Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Feb 9 2017 21:28:30

As LL Bean Rethinks Returns, Who's to Blame?

By: Ina Steiner

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Mail order company LL Bean is known for its incredibly generous return policy, but according to news reports today, it's rethinking just how generous it should be. According to this report from ABC News:

"LL Bean currently offers free shipping on everything, and its "satisfaction" guarantee is so liberal that it's led to abuse of the return policy. Company officials said they will have more to say later this year about shipping and efforts to combat fraudulent returns."

Are online marketplaces - specifically eBay and Amazon - partly to blame? Have marketplaces trained customers to push return policies to the limit, and even abuse them?

The thinking is that customers won't buy items sight unseen unless they know they can return the items easily and preferably for free. But is that really the case? What's an online merchant to do?

Consumers associate LL Bean with good customer service and generous buyer policies. Here's a link to its policy page. Interestingly it requests people mark products with an "X" when donating its products to charity so it can "keep our guarantee exactly as it has been for over a century."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.




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by: rachel This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 00:19:33 2017

I wouldn't say blame since Amazon actually Nordstrom started it also a Seattle headquartered company but the difference is that eBay doesn't own much of what is on the marketplace so it's no skin off their back. Amazon owns some but fronts some and also has own sellers and consignees. LL Bean owns the product so of course it hurts them more. eBay just makes seller do it all and if you don't print your own label you get the cheapest label with no signature required smartpost for 10.50 while priority mail with signature is 8.90 They actually make profit on return labels for returns off sellers.

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by: sukki007 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 02:48:56 2017

As a customer of LLBean since forever, I never knew about marking charitable donations with an X.  I've donated many of their items to charity and regret not having known this.  Makes a lot of sense, but I guess I don't have a criminal mind to think that someone may have bought what I donated and then returned it to LLBean.  Thanks for informing me, and I assume many others, too.

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This user has validated their user name. by: DeathFromAbove

Fri Feb 10 03:30:49 2017

Just don't get the ''return entitlement mentality''.  When I buy something, I intend to keep it.  The only time anything should ever be returned is if it is defective, or as in clothing...if the size is not as advertised.  Especially in the information age, anything you want to know about any product is just a google search away.  Do 5 minutes of homework before you buy it.  No one makes money on a return.  Considering most returners are serial returners, frauds and cheapskates, why in the heck would you want them to return?  Go away.

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by: cosqueen This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 04:56:14 2017

Anyone participating in FBA knows all about return abuse.  Amazon's policy has gone way beyond abuse. I was notified of a return for an item sold in November, well beyond the generous 30-day window.  I sell in the beauty category and lipsticks are returned due to color "not as described" or item being "defective."  How is lipstick defective?  I now request removals for any suspicious returns and often receive items in pristine condition returned by customers as "defective," because they feel entitled to free return shipping if they are FBA members. All of this at the expense of sellers as we are invoiced for return shipping if a customer uses "defective" as an excuse for return.  I have also received items from FBA returned to me that were not the item I shipped to FBA or had in my inventory.  The situation is now out of control for any retailer.  I too purchase with the intent of keeping.  I do not blame LL Bean or Nordstrom for tightening the return policy as it is now being abused and costing retailers millions.  

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by: topdog This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 05:25:47 2017

Not only are sites like Amazon partly to blame, but it's a brilliant move on their part to do so! They have a huge advantage over retailers like LL Bean - they don't own most of the goods that they sell, and the cost of the return is borne by the sellermanufacturer - so why not press that advantage? The same goes for free return shipping - Amazon (and their subsidiary Zappos) receive crazy low shipping prices, plus the seller gets charged for the return costs. They've created the climate where buyers EXPECT free returns for any reason. Amazon can afford to be generous, since it's not their money.
That said, the ultimate blame still lies with the customer and society. Many people wouldn't think twice about shady returns - in their mind, it's the big rich corporations (who they feel are ripping them off) who pay for this, so why not? Morality and decency have taken big declines - turn on the news and that is patently obvious - and this is one place where that plays out  

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 06:06:04 2017

LL BEAN is probably getting tired of being a clothing rental store.

Once Bean decides no more free returns the door will shut on a lot of companies doing this. Its just a matter of what company is going to end the free returns first.

Ya all go LL Bean.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 07:24:41 2017

Here's how retailers do it:  Returns within 30 days with receipt get a cash return.  Returns within 30 days or beyond 30 days get a "store credit."  I have gotten plenty of store credits for clothing/shoes I didn't wear.  I kept them for months after buying and never wore.  Decided to take them back and got a store credit.  I think that's fair.  What LL is deciding, I dunno.  But yes consumers take advantage of liberal return policies and stores are right to clamp down.
Is it because of EB or AMZ?  Who knows.

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 09:00:11 2017

So, LL Bean, the long-time provisioner of the granola and Birkenstock crowd, is now being victimized by liar buyers? Again, a few bad apples spoil it for the rest.

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by: dmg61 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 09:06:40 2017

I really don't think return policies have that much effect on most HONEST buyers. The entitlement mentality in this country is very sad. As someone else already stated, you don't want shady customers anyway, go away. When I buy from places like LL Bean, I intend to keep and wear the item. I keep 99.9% of the items I order. I maybe wrong (wouldn't be the first time), I just don't offer that generous a return policy. Then again... I do not sell clothing or electronics, all my items are "wants", vintage/antiques and jewelry....

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by: Donkey This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 10:02:47 2017

Buy it at a thrift store for a $1 and return it to LL Bean for a $25 gift card or cash refund without a receipt.
Sounds like an ebay future policy.

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by: gizmo This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 10:05:41 2017

Not that it matters , I do really like LL bean shirts. I purchase nothing from deadbay , nor amazon. I have no use for one, or the other. I pass on the middle man , & buy direct. Deadbay started this insane return crap , so Id blame deadbay.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 10:37:09 2017

The real question is - who will be the FIRST company to put the sickness of returns anytime/anywhere/for any reason out to pasture.

Certainly it wont be Amazon, as their sheer size and market strength lets them do as they please. While I usually rail against eBay for it - Amazon can be and some times is just as bad if not worse.

As an FBA seller, Amazon will send you back anything at anytime. A reletive whos in the car stereo business got back 500+ pcs last week "magic defectives".

Since items are comingled (mostly) you get back as others said - items that arent yours, parts, items missing parts - its a nightmare. The plus thing is that you can at least make claims and get paid for it.

eBay is a whole 'nother matter. No one asked them to "be so generous" with YOUR merchandise. I rail at eBay since they arent a fair and even platform "we are just a venue" but then finds for the buyer %99.9 of the time.

Amazon - when they get defectives or are over stocked - does what Walmart does - the manufacturer takes it back OR ELSE - thats why they dont care.

Most manufacturers (and distributors) have STRICT returns policies. They match serial numbers, look at time frames, and will not take back magic defectives - they test goods.

eBay of course goes as far as it does because (like everything ELSE on eBay) its pushed on the seller. Get something back thats not yours? too bad.

Devin Wenig and the other crime bosses dont care because the MBG policy comes out of YOUR end not theirs. If it impacted THEIR bottom line - the story would be different. That and of course, eBay has no industry cred or muscle.

Retailers with stupid returns policies deserve what they get, LL Bean included. It sets up unrealistic expectations that idiots like eBay then go copy.

Amazon can do what they like with THEIR merchandise, eBay though owns NOTHING.

Stupid is as stupid does.

I used to work for a large electronics co in NJ - 9 stores. They too had a generous return policy - and if you think that the people at Coach can be @$$holes - you've NEVER dealt with high end audio makers - they are the WORST.

At some point they needed an extra wharehouse to store all the returns and defective that they couldnt send back and it virtually bankrupted the company. Now they have new owners and 1 store and returns are TIGHT.

I always said that on eBay you can buy a "55 LCD tv and return a 22" tube tv with no issue - and eBay knows this.

Shame on all of them - but they deserve what they get.

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 10:43:12 2017

Amazon was gouging money until it allowed everyone to sell anything. It's not sustainable to allow these stupid return policies unless like amazon and ebay they force us to take the cost.

Amazon was nothing without us and oh yeah the charitable silver spoon from usps.

Sellers are 50% of amazons profit..if everyone leaves amazon goes back to being a joke

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by: timeaftertime This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 10:56:31 2017

I feel this ''entitlement'' situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

LLBean is just the latest example. There still are ''instructions'' if you Google search, on ''How to get free stuff off eBay''. Of course, the freeloader/scammer buyer thinks they're getting it from ''ebay'', while the real situation is they are harming a real person, an ordinary citizen trying to make a few bucks. (Do they really care?)

Too many kids are learning how to get something for nothing, without feeling any kind of conscience or empathy for the person they rip off. When I was in school it was ''funny'' when an occasional girl would ''buy'' a dress to wear to a dance, hide the tags and then return it to the store a day or so later - heaven help her, if her parents found out! But not any more. This sort of theft is becoming a source of pride.

A friend was recently victimized, he sold a pristine cup/saucer set and eBay buyer claimed SNAD, returned her BROKEN saucer (without my friend's blacklight marking), and got her payment back, ripping off my friend. Another friend was selling books (another venue, not eBay). One buyer claimed SNAD but he was never made to return the book - he got the book and his payment back and my friend lost $$. As she said, ''they could at least have made him send my book back.''

This type is growing up feeling ''entitled'' to having whatever they want with no repercussions. They do not learn to understand that other people have feelings, or to respect the rights and feelings of others.

Technology has not helped, it has made it worse. Instead of intermingling and communicating in person kids are using ''devices'' that only reinforce the lack of feeling for others. Until this turns around, and I fear it will take a long time, increasing numbers of them will do whatever they have to, to get what they want, regardless of the impact on others.

If there is one thing, and one thing only, that parents should teach children, it is that other people have feelings and rights and need to be respected. Everything else will follow. Today's (and some yesterdays) parents are abdicating their responsibility to instill some kind of conscience in their kids.

Sorry for a soapbox moment. I'm just glad I wont be around in 50 - 60 years, I don't want to see our society run by this type of brat.  

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by: timeaftertime This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 11:07:54 2017

@pace306 - buy a ''55 LCD tv and return a 22'' tube tv with no issue - and eBay knows this.''

Why a 22'' tube tv when a box of rocks will do?

All ebay demands is a tracking number that says ''DELIVERED.'' No proof of ''WHAT'' actually was delivered. If you can't prove what was in the box you got back from buyer, it's your word against theirs and eBay ''always'' sides with the buyer.

I state right in my listings that I am happy to accept returns, but ALL returns will be opened immediately at the post office in front of my postmaster - making it a great deal easier to prove mail fraud, which is a federal offense.  I am not sure if this has made any difference in sales (since I only started the ''notice'' when ripping off sellers started to become routine a few years ago), but since 1998 I think I have returned maybe a half dozen items, all with no problems.

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by: madam H This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 11:40:49 2017

For the previous commentators who blame L.L. Bean, and its ''Granola and Birkenstock'' clientele... I am a very politically conservative person and frequent LLB shopper.  

As such, the thought of increasing my meager income by returning items to any retailer, after having purchased them second-hand... never occurred to me.  

This is a clear indication of the (de)evolution of our society.  No moral code, no ethics, a direct result of Sunday mornings no longer spent with God.  

Having donated to our local Salvation Army thrift store for years, I will definitely start marking clothing labels... something else that folks without criminal intent had previously not thought to do.  I have marked items still in retail packaging, to prevent store returns, but hadn't ever done so with clothing.

I'll probably be attacked for saying so, but the decline of our society has occurred because God has been banned from the public square.  Doing this removes the benchmark by which social codes and mores are measured.  And this is what results.

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by: suumcuique This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 12:00:41 2017

I've seen first hand the kinds of things people bring back to Beans....I would be mortified. I've been on line at the Freeport Flagship store and see 10 year old towels, worn boots and really old clothing being returned. The excuses I've heard are mildly amusing to say the least.   The employees just smile and take it all back.  And people wonder why their prices are so high.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Fri Feb 10 16:45:04 2017

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then it truly was Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. Dads went to work and moms stayed home and did housewife-y things. And if a kid tried to steal from someone, they'd get punished but good.

Nowadays, with both parents working to make ends meet, the children basically raise themselves. And spanking suddenly became child abuse. So for the last couple of decades, children have had little discipline, and failed to develop a moral compass to guide them. It's all become, gimme gimme, and with social media they can share the best ways to become scam artists.

A couple weeks ago I sold a collectible mint in its package to a 24 year old gal (I researched her on the internet) living not that far from me. As soon as she received it she claimed she "looked at the markings" and that she knew it was fake, and wanted her money back. I replied that it was most certainly authentic, and that I was hardly going to refund her money when she still had my item. She then replied that she didn't know the procedure since she had never bought on eCrater before (obviously been scamming on eBay). A week later I got it back with damage to the packaging so I deducted $2 and refunded the rest. It boggles the mind that she would want to defraud people and possibly end up in jail over a $20 item.

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 10 18:57:49 2017

''It boggles the mind that she would want to defraud people and possibly end up in jail over a $20 item.''

The lack of a moral compass is certainly an issue these days, regardless of 'venue', and a major contributor to that is the wholly impersonal nature of on-line discourse and trade.  No accounability or consequence.

And speaking of consequence, when was the last time anyone heard of one who actually faced consequence of fraud on eBay, Amazon, et. al., unless significant value was involved (and too often, even then)?  

Be it faith based, or secular, or product of 'right thinking' upbringing, 'morality' is all about the negative consequences of immorality, even if they be no more than that tightening of gut one gets when 'wrong' is done.

Remove those consequences, coupled with lack of sanction at ANY level of fraud, and increased fraud is the manifestation.  Especially on eBay.

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Sat Feb 11 02:20:32 2017

I  have a  grand  kid  who  is  obsessed  with--as  she  calls  it--L dot L dot Bean dot com.  And  so  we  have  bought  stuff  for  her  from  there.  A  while  ago  I  had  two  winter  coats  from  there  and  the  zippers  were--crap.  Which  surprised  me.  So--we  took  them  off  to the LL Bean  store  at a  local  Mall;  regular  retail  store not an  "outlet".  Since  it  was  the end of  winter I was NOT  looking to return  them;  I  wanted to point out TO  Bean's  that  their  current  zippers  were---crap.   Before  we  bought NEXT  winters  coats  I  hoped  they would improve  them.   They  agreed  that  there  had  been  an  issue  and insisted  on  giving me NEW  coats--which  I said--Well--that's  fine;  but  what  am I  going to DO  with  two  jackets  that  by  next  winter  will be  too small?  They  assured me  that  I  could  go  pick  out the  next  sizes;  which we  did.  They  don't  mark  them--so  I  guess (in  theory)  I  could  keep  right  on doing  this  forever.  But--I  would  not!

When  I  shared  this  with a friend  who  has  young  kids  she  told  me  that a few  years ago  she  had  bought  shoes  for  her daughter who has  a  form  of  MD  that makes her  hard  to  fit.  So  when  the child  outgrew  them  Mom  called  looking  for  the next  size  up.  These  were  not  their  Duck  Boots  etc--just  sneakers.  Something  that  is EXPECTED  to wear  out  and be  out grown.  Beans  told  her to return  them and they  would make sure she  got  the next SEVERAL  sizes  so  the  kid  would  not have to  try and find  another style  etc  that  worked  for  her.  They made a customer  for  life!

(I  thought  I  was a "Customer for life"  at  Beans--until  it  turned  out  that  one of the Beans--and the Bean  family as a whole--have  some  pretty  serious illegal   campaign  contribution   issues;  AND  that they are backing  the very  people who  are  actively TRYING  to  do  things like:  Drill in National Parks;  Sell OUR  Public  Lands;  and  other environmentaly  savage  things.  So==no more  L dot L dot Bean dot com  for  us.  Sad.)  

And  I  have to agree--they  HAVE  had a long  history  with FREE  RETURNS--as  has  REI  and  other places.  But  I  doubt  it was  ABUSED as  much BEFORE  the advent of  FleeceBay.  Who  turned  the occaisional Serial Returner--Catch  and Release!!!--into  a PROFESSIONAL.  I  have  had  stuff  returned  for  bogus  reasons--one  item smelled SO BAD  the Postal  Clerk  asked  me  to  open it outside  in  her  presence  because they  were worried  about what it  contained!  And of COURSE ==Ebay  too the buyer  lying   side.  Since  I  could not prove  that  the item  returned  was not the one I sent--I  could TELL it  was not but  I  had no way to prove it==I  cold not file for "mail fraud"  either.  I  had to  toss  it before  it  ever  came in the house as  we have  several  asthmatic  people  here!  IT smelled SO BAD!

This is squarely  on  ebays  bizarre  and brain  damaged  management  who has NO  skin  in  the game.  

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