Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Mere days after the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles, New England has suffered another crushing defeat. In an email sent to customers on Friday morning, Maine-based L.L.Bean announced that it has decided to kill its no-receipt-needed lifetime return policy because too many people were abusing the system.
Known for its Bean boots and sensible fleeces, L.L.Bean was kind of legendary in the retail world for accepting any and all returns, so long as the customer could specify their problem with the goods. The company used to put it like this: “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L.Bean that is not completely satisfactory.”
A year ago, there were rumblings that L.L.Bean was considering revising those terms because of scammers; today, those murmurs became law.
“Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent,” wrote Shawn O. Gorman, the executive chairman of L.L.Bean, in an email today. “Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds 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.
“Based on these experiences, we have updated our policy. Customers will have one year after purchasing an item to return it, accompanied by proof of purchase. After one year, we will work with our customers to reach a fair solution if a product is defective in any way.”
Obviously some customers are bummed out about the changes at L.L.Bean, which was the subject of scrutiny last year when it came out that a Bean family member had donated to a Trump super PAC. (Trump, in typical fashion, encouraged his Twitter followers to “Buy L.L.Bean.”)
But the commentary bubbling up from the Twitterverse this morning isn’t all negative, with some people applauding L.L.Bean for standing up for itself and others simply shrugging it off: This is why we can’t have nice things.