LL Bean dramatically curtailed its returns policy, reporting that returns of items that have been destroyed or rendered useless have doubled in the past five years. It believes returns abuse has grown as people share their stories on social media about easy returns.
In its letter to customers, LL Bean wrote, "Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting 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."
LL Bean's policy had been, "...Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in very way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise,..."
Now it states,
"If you are not 100% satisfied with one of our products, you may return it within one year of purchase for a refund. After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.
"We require proof of purchase to honor a refund or exchange. If you provide us your information when you check out, we will typically have a record of your purchase. Otherwise, we require a physical receipt.
"Please include your proof of purchase with the products you wish to return or exchange and bring it with you to any of our stores, or include it in your package of returned item(s). We will reimburse the original purchase price to either your original method of payment or as a merchandise credit."
The retailer didn't say so, but online marketplaces may have contributed to the problem by allowing bad buyer behavior, including returns abuse, to flourish on their sites.
eBay urges its third-party sellers to offer returns in an effort to make the marketplace attractive to buyers. But because eBay doesn't own inventory, the sellers are the ones who bear the risk and any losses that may arise due to returns abuse - with eBay even able to keep commission fees on some purchases that are returned.
eBay outlines its policies on help pages, which show the seller doesn't always get their commission fees (FVFs) returned when a buyer returns an item:
Refunds: When a full refund is successfully deposited in the buyer's account, your eBay final value fees show as a credit on your next seller invoice.
Replacements and exchanges: If a buyer requests a replacement or exchange but does not return the original item, the replacement or exchange is then handled like a standard purchase. The buyer is charged for the second item and a final value fee for the transaction appears on your next seller invoice.
You won't receive a final value fee credit if the buyer asks us to step in and help with a return or an item they didn't receive.
In the fall, eBay implemented new return procedures, announced here
- let us know how it has impacted you, whether for better or worse.
How do you think retailers and online marketplaces can reduce returns abuse?