L.L. Bean Guarantee

About five years ago Catherine bought me an L.L. Bean winter jacket for Christmas, an olive green (officially “dill”) Gore-Tex shell with a warm removable lining and a pleasant array of zippered pockets. Warm enough for the coldest Prince Edward Island cold, I wore it faithfully from late fall to late spring every year. It was a good coat.

Except that the zipper never worked: some small defect at the bottom of the zipper prevented it from fully “meshing,” and so, unless I zipped the jacket up carefully and with some degree of magic finesse, I would often find myself with a jacket unzipping from the bottom on my way out the door.

I liked the jacket so much, though – and had nothing to replace it with – that I just put up with this problem and continued to wear the jacket year after year.

Until last Friday.

I found myself sitting on the on-ramp to Route 128 North in Burlington, MA faced with stop-and-go traffic all the way to Boston when I remembered that there’s an L.L. Bean store south of the highway in the Wayside Commons. I pulled off the highway to wait out the traffic and went jacket shopping.

I tried on a lot of jackets, including one, the Weather Challenger, that was very close to my old jacket, but I ultimately settled on the Bigelow model, a little less “outdoorsy” looking than my old jacket and with a better fit. And a much, much better zipper system.

Up at the cash register I noticed the “100% satisfaction” guarantee displayed prominently, and so I told the cashier the tale of my zipper. I was honest about my situation: I loved the jacket, had been wearing it for many years, and would have happily kept wearing the jacket should the zipper have worked. I showed her how the zipper unzipped itself. I told her that I wasn’t 100% satisfied, but I was certainly, say, 85% satisfied. I would have been happy if she’d knocked $25 off the cost of the new jacket.

But before I really knew what was happening, she’d accepted my old jacket as a “return,” looked up it’s original retail price, refunded me the entire amount, processed the sale of the new jacket, and handed me the new jacket along with a gift card for the difference owing me because the new jacket was less expensive and on sale.

So I walked out the door with a brand new jacket with a working zipper and an $86 gift card.

That is amazing customer service, a true implementation of “100% satisfaction,” and L.L. Bean deserves to be commended for standing behind its products and its guarantee.


Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on January 31, 2011 - 16:03 Permalink

I had a button on my L.L. Bean cardigan sweater crack in half in the dryer. I emailed L.L. Bean asking if I could buy one and got a curiously uninspiring “I’m sorry, we do not have parts available for the Double L cardigan sweater” type response. It was very disappointing.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 31, 2011 - 16:17 Permalink

My understanding from a chat with a clerk is that L.L. Bean doesn’t guarantee its products, it guarantees your satisfaction. So if you rephrase your challenge not as “can I buy a new button,” which will route your query into the “sales” queue but rather as “I am not 100% satisfied with the buttons on my sweater,” which will route you to returns, then you might have more success.

Lori's picture
Lori on February 1, 2011 - 17:20 Permalink

Great story. They also sell the world’s best backpacks. Better really ike the color you chose, though. We still have the one my daughter picked out in second grade and she’s in university now. Sadly, though, the tie dyed color is no longer to her liking. Happily, her mother isn’t so picky and has inheritied it.
What a fabulous customer service model for other companies to aspire to.