L.L. Bean Still Taking Back Your Dead Spouse’s Wardrobe For Store Credit

Image courtesy of Dave Seidman

Do you find yourself morally conflicted when wondering whether you should bring or send something back to outdoorsy retailer L.L. Bean? Apparently, you shouldn’t: people regularly get in the returns line with decades-old cotton shirts, their dead dogs’ collars, and thrift-store finds that they try to return for full price.

Sarah Corbett, a contributor to public radio program This American Life, recently investigated the depths to which L.L. Bean’s famous guarantee goes. While other companies with open return policies have tightened them somewhat, like Costco and REI, Bean hasn’t tightened their policy.

Corbett interviewed current and former employees at the returns desk, and was even allowed to visit the warehouse of returned stuff: some gross beyond redemption, and some unused and sold to employees at dirt-cheap prices. Dogs don’t care if another dog’s name is embroidered on their bed.

It has actually loosened the policy in recent years, having previously been allowed to refuse returns in the case of fire, death, divorce, or weight loss. (No word on the rules surrounding weight gain.)

Ultimately, it was easier on employees to make the policy so that all rules are okay… unless there’s a black “X” on the item’s tag, indicating that it was sold at a thrift store. (The company asks thrift stores to do this to keep shoppers from gaming the system.)

Returns desk employees at the company’s main store in Freeport, ME need a particular personality and skill set to do this all day. They used to be allowed to show tiny signs of judging customers, but that’s now against the rules: they have to keep straight faces and assume that all customers bringing stuff back are somehow dissatisfied. Even the guy with the bag of 40-year-old shirts.

Bean Counter. [This American Life]

The Never-Ending Greatness of L.L. Bean’s Boots [Popular Mechanics]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.