It only takes a few nimrods to ruin things for everyone else.
L.L. Bean said on Friday it was scrapping its iconic 106-year-old lifetime returns policy in the wake of what it said was a “small, growing number” of customers abusing the guarantee that lets shoppers bring back items at anytime, even years after a purchase. Instead, they’ll now have a year to bring back an item for return and need to provide proof of purchase.
It turns out that more and more customers, unbowed by any sense of shame, are bringing back worn out items they’ve used for years and expecting their money back. L.L. Bean said in some cases, people are trying to get a refund for something they bought second-hand at a yard sales.
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“A small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent,” Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman said in a Facebook post on Friday morning. “Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years.”
Freeport, Maine-based L.L. Bean, beloved for its iconic duck boots and other outdoor wear, nonetheless left the door open for exceptions to the rule and said that in any event, the new policy would only affect a small percentage of returns. What’s more, the one-year time limit is more generous than a typical retailer’s policy. A majority of comments on the Facebook post expressed understanding for L.L. Bean’s policy change.
The change in policy highlights one of the trickiest parts of retailing: offering simple and hassle-free returns policies without falling victim to abuse and scams. The National Retail Federation last year estimated that retailers lose about $22.8 billion a year from fraud, such as getting a refund for an item that was shoplifted, and abuse, like returning a garment worn once, in merchandise returns, or roughly 6.5% of all returns made by shoppers.