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LL Bean just made a drastic cut to its legendary return policy
10 February 2018, 06:42 | Frank Carlson
My well-loved four-year-old shoes. Dennis Green Business Insider
Now, thanks to growing abuse of the program, the bootmaker is drastically cutting back its generous policy. Internal surveys indicate 85 percent of customers are OK with the new return policy, he said.
Now, items will only be covered for one year.
L.L. Bean's announcement in a memo to employees and in a letter to customers represents a seismic policy shift for a 106-year-old company that used its satisfaction guarantee as a way to differentiate itself from competitors. L.L. Bean said in some cases, people are trying to get a refund for something they bought second-hand at a yard sales.
L.L.Bean, which is based in Freeport, still has a return policy.
L.L. Bean's return policy has been nothing short of exceptional since its inception in 1911: its products carried a lifetime guarantee.
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The company did not specify what would qualify as a defective product after the one-year period was up - only that they must be defective due to materials or craftsmanship. 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. That includes items that were returned after decades of use, damaged beyond fix, or had been re-sold at stores such as Goodwill.
Spokesperson Carolyn Beem told the AP that the company has lost $250 million on returned items classified as "destroy quality", which end up in the landfill, while first-quality products find their way back to store shelves and "seconds" are rerouted to outlets or donated to charity. "I feel bad for L.L. Bean, because I can imagine some of the abuses [that were going on]". The company offered buyouts to nearly 1,000 workers last winter and froze its pension plan.
In recent years the company has taken steps to appeal to a hipper, less outdoorsy clientele. Its famed duck boots sell out each year, with the back-order line stretching through winter despite efforts to increase production capacity at its ME facilities. It's testing two hot technologies-blockchain and the internet of things-in a new line of footwear and outerwear with sensors to glean more insight into how people use its products.
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Snow will start later in the day Tuesday and continue through the night when 5- to 8 inches of wet, heavy snow is possible. Total snow accumulations of up to one half inch and ice accumulations of around one tenth are expected.
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