L.L.Bean Killed Its Return Policy, and I'm Not Okay

The party's over! Our days of returning decades-old sweaters are done.
Published
LLBean return policy

L.L.Bean has been in business a long time — since 1911 — and in those 106 years, it's developed an excellent reputation. Sure, you might pay a little more for its products, but they're usually quality items. And if they weren't? Well, L.L.Bean had your back with its legendary return policy.

After some rumblings last year, we couldn't help but speculate about whether that policy would stay in place. Unfortunately, the verdict is in, and L.L.Bean is doing away with those generous returns.

No More Lifetime Product Guarantee

Until now, customers have been able to return products that were years or even decades old. It's always been a practice that L.L.Bean took pride in, even if some shoppers might have been a little too liberal with their interpretation of the guarantee.

Until now, customers have been able to return products that were years or even decades old.

Just last year, a writer for Business Insider tested the policy by trying to return four-year-old shoes. He was successful, despite the fact that he didn't even have to show proof of purchase. And that's why the policy is changing.

Why It's Changing Now

L.L.Bean sent letters to customers recently. In it, the outdoor gear company noted that "a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent." Translation? Some shoppers were trying to scam the company.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Deal With Common Warranty Pitfalls

These scams included seeking refunds for heavily worn products that had been used for several years, which (in theory) had served their purpose and were just in need of being retired. Others went so far as to purchase items from garage sales, and then try to return them for a refund. Thanks to this kind of abuse, L.L.Bean didn't feel the guarantee could stay in place as-is.

What is the New Policy?

So, how has the policy changed? It now states that if customers aren't 100% satisfied with a product, they have one year after purchase to return it, and they must have a receipt in order to do so. Does that mean you're just out of luck if your purchase was more than a year ago? Not necessarily.

L.L.Bean has also said it will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship. But if your boots are worn out because you went hiking every Saturday for 5 years? Maybe just suck it up and buy a new pair.

Readers, are you fans of L.L.Bean? How do you plan to cope with this drastic change? Let us know in the comments below.


Senior Staff Writer

Julie joined DealNews in 2015. Her work has been featured on MSN, Business Insider, Lifehacker, The Motley Fool, GoBankingRates, and Moneyish. In her spare time, she enjoys baking sweets, reading thrillers, and listening to an ever-growing list of podcasts.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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24 comments
BlueOak
Used to buy most of our clothing from LL Bean. Then two things happened:

1) The quality went downhill to the point where it was still solid, but not what it used to be. Even with the generous return policy, it became a hassle to return defective stuff.

2) Bean changed their affinity card to Barclay Bank - the absolute worst, most amateur-hour credit card bank, even the sadly, lowly Synchrony Bank used by Sams Club just barely beats Barclay Bank. Target's card arm sits in the basement with these other two as well. That these three retailers in this highly competitive market would tolerate such poor bank credit card service speaks volumes.

Ironically, now that LL Bean is changing to the at least somewhat more professionally operated Citi, it is probably too late for us to return to our old Bean buying habits. The remaining quality no longer justifies the premium pricing. Yet another Brand (like Disney) that has had its previous goodwill stripped by harvesting it cheaply.
mackie123
I guess we will just have to keep our receipts and return every 365 days now.
SilSpr
Hello LandsEnd - goodbye LLB
snuffy51
We buy from LL Bean and will continue to do so. Quality products. I think we may have returned a couple of things due to sizing but they were new,
yoyo___
You think in this day of wide-spread corporate tracking of customers, they could very easily find out WHO was abusing this policy and simply cut off those few people....
ski522
Thank you scumbags for going to yard sales, dumpsters, Goodwill, etc for LL Bean stuff and then returning to LL Bean for full price. Welcome to the "Entitlement Generation" The policy change is not a big deal, I shop LL Bean quite a bit, their stuff is top notch regardless of where it is made, and customer service is great! Only thing I ever needed to return was a kayak that developed a crack in the hull about 3 years later and their policy change would still covered this.
Stoermer
I don't buy from LL BEAN. Therefore i don't have a problem. That was easy. BOo hOo
Greybeard
The dead Christmas tree return to Costco explains it all.

Likely LL Bean figured out returning worn items for new ones to be sold on eBay etc was no longer just a cottage industry.

7pm just searched eBay "LL Bean New"

7,264 results
jameslonglove
I bought my son a backpack from llbean only because of the lifetime warranty. I thought boys are tough on their things, get something quality and with a warrant that will last him until he has outgrown it. After I bought it a coworker told me about people buying things at yard sales and returning them. I had no idea people could or would do that. I won't buy llbean if there's not the lifetime warranty.
JoeSchmoeIsAlive
The "consumers take advantage of us" sob story is just that: a sob story.

My buddy works at Corporate, and this has been a continuous story of driving production to China and the Philippines, while knowing they were going to ditch the Return Policy, but not lower prices.

You've all been scammed and you're trying to blame each other.

Sad.
unoshatta
Cinci, if LLBean did as you suggested, they'd be out of business. Going from a ridiculously abusable policy to a more common-sense one is a good, even necessary, business practice. Costco should do the same, considering the returned Xmas tree fiasco.
jb_mn
It's truly sad if some consumers are taking advantage of the return policy however I'd bet that the store has been wanting to change the return policy and this change was blamed on the consumer to make the store look less like the bad guy--only they know for sure.

All in all our family could care less because we don't shop at LL Bean, simply too overpriced and only one store not located that close to our home.
Name recognition on an item is not worth the extra money paid for the item.

Unfortunately those that cheated the system (if that is true) will now move on to their next scam making the rest of us honest consumers pay more and receive less!
CinciShopper
I have been a long time LL Bean customer who never returned a thing other than a pair of pants that didn't fit right. LL Bean has and will continue to charge a premium for their products because they believe that their products demand a premium.

The price of the premium was built into the return policy. I will tell LL Bean this.

I will NEVER purchase even a pair of socks from them ever again unless they adjust their prices down 20% across the board because they no longer have a superior return policy.

I would also ask them to give EVERYONE who has purchased ANYTHING from them in the last 48 months a 20% across the board refund on anything they purchased from them because they are now negating a major reason we shop with them.

It would have been far more reasonable to reduce the lifetime warranty to a 5 year replacement policy and then in a couple of years reduce it further to 2 to 3 years.

I know I'm not getting my money back. They aren't getting their customer back either.
Heyitsrick
Unfortunately, too many people are constantly trying to game the system. I don't blame LLB at all. I'm friends with a woman works at a Nordstrom store in cosmetics, and she tells me all the time that people bring back products that really old ( over a year old and many times not even in the current product lineup) and almost totally used up with the excuses like "oh, it made me break out", etc. It's total B.S., it hurts the commission of the salesperson on the return, and essentially robs the store and product vendor - all in the name of "customer service".

Costco had to change their electronics return policy because people (who frequent sites like this, lol) were gaming their return policy and proudly bragging they were able to score new TVs every year because Costco would just take them back, no questions asked.

This is what you get when people essentially steal from companies.
macfamily
While holiday shopping at an L.L. Bean company store we used the returns line to check out and return an item that did not fit. We could not believe the number of people that were returning items that were worn out and clearly many many years old. Had we not seen this actually playing out right in front of us we would have been inclined to assume it was not a large problem. The person in front us told us they have been returning slippers for as long as they can remember and couldn't remember when the actual first purchase even occurred but she did say it was before she was married and now she is a grandmother....
Redbeard
There's always got to be a few to ruin it for all. Ba$turds!
DeletedUser169775
@lendouglass - if they only sold boots sure but they sell far more than just boots. Also who honestly sells worn out boots at garage sales. I think this was more of a cop out that the company is running on hard times and they're trying to free up cash. Which I totally understand but blaming poor performance on too many people returning shoes from a garage sale is ridiculous. I think the market for overpriced Chinese products is wearing thin.
mrod3950
Once again a good thing gone wrong because of few scumbag con artists. You know who you are.
kaymore
Sierra Trading Post used to have a similar 100% guarantee return policy before they were bought out by TJ Maxx. Now, you can't even return shoes that are defective if you have worn them once. Very disappointing.
lendouglass
Give me a break! How is the example not outright theft! Obtain a pair of worn out boots from a garage sale or the trash and try and parlay them into a new pair. The fact that there are people who would consider this OK just shows the moral bankruptcy of some people. A legitimate purchaser still has a year to exchange their boot purchase.
bobnfl
Great store, too bad some people took advantage of their return policy. Even the new policy is great and I will continue to shop with them.
DeletedUser169775
I'm definitely dissapointed by this and with LL Bean. To say that you are cancelling this because of people returning items purchased from a garage sale is extremely accusatory. Honestly, how many people are doing this vs returning items they actually bought? Also LL Bean items are VERY expensive, the cost of this warranty is built into the product and most times it doesn't get used. I used to love paying more at LL Bean because I knew if I had a problem with my $45 bath towel, I could just bring it back and they'd back me up. I bought snow shoes expecting them to last me a lifetime, now I'm just hoping they don't break. Also LL Bean makes a lot of their brand labeled items in China just like other manufacturers, so why pay more if the warranty isn't there?
Greybeard
The dead Christmas tree return to Costco explains it all.

Likely LL Bean figured out returning worn items for new ones to be sold on eBay etc was no longer just a cottage industry.
DealRunner1337
It's not quite the same but Hammacher still has a true lifetime guarantee. I've heard about L.L. Bean's awesome return policy, though I've never purchased anything from them, typically I'm an REI-only man.