Customer claims change is deceptive; company says policy applies to purchases after Feb. 9

The owner of a pair of L.L.Bean’s famous bean boots wants so badly to keep his right to return the pair at any time that he’s filed a federal lawsuit.

And the 106-year-old company says he’s still entitled to that right, if he has a receipt.

Victor Bondi, who describes himself as a loyal L.L.Bean customer, is suing the Maine-based outdoor retailer over recent changes to its generous return policy, claiming that it violates the law and causes him plus thousands of other customers harm.

The complaint follows the company’s Feb. 9 announcement that it was immediately rescinding its well-known 100-percent satisfaction guarantee warranty and replacing it with a one-year limit on most purchases.

In the 16-page lawsuit filed in Chicago federal court earlier this week, Bondi and more than 100 other customers through a team of attorneys allege that the warranty amendment came without forewarning and is “deceptive and unfair breaking of its promises.” Together, they are seeking at least $5 million in damages and asking that the decades-old practice be reinstated.

Carolyn Beem, a spokeswoman for the company, said the new policy does not apply to past purchases, including Bondi’s Bean boots. However, proof of purchase will be required.

“L.L.Bean products bought prior to Feb. 9, 2018 will not be subject to the new one-year restriction,” Beem told the Bangor Daily News.

Bondi’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit also claims that the warranty, which L.L.Bean has worked hard to make known through catalogues and other advertisements, is a pillar of the brand and has brought the company substantial revenues.

L.L.Bean lawsuit

The lawsuit filed includes this 2013 catalog cover touting the previous Bean policy: "100% Satisfaction Guarantee. No Conditions. No End Date."

Attachments in the lawsuit of two catalogue covers – one from spring 2015, the other from fall 2013 – show the slogans: “At L.L. Bean, your satisfaction doesn’t have a time limit,” and “100-percent satisfaction guarantee. No conditions. No end date.”

But Beem previously told the Associated Press, the Bangor Daily News also reported, that the company had lost $250 million on “destroy quality” returned items over the past five years.

Tired of being taken advantage, L.L.Bean executive chairman Shawn O. Gorman wrote in a letter to customers that “a small but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent.”

Gorman said a double in returns over the last five years was due to customers expecting refunds for “heavily worn products used over many years” and others wanting refunds for products bought at yard sales or retrieved from dumpsters.

The new return policy can be found on L.L. Bean’s website.

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