February 15, 2018

L.L.Bean ends its lifetime product guarantee due to abuse ... And gets served with a class action lawsuit just 3 days later!

The L.L.Bean Bootmobile
L.L.Bean.  Gotta admit I'm feeling a bit sorry today for this 100 plus year old boot, clothing, and outdoor recreation equipment company.  Disclosure:  I own no L.L.Bean products, so I have no horse in this race.

What happened at L.L. Bean?  Well you see, for decades (exact time unknown), L.L.Bean has maintained a no questions asked, lifetime replacement guarantee for its products.  But, as so often happens in life, a few bad apples -aka customers, or perhaps not even customers - have been abusing this lifetime guarantee.  And the number of bad apples has been growing.

According to L.L.Bean's executive chairman Shawn Gorman:
“A small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent'.”  Some people had sought “refunds for heavily worn products used over many years.  Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.”
Ouch.  Kinda like the person who continuously returns a TV within a warranty period, simply to get a new one.

Under L.L.Bean's new return policy announced this month, customers will have one year to return an L.L.Bean product, and will be required to provide proof of purchase.  After a year, if an L.L.Bean product shows defective workmanship, the company will work with the customer to provide a "fair solution" to the problem.

Sounds reasonable to me.  I mean, heck, a 30 day return policy is pretty much norm in the retail industry, including with rule-the-world E-commerce behemoth Amazon.

But, the new 1 year return policy is apparently not reasonable for a group of people and their attorney.  Just 3 days after L.L.Bean announce the new return policy ....  yep, 3 days ... the company was served with a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago.  The complaint generally claims that L.L.Bean is dishonoring its "warranty" and that consumers are therefore deprived of the warranty they purchased.  The complaint demands that L.L.Bean either honor the lifetime replacement guarantee or initiate corrective advertising in the form of notices in the L.L.Bean catalog and point-of-sale reminders about the new return policy.


Oh, and don't forget the request for at least $5 million in "damages" to the plaintiff class.  And, of course, payment of the plaintiff class attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses.   You can read more about the lawsuit and download the complaint here.

Perhaps we'll get some new lawyer jokes out of this lawsuit.  Although I'm certain the matter is not funny to L.L.Bean.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

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