Why LL Bean yanked the rug out from under customers by ending its lifetime return policy

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Why LL Bean yanked the rug out from under customers by ending its lifetime return policy

A worker stacks the bottoms of boots during production at the L.L. Bean manufacturing facility in Brunswick, Maine.










Shiho Fukada | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A worker stacks the bottoms of boots during production at the L.L. Bean manufacturing facility in Brunswick, Maine.

“What they have done is taken a differentiator, a talk-trigger, something that set them apart in the marketplace and just given it away,” Baer told CNBC. In effect, the company said “‘we’re not going to do that anymore. We’re now like everybody else.'”

Meanwhile, the company defended its decision by pointing to the bottom line. L.L. Bean said it has lost $250 million over the last five years, as “abusive” returns under the policy had doubled to 15 percent.

“The amount of revenue they were losing on these somewhat bogus returns was exceptionally large, or they decided, perhaps incorrectly, that customers don’t care that much about a lifetime warranty,” Baer said. “Perhaps they’ve miscalculated.”

And clearly, the move has infuriated L.L. Bean’s customer base. “There’s a lot of customer comments on their Facebook page and on their Twitter account that say, ‘We no longer have a reason to shop at your store versus everybody else who sells essentially the same goods,” Baer said.

He mentioned Amazon.com has a 30-day return policy, and pointed to the fact that L.L Bean’s new stricter one-year policy, is 11 times greater than that.

“The funny thing about this is, if this was a “start-up company with a one-year return policy, no questions asked, and lifetime for defects, we would be praising them for the generosity of this policy,” Baer said.

“What makes this difficult and what bothers people is that they’ve taken something away,” he added.

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.

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