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Bye bye Bean's unlimited warranty

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I don't know about anyone else, but their return policy is what has made paying more money for the same product found elsewhere worth it. I get why they are doing it, but will this help or hurt their bottom line?

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7 minutes ago, Butch Moore said:

I don't know about anyone else, but their return policy is what has made paying more money for the same product found elsewhere worth it. I get why they are doing it, but will this help or hurt their bottom line?

An interesting question. Time will tell. There's no question that many LLB purchases were motivated by the assurance that anything could be returned (with or w/o a receipt) and well worn out through expected use. Even w/o a receipt if the request was for a check to be mailed for the return they honored it.

It is too bad that some purchased LLB items on ebay, garage sales, etc. with the sole intent to return it for credit.

But LLB knew that the warranty was being abused-but it has apparently become a significant issue with the new management and ever growing sales.

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That sucks.:(

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It was only a matter of time.  I wasn't a big returner of goods.  A few I did because they didn't work or ended up being poor performers.  I get some satisfaction knowing that I am shopping locally for hard goods made off shore.  I like the idea of shopping at a place that takes such pride in their product.  Time will tell...  I hope it works out for them.

I was always amazed me when I walked by the customer service and see people of middle and upper ages returning old, boots and gear for replacements or cash.

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To bad their policy had to change but because some people felt that buying a product from LLB would come with a lifetime return and replacement policy to replace abused, damaged and worn out products. Misuse of a good return policy had to come to an end! 

Thie new policy will not affect me because I did not abuse their original long standing policy! 

Ray

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Unfortunately, the retail climate is far too competitive with margins shrinking through constant promotions going back to the '08-'09 crash - retailers own a large portion of this blame.  Further coupling the issue is growing consumer demands for inexpensive pricing w/ prompt delivery / free returns shipping.  In order to stay profitable, something has to give. 

I'm sure the policy was designed to cover legitimate premature product failure and/or circumstances when something didn't perform as expected after the first few uses.  I've watched individuals bring bags of aged clothes expecting full return - and know of individuals I'd consider good people, who felt a consumer-grade boot should somehow last 10+ years.  I don't blame Bean's for protecting themselves from such situations - as with anyone, they're in business to make money, not be a lending library as some see them.

Similarly, I anticipate this will only further exacerbate consumer actions of bargain shopping, particularly with items that are not exclusive to LL Bean.

The times they are a-changin'.......

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Saw this coming a long time ago. They have been catering to the outdoorsmen for years. They became a clothing store for yuppies unfortunately. They also started selling crap made over seas which doesn't help. Sucks that people abuse the return policy. I have never returned anything myself but have bought a few things because of the policy. I also heard they are ending pensions and laying off people? They just received a huge tax cut! New management and the bean counters (no pun) must being looking for a bonus!

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Good point on the shoddy ,"Made In China", fishing equipment and clothing Beans has been selling the last couple decades. What ever happened to Maine made products being sold there. as far as I can tell the only Maine made products Beans sells are it's legendary boots and some food stuffs.

I've been a L.L.Bean customer since the days when the entire store was located above a shoe shop,(1963) . I was a devote patron of their stuff until the big shift to marketing clothing for the upper class and the deference of attention to the sporting world. Sportsmen made that place and they put us down into 2nd class. Irritates me no end. :angry:

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It was a pretty unrealistic policy.

I worked in the warehouse a few years. I think the whole climate over there changed from the founders dream. (Although the consumer changed as well I suppose) just over 5 years I watched people who had been there for 30+ years get squeezed out. it's not a layoff if you make a 60 y.o. quit or retire after demoting them to an entry level position repeatedly lifting 30 to 50 lb boxes of shoes. Saw this a lot actually. Cutting the full time positions for part time ones, massive push for that. Cheaper to have 3 guys with no benefits fight for 50 hours than let one guy get them. watched part timers (a degraded version of a regular 40 hr employee) in a department make 2 dollars an hour less than the temp agency people brought in to help doing jobs with less skill. Eliminating the pension messing with people's vacation time. Constant games with hours. Part time A getting only 7 hours for a paid day off ( this is a big chunk of their workforce). If you got Injured on the job im sure they act within the law, but certainly not fair. Be prepared to have your hours cut to whatever they can get away with. Light duty is light hours even for top performers. The only thing made in maine are the totes and the boots. Everything you buy comes from the far East. Everything about the place did not have a family vibe to me. Felt like a big company cutting cost at the employee level anywhere they could, I suppose that's the smart thing for a company to do but just wasn't what I expected for a place that manipulates a "best places to work poll" I was just really surprised with the way they treated their regular full time employees. Maybe it's an atmosphere that only existed in the warehouse but I wouldn't be eager to go back. 

I left on great terms for a better option (fortunately I had a low level of commitment) but I couldn't help my opinion of the company greatly reduced after 5 years. 

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Some interesting comments on this.  I can just hear the conversation between Bean executives:  "How are we going to do this without customers getting extremely upset with us?"  One executive says " I've got it, let's blame old Double L (Leon Leonwood Bean).  We can tell the public it was never his intent to be a lifetime policy!  He's not around anymore, so it takes the pressure off of us at corporate. "   Shawn & Steve say "We love it"  

I think they forgot that people aren't stupid.  The 100% Lifetime guarantee had been around for over 100 years.  It's really hard to swallow that excuse.  They should have been more honest and not used poor old Double L.  But LL Bean has become a clothing business.  I was told 80% of sales is clothing.  Much of that is women's.  So LL Bean is women's clothing business.

Their fishing rods are junk. Their fly reels are crap.  The waders and boots  come apart.  I bought Bean waders years ago as back up waders and stitching came apart after the second use.  Boots don't hold up.  I did get a good deal on my Ross reels though!  

To quote the movie " The Outlaw Jose Wales",  " Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining"      AND Don't blame old Double L!

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It's interesting to hear the perspective of an ex-employee. However,  I guess that I'm not all that surprised. The Bean has more or less become a money-hungry,  fast fashion brand that capitalized on the image that their brand carried during the time it started and for probably a few decades following, and now, caters to all those  guys and gals who like to occasionally do things outside just so they can talk about how "outdoorsy" they are and post about it on their social media. My main qualm is, it seems that their waders were only worth the price because they were backed by their warranty. That leaves them the option to lower their prices or offer a satisfactory repair service, which would be my ideal scenario since it requires a lot less production with "virgin" materials for a similar service. I assume that neither of those things will happen, however. I've never actually owned their waders, but I was heavily considering buying a pair prior to this season simply for its warranty. I get that things don't last forever, and I've been through a lot of "entry" level waders in my day, but would anyone spend about $150 on a pair of shoes that only last maybe thirty wearings? I've had entry-level waders fail in far fewer outings than that, and I can't say I enjoy that cost for such poor performance. I also don't love all of the wasted material that comes from that sort of stuff.

I guess the better choice now is to spend the extra few bucks on nicer waders by Patagonia or even Simms simply because they're more responsibly made and might take you through sixty outings before dying on ya. Not to mention, I'd be willing to wager that a lot of those products made in the "far East" probably have things like, absolutely terribly practices that drastically affect our environment for the worse, poorly paid employees, and potentially even slave labor to some degree. So yeah, poor products, poor business decisions, and what seems to be a lack of care for their employees, their products, and their practices all equates to  that company getting nothing from me.

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I was a 15 year  LL Bean employee.  I worked in supply chain management and could correct many of the misperceptions and incorrect figures stated above. I could tell you about the rods and reels I have owned and used for more than 20 years,  but will spare you all most of that and focus on sourcing, which was my area of responsibility.  LL Bean had and still has industry leadership role on environmental and employment practices.  Long before Patagonia made a huge PR push on sustainable sourcing, LLB was changing the way cotton was farmed and and processed, leather tanned, and etc..  LLB was the first major retailer to phase out the use of PVC, nickel, and other environmentally disastrous materials in its products.  I was there and took a substantial role in transferring the sourcing of many products from the US to foreign based factories.  Nearly all of it was unavoidable and necessitated by market forces largely beyond the company's control.  I can't tell you the number of times I would place orders from long standing domestic vendors, only to have them tell me that 1) they were soon to go out of business, or 2) they were moving all of their production overseas. I bought the last of many units of a great many things that are no longer made in the US.  In more more cases than I can remember, there simply was not a single domestic supplier to buy products from.  One of my projects was to find a factory - anywhere - that could supply handsewn footwear at the volumes and in the styles our customers wanted.  At that time, we were still making some handsewn shoes at the factory in Brunswick, a couple of blocks from my house.  Handsewers are highly skilled, highly paid workers.  It takes about three years to train one, and not everyone who tries it makes the cut.  When I was put on that project, a great many were retiring.  Despite an aggressive recruiting campaign, we couldn't find any more to replace them - it's really a lost art here in the states.  At the end, we were down to just three, but we kept those handsewers employed for years, even though we were losing money on every single pair of shoes they made.  Since all of our competitors had gone overseas, they were making money selling shoes at the same prices at which we were losing money.  This was a common and recurring issue across much of the product line that was sourced domestically. So, we had a choice - get out of the handsewn footwear business altogether, or source the product overseas.  The second option would contribute to the company's bottom line and help feed the families of more than 9,000 Maine based employees.  So that's what I recommended.  Another part of my job involved visiting and inspecting factories before we placed product with them.  LLB was and remains an industry leader here as well, aggressively monitoring and documenting employee living and working conditions and other business practices.  LLB was among the first retailers in the world to create a full time human rights monitoring staff with whom I worked very closely.  If there as even a whiff of impropriety, we didn't give the factory the room to explain - we simply wouldn't do business with them.  We ate in their cafeterias, inspected employee housing, demanded full access to payroll records on the spot, etc.  If they delayed or refused, they were out.  It's worth noting that in many of the factories I visited in Asia, labels familiar to and purchased by many on this board were rolling down the very same production lines alongside LLB goods; Patagonia, Simms, Sage, Columbia, Orvis, Redington, etc., and etc. I saw them all. 

While at LLB, I was treated more than fairly and compensated extremely well.  I was given the training and the opportunities to grow from a retail clerk to a fly fishing instructor to a buyer to a supply chain manager to a systems administrator. The health care plan was better than what I have now.  The fringe benefits, from frequent flyer miles to employee discounts were fabulous.  I don't get anything like that now.  The 401K was outstanding (again, something I don't get now), and the cash bonuses were great (nope, don't get those, either).  I left only because I wanted to pursue an entirely different career in a totally unrelated field.

I realize that many Mainers have their issues with Bean product and practices, and that's OK.  One of the many truths about retail is that you can't be all things to all people.  But I also know that LLB is a good corporate citizen that employs more Mainers than any other private company in the state and injects hundreds of millions of out of state as well as foreign dollars into the Maine economy.  Perhaps something to think about next time you are fishing the public access lands on Grand Lake Stream that were purchased and donated by...LL Bean.

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People definitely abused the policy so not surprised it changed. I threw away things that wore out after a respectable period of time, I got my money's worth. I returned a few things based on buyer's remorse and felt that maybe was taking advantage but honestly I wasn't satisfied with the product. Long time customer who even uses their credit card as his primary card to rack up coupon points towards gear instead of frequent flyer miles.

My son and I are relatively new to fly fishing and a sizeable percent of our equipment has come from Beans. I made that choice because of their warranty and how much I was investing in this sport. To have it rescinded is almost like false advertising.

They could have done something in between. The policy created loyalty. They could have made it so only purchases attributed to you on your account's purchase history would be eligible. They collect all that data when you order online or give them your name at checkout. That would eliminate most of the more questionable, fraudulent returns and continue to reward repeat customers. They could set limits on things that wear out like clothes.

Without the warranty I might as well see if I can get better deals elsewhere.

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I was there for 5 years within the last 10. From what I saw when I worked there i would stand by my claims. People working 10 years in the same position without getting raises. Maybe some of them weren't destined for leaping promotions but barely cost of living raises. They claim to pay 75 percentile among the industry.    Different experience I guess. I can't speak to the sourcing outside of what it says on the boxes.  I think the argument alot of people are making is that the company has changed.

Slashed the employee discount nearly in half a few years ago and upped prices in the employee store. :( people that work there can barely shop there anymore.

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My father in law worked as a Fisheries Technician with Maine IFW in the 70s and 80s. During that period IFW employees were allowed by LL Bean to purchase LL Bean retail products at substantially discounted prices. That practice too I believe has been discontinued. In my view that was an extremely generous gesture by LL Bean during that period.

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8 hours ago, EastBranch said:

People definitely abused the policy so not surprised it changed. I threw away things that wore out after a respectable period of time, I got my money's worth. I returned a few things based on buyer's remorse and felt that maybe was taking advantage but honestly I wasn't satisfied with the product. Long time customer who even uses their credit card as his primary card to rack up coupon points towards gear instead of frequent flyer miles.

My son and I are relatively new to fly fishing and a sizeable percent of our equipment has come from Beans. I made that choice because of their warranty and how much I was investing in this sport. To have it rescinded is almost like false advertising.

They could have done something in between. The policy created loyalty. They could have made it so only purchases attributed to you on your account's purchase history would be eligible. They collect all that data when you order online or give them your name at checkout. That would eliminate most of the more questionable, fraudulent returns and continue to reward repeat customers. They could set limits on things that wear out like clothes.

Without the warranty I might as well see if I can get better deals elsewhere.

take a look at rods and reels most have life time warranties at fly shops and Simms and Patagonia will fix or replace most any item you buy. Its not unique at LL beans but they market it well

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I got a couple very convenient 5wt travel rods, Cabelas stowaway which has a lifetime warranty for my son and Orvis Clearwater frequent flyer with 25 year warranty for me. I like the ff better than my Bean rods which being over a year old now have no warranty :-/

I didn't hesitate getting us both waders from them because of the warranty.

I posted in classified section recently I was looking for another 9wt as I was debating something other than a Bean rod. I am now much less inclined to get one from them with only one year warranty.

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An article in The Sept 11th Maine Sunday Telegram about  the changed return policy indicted that over the last 5 yrs the old policy cost the company $250 million in returns classified as “destroyed quality”.

  One person brought in an empty sunglasses case and wanted credit for the sunglasses that were lost in a lake!

  

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LLB provides jobs for many especially in Maine, and to a lessor degree in many states where they have stores. No one should cheer for a loss in their sales.

 However, if this were a publicly traded company the object would be to maximize profits, and satisfy its investors using whatever return policy pays off, as it should – and not be policy driven by tear jerking accounts.

Their hefty profits are in part a result of the generous return policy and move towards essentially a clothing store. Methinks LLB is crying crocodile tears.

The quality of much of LLB’s outsourced products is highly overrated, therefore the need to continually tout the satisfaction guarantee as a substitute – unlike Orvis’ demonstrably superior product quality and appropriate higher prices.

Their effort should be directed to the necessary need to improve quality to further improve profits. Their failed attempts to appear to be a strong hunting/fishing operation is questionable and with today’s competition is not working. Their lip service to that line has become almost laughable.

Whether they will never again become an outdoor sports house, especially for hunting and fishing supplies, is highly doubtful. The usually void of customers in the Freeport hunting/fishing building and reduction in volume of the hunting and fishing catalogs as well as the meager on-line inventory is telling.

Perhaps the time will soon come when new management will take a hard look at the little relative profit derived from the weak hunting/fishing operation and phase it out - and that will make for a sad historic commentary.

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Aldo,   Thanks for giving us "the other side" of the story on LLB. Your comments and insights certainly paint a different picture than others that have been posted. I found the comment about other well known outdoor retailers' products running on the same production line very interesting. I have always supported LLB in the past and have no intention to abandon them now. If they are offering what I wish to purchase at a fair price, I can ask for nothing more. 

Ron

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I think for me, as an LL Bean shopper, I was willing to pay the higher price because I liked the idea that I could return for new IF I NEEDED to. I'm not big on returning things period but if I know I could at any point I don't  mind spending a little more for that item. So it was more about the possibility being there than the literal returning of product. Without the lifetime warranty you're left overpaying for items you can easily pay less for somewhere else. LL Bean is no longer the only option for those outdoor adventure items like they seemed to be for so long. There are many competitors out there to choose from. They've lost their uniqueness for me. 

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