Ethics at LL Bean

As many know, Maine-based retailer LL Bean has a rather liberal return policy. They are known, in fact, for taking back anything at any time for any reason. They are a popular company in my family because of our Maine background and I have discovered that some of our relatives have been rather liberal in taking advantage of that policy. Specifically, but not exclusively, my brother has a habit of turning in his old clothes for new. I have returned maybe five things that I haven’t worn much because it dawned on me I’d had this, say, jumper for 8 years and only worn it 6 times because I was dissatisfied. My mother sent an old jacket back asking that they replace the cuffs and they replaced the jacket instead. But my brother will take a pile of old stuff and just return it due to “wear and tear” (like the rain suit he wore in high school cross country, which he returned in his 30’s) and feels that, because they have this policy, it’s his right. AND he gets mad when you suggest that’s not the spirit of the policy. He even thinks it’s ethical to go to a thrift shop, buy LL Bean stuff for a few bucks and return it for full refund, which is clearly crossing the line.

This weekend he returned a 10 year old sweater he wears all the time and had, in fact, been wearing earlier that day to put towards new shoes.

So, what do you think? Ethical? Unethical? Hazy? Would you or have you done something similar?

Is he being deceptive? When he returns a 10 year old sweater does he misrepresent it? Say it’s newer than it is? It’s hard to imagine he does, since presumably their styles change and in any event a 10 year old sweater wouldn’t look remotely new. If you return merchandise according to a company’s stated policy without misrepresenting it, then I can’t see how it could be unethical.

It’s unethical because you’re paying once for the use of many garments. To wear something for a decade and have it experience regular wear and tear means you have gotten what you paid for, and then you buy a new one.

From their website:

<<Of course, we want you to be the final judge of quality. If you’re not satisfied with your purchase, we’ll replace it or give you your money back. It’s that simple.>>

<<NOTICE: I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and customer still satisfied.>>

My assumption is your brother is satisfied with the product, and just looking for a way to get free stuff.

Buying something at the thrift store and returning it for the retail price is beyond the pale, IMHO.

People like your brother are the reason liberal return policies get tightened up. If enough assholes keep doing stuff like this it becomes economically unfeasible for them to maintain such a policy. So they either change the return policy, or jack up prices on the people who actually pay for their fucking new merchandise to subsidize the jackwads who don’t.

In the case of the sweater and the rain suit for running, he was satisfied with both, he had worn them for years and now felt that they were not useful or were less useful to him. I don’t think he lies about how long he’s had the items but he is vague, claiming, for example, that he’d had the sweater for more than five years. Five years more than five years is the truth of the matter. In the case of the rain suit, which he’d had for more than 15 years, he claimed the elastic had dried out and disintegrated. Now this may have been true, but the real reason the item was useless was that he had not been running for 13 of those 15 years and was no longer 120 lbs, being a grown man now and all.

If he had purchased these items at Macy’s he would have thrown them away without giving it a second thought.

Well, this surprises me a lot. I bought a skirt from them about five years ago. I wore it once and the hem totally fell out of it. I called them up and asked if they would replace it and they said the item had been discontinued; I asked for a comparable item and they said no. They said they’d hem the skirt for me if I paid postage both ways. I didn’t care to spend an extra $10 or so for their bad workmanship, and I haven’t bought much from them since.

I’ve bought from LL Bean and had to return two items. Your brother may be taking advantage of their return policy, but I bet he keeps buying from them.

However, this

is completely wrong and he should be ashamed of himself.

Your brother is crooked.

My mother, who has absolutely no sense of shame, tried to pawn off a shirt bought at a garage sale once and got caught. She thought it was funny; I thought she was despictable. Your brother is an ass.

Your brother is violating the spirit of the policy, IMO. If a product breaks or wears out due to defect then you should bring it back and demand satisfaction. If a product wears out normally because of years and years of regular use, then the company lived up to their side of the deal. In this case, your brother isn’t dissatisfied with the the product, he’s annoyed at the fact that materials eventually wear out. The thrift store thing is just being a jerk.

I’ve known people who do this, and they are parasites.

I agee that it is ethically wrong to get good use out of a product and then return it. I bought my husband a pair of slippers from L.L. Bean around 5 or 6 years ago that have finally been so worn they are getting holes in them. While I could return them for a new pair, I am going to purchase a pair instead, because I feel they held up to their side of the bargain by making a product I loved, and normal wear and tear is not a good excuse for a return. Now if they had gotten holes within the first year it would be a different story.

I had an uncle that would replace his shirts every year for new ones from them, I always thought it was a very skeevy thing to do.

I think he’s wrong, but not much “wronger” than you. Returning a jumper after eight years…really? It took you 6 wearings and 8 years to figure our you were not satisfied? You’re probably on the edge, but your bro has jumped off!

Nobody has any problem with what the OP is doing? Just what the brother is doing?

Well Hazle the guarantee is lifetime, so 6 years does fall in that range. I have had stuff in bags in my closet for up to two years (at which time they get donated to charity) waiting to be returned. While he might be pushing it a bit, it still seems the OP has a better reason for returning the items then his brother.

That’s true. I had no idea that their return policy was so liberal. Makes the prices seem not so bad!

That’s a cockamamie return policy. I hope they’re donating those returned items to Goodwill and not just throwing them away. Or spritzing them with Febreze and putting them back on the shelves.

Returning a defective item is fine, but using the store as your personal closet (even if they encourage it) is just grabby. I hope your brother doesn’t complain about welfare cheats or shoplifters. What he’s doing isn’t far removed.

I wonder how much value they give you for extremely old items like that. Other stores with liberal return policies only give you the value of the item on the day that you return it, which means for most really old items you’re getting the very lowest price it sold at, which was then slashed to 50% off or more on the clearance rack. So, if that 8 year old jumper was originally $45 and then was put on sale to $35 and finally put on the clearance rack at $15 before being dropped entirely then the return would only net you a store credit of $15.

What does LL Bean give?

All I can say is that if I were in HR, your brother would never be hired by my company.

In general, they will replace it with a similar or equivalent item. I’ve returned an item or two to Beans that were defective, and they didn’t bat an eye. They just told me to grab something similar off the shelf, no questions asked.

It’s really not so cockamamie. A lot of people buy from L.L. Bean because they know that if there is a problem anytime they can return the item. From time to time the store will boast about an acient pair of boots (or something similar) that has been returned because they’ve finally been worn out after thirty or forty years and needed to be replaced. That’s a pretty good advertisement for the durability of their goods.

As for Caricci’s brother, he’s taking advantage of their offer. The only thing that seems unfair is the Good Will item.

I had a thingie that fits in the bottom of a suitcase replaced one time. The new one I had was warped. I didn’t even have to send it back to them. Generally, they are a class act and their goods are durable.

Companies build those types of policies for a reason. They are fairly cheap advertising and most people don’t take advantage of them. I used to work at the headquarters of a conglomerate of shoe manufacturers that you have all heard of and some of the brands had legacy warranties that were absurd like this. I often traveled to one of their call centers in the mid-west to do training and the reps actually had a case study book on weird returns and how to handle them. People returned shoes over 15 years old and wanted a replacement and they gave it to them. Now, this didn’t happen very often so it wasn’t a big issue but it helped reinforce the brand name pretty cost effectively.

My notoriously cheap uncle recently returned a BB gun to the Daisy company. He bought it in the 1960’s and he used it to chase off stray animals for decades. It had a life-time guarantee but a gasket started leaking so it didn’t work well anymore. Daisy took it back and had nothing comparable to offer as a replacement. His was a hardwood stock, very solid model that they don’t make anymore. They got a technician to rebuild the entire thing to like-new condition and sent it all back completely paid.

That doesn’t happen all that often for some companies to worry about. I am all for the idea. However, buying used LL Bean clothes and returning them is mega-sleazy as well as targeting them for returns in the first place just like any other company would be.