This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
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I was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, L.L. Bean country. My father once told a story about spending time with friends on Christmas day. This was before I was born. The topic of L.L. Bean being open every day came up. “Even Christmas?” the friend asked. “Yeah,” my father answered, “wanna go?” So, they all hopped in the car and drove to Freeport to see that yes, it was in fact open.

My affinity for L.L. Bean isn’t just from being born in Maine. I think it has more to do with growing up white and suburban in the northeast. Every other backpack in my school was an L.L. Bean one, with that silver reflective strip across the back. My father and I bought our New Balance sneakers from L.L. Bean (which is quintessentially white guy).

For all of the stuff that my family bought at L.L. Bean, we never took advantage of their policy to return anything at any time for any reason. My mother loved sales. She clipped coupons. She sweet talked customer service representatives into submission. But she never used the L.L. Bean return policy. I suppose she respected the spirit of the policy as it was intended.

Well, the policy is no more because people have been abusing it, so says the email that I received yesterday. I had heard that the policy was going to be changed but I was hoping that it wouldn’t. Keeping the policy in place would have kept my esteem for L.L. Bean above and beyond any other clothing company (eh, they still have it). I guess I wish that hadn’t reformed the policy to be “return within one year with proof of purchase” but rather a more formal version of, “return at any time for any reason but, dude, don’t be a dick about it.”

Unfortunately, a year and a half ago, I was a dick about it.

I had a pair hiking boots that I should have used for winter but I never wore them. The fit was off. And as winter approached, I wanted a pair of classic L.L. Bean duck boots. Well, why not use the policy, return the boots I never wear, and basically get a discount? Throwing the old boots out would be wasteful, returning them was like recycling. Its a win-in. And, technically, I was returning them because I was dissatisfied with the fit of the product, so, that was legitimate. And, hey, I’ve been shopping at L.L. Bean my whole life. I have three jackets from there, one of which has a zipper that’s in need of repair and I’m not returning that. I still wear that jacket every day! I’m still a good person! I mean, customer. I’m still a good customer.

I wore those for two winters, then just didn’t like them that much anymore and didn’t throw them away. The time for a good faith return had long past.

I got my duck boots, though, and I’m really satisfied with them. I won’t be trying to return them. Also, from now on, I can’t.

Anyway, sorry to be part of the problem, L.L. Bean, you didn’t deserve that.

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