases only grifters and people looking to abuse them will be affected.

  12. Ryan
    02/15/2018 / 12:00 AM

    The thing is, it was never a “lifetime guarantee”, it was a “satisfaction guarantee”. It was never meant to be used so someone could return a pair of 15 year old shoes after they’d been worn out. I distinctly remember going into LL Bean a few years ago to drop off my bean boots so they could be resoled. The person in line behind me said “why are you doing that? You know they’ll just give you a new pair if you tell them you’re not satisfied”. Bean did themselves no favors as they didn’t do a great job of explaining that, even their advertisements weren’t clear as to the distinction. At any rate, it’s a shame some had to abuse it and ruin it for everyone else. I’ll still shop there.

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