Big Man Hugs For LL Bean

We spew a lot of slags and jags here but every once in a while, we like to take a moment to praise an instance of particularly good customer service.

Today’s comes courtesy of comment land courtesan Homerjay. He had an awesome experience at L.L. Bean where the salespeople went out of their way to help him save $160.

His heart-warming tale, presented inside, shows how businesses can turn average customers into raving fans by putting the customers first and profits second — and make more money in the end.

    “I was in Freeport, Maine- home of any number of outlet stores and retail standout LL Bean- to do some Christmas shopping.

    Historically I have done very little shopping at LL Bean mostly because when I need something ‘outdoorsy’ I don’t immediately think of them. Last year I bought a pair of boots there that I beat the life out of. I returned them this year without a problem. They have a lifetime satisfaction guarantee on everything they sell. Even though I beat on them they really should have lasted longer.

    So while I was there this time I decided it was time to buy new ski wear for my wife and I. I found a jacket for $250 that was perfect. While I was trying them on a lovely saleslady, probably in her 60’s, came up to us and asked me if I needed any help. I talked to her about some of the features of the jacket (at that price apparently they start to have features) and she told me that this was their most expensive jacket and that I might want to look at one that is $100 less because it was designed more for the casual skier. (WHAAA?)

    She showed me a couple other less expensive ones, explained the differences in great detail and then brought me over to the computer to show me more details on the materials and care instructions. A this point I still ended up wanting the $250 one.

    Then another salesperson came by and the two talked. He commented on the expensive jacket and jokingly I said to him “Can I get your employee discount?” He chuckled and said “Ya know what? I think I can do better.”

    He then showed the saleslady that in the computer the $250 jacket is actually $170 if you order it in a discontinued color through the catalog. I was shocked. I was about to plop down $250 and they both knew it. He helped me place the order and that was that. These people get NO financial incentives or commissions. They’re totally there to help.

    Then! We went upstairs to find one for my incredibly indecisive wife. We spent the better part of an hour with a very nice salesgirl who was more than happy to show her every jacket they offer over and over and over. We told her up front that we had no intention of buying the jacket there because we wanted my wife’s father to buy it for her for Christmas. It made no difference to her. I was the one getting annoyed with my wife while the salesgirl just kept on going, smiling the whole time. In the end, she picked the same jacket I did. I mentioned the deal I got downstairs and she looked it up and it was also going on for discontinued womens colors. We ended up ordering it in the store anyway just to ensure we got the special price.

    I went out of there giddy at saving about $170 but mostly because the salespeople were SOOO helpful.

    I was willing to buy their most expensive jacket (which didn’t even come close to the most expensive North Face jacket) because of their lifetime satisfaction guarantee and the incredible helpfulness of the sales staff.

    If LL Bean can make a healthy profit within a model that allows for a well trained, friendly, helpful staff (even at the phone order center) and a lifetime guarantee, why can’t other retailers???

    Thanks for listening.



Edit Your Comment

  1. joehowe64 says:

    L.L. Bean is (moose)head and shoulders above any store I have ever dealt with.

  2. I just bought my winter coat online with L.L. Bean. Great experience. Not only did they save me $200 by my not having to buy from my local EMS, but the coat showed up in a mere two days!

    Their website was also one of the best clothing sites I’ve used. Their sizing guide, especially, gave me confidence that I was getting the right thing even though I couldn’t try it on in person.

  3. Ben Popken says:

    Keanon writes:

    “I just wanted to write in with a few positive comments on three companies…

    The exaggerated-looking lifetime warranty available on Ducti’s ( products is for real. I sent my haggard, base-model Ducti wallet in for replacement with no obligation other than the postage cost in the form of a check and received my new one 4 business days later, in fact a better model than I sent in to them!

    Zappos ( has allowed me, as per their stated policy, 10 months to return/exchange a pair of shoes. I wear a size 15 and spend months at a time waiting for my size to appear on their site (which alerts me to my size’s arrival at their warehouses) and recently sent in a pair I’d been sitting on for 10 months for which I received exact original credit.

    Finally, Presonus, audio-hardware distributor, has replaced for me with no ifs, ands, or buts a “Firebox” audio recording device which I bought as an open-box item at Musician’s Friend and was defective on first testing. Musician’s Friend open-box policy leaves something to be desired (72 hr. return policy for store credit only) but Presonus really came through for me. All I had to pay was shipping to them.

    All of these things just go to show to me how easily one can rectify consumerist-style issues with a few simple phone calls (along with choosing products made by companies with excellent customer service.)”

  4. etinterrapax says:

    They’re awesome. Same guarantee on everything they sell through their outlet stores, even seconds. I never throw away a receipt on an LL Bean purchase…but they’d give me the refund anyhow. I had a girlfriend return a duffle bag for a zipper replacement, and they sent her a new one. It’s so easy to return things that I’m hyper-conscious about doing it. I’m afraid that if I take advantage of them, they’ll stop doing it!

  5. acutusnothus says:

    I’ll glom on to this serendipity fest with a Kum-ba-Yah of my own:

    1. Graebel Van Lines. Still family owned; movers get a rep AND a personal CSR; a full team of company employees (not illegal day labor) show up to load up and do the job quickly and with a minimum bumps; you’re called at load up for a quality check and again at unload for a summary. We’ve moved 16 times in 23 years and have used numerous movers with much the same (bad) results until Graebel.

    2. B&K Audio. Had to send a preamp back for service; was returned toot-sweet but still not operating to my satisfaction; B&K gutted the piece and replaced all the innards without so much as a fuss.

    3. Sony. Yeah, I know, pay heed only to grumbling, spoiled, American Gen-Xers and you’d think this mega-company isn’t close to what it was under Morita-san (like they’d even know who he was). Bought a 32″ HD set via SonyStyle, after an extended in-home audition (over 2 weeks) wasn’t satisfied, and returned without problem AND Sony ate the return shipping.

  6. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, wait what am I saying, Of Course you’ll do that, but isn’t 250.00 less 170.00 only an 80.00 dollar savings? That is still great, but the math aint workin.

    Or was the coat 170.00 dollars Off the 250.00?, making the coat only 80.00 in total?

    I confuzed. I’ve never shopped LL Bean before but I might now. I’m a Lands End chick myself.

  7. K-T says:

    they bought two coats with the same deal… so 160, but i am sure the 170 comes from not having to pay tax on that 160

  8. Tim Nudd says:

    LL Bean redeemed a gift certificate of mine at the Freeport store even though I didn’t have the piece of paper with me and had only a vague sense of when and from whom I’d received it. I (almost) got the sense that they were just taking my word for it.

  9. dizziest says:

    Their return policy is legendary, too. I’ve returned things as many as 8 years after purchasing them, for a full refund. My mother once brought back a coat she’d had for almost 20 years, hoping to get the zipper replaced, and fully willing to pay for the repair. They had discontinued the coat, and couldn’t replace the zipper, but they gave her a portion of its price in credit towards a new coat, despite her insistence that it wasn’t necessary.

  10. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    Oooooh, they bought Two of them. On for him and her. Got it. Shutting mouth.

  11. stammig says:

    I don’t know how nationwide they are but REI has much the same return policy as the other companies you all are mentioning. I have returned many an item that was not satisfactory with a minimum of fuss and no receipt long after any ordinary retailer would have told me to take a hike. Plus they have excellent store workers who are there to help and actually seem to enjoy helping (at least in the 3 stores we have in Raleigh/Durham) They also take online purchases back in the stores and again with a smile.

  12. Lesley says:

    I read a story once about a guy who was in a car accident and his LL Bean jacket got ripped and bloodied and he sent it in just to see if they’d help him out and they sent him a brand new replacement free of charge.

    I’ve been buying outerwear from LL Bean for almost 20 years. I’ve never had to return anything, but I like knowing that they’d help me out if I needed it.

  13. homerjay says:

    See? We CAN be nice if the situation warrants it! Its just hard to have sympathy for someone who ‘forgot’ to blow out her candle! :)

  14. LTS! says:

    You know, it’s threads like these that really exemplify a potential feature for Consumerist. A list of businesses that have great service such as those that are being touted in here.

    After all, if I want to sway my vote on a purchase and I know a lot of people have had a great experience with them… that will most likely do it.

    Honestly I had placed LL Bean in the back of my head when it came to outdoors stuff (used though, good business). I will revisit LL Bean this year because they do have nice stuff.

  15. Triteon says:

    LLB is a wonderful company, has been for more years than I care to count.
    Gosh, I hope the person who >told

  16. shortergirl06 says:

    For more than 40 years, my cousin has never needed to buy another pair of deck shoes. Why? His mother bought him a pair at L.L. Bean when he was 5. As he grew and destroyed them, they would upgrade to the next size for a small fee. Once his feet stopped growing he just kept returning them every few years, and got new ones.

    I haven’t had to buy a new backpack since I was in elementary school. If it broke, it just gave my mom an excuse to drive up to Maine and go shopping.