L.L.Bean drops its unlimited, no-questions return policy

Few bad apples are to blame

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - If you still haven't gotten around to returning your blown-out L.L.Bean flannels from the 90s, then you're too late.

L.L.Bean, the venerable Maine retailer of rustic boots and clothes, is ending its long-running, no-questions-asked return policy.

The policy, which has been in place for at least a century, was ruined by a few bad players, according to an open letter to customers.

"Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent," says the letter from executive chairman Shawn Gorman.

"Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years," he said. "Other seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as yard sales."

L.L.Bean, which is based in Freeport, still has a return policy. But starting on Friday, the company will only take back products if they are returned within one year of the purchase date, with proof of purchase. If the product is actually defective and the customer tries to return it after a year, the company said it will work out a "fair solution."

Gorman said the change in return policy "will only affect a small percentage of returns."

The rather liberal return policy had been in place since the days of Leon Leonwood Bean, who founded the company back in 1912 as a mail-order retailer and maker of hunting boots with unusual chainlink style soles.

The original intent was that Bean didn't want customers to be dissatisfied with his products.

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