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Some took advantage of the lax return policy-seeking refunds for products that have been rigorously worn for 20 years or bought at garage sales.

Customers reacted with both support and surprise.

An hour after the letter was posted to Facebook, more than 700 people have commented on the change.

"I don't feel that [our guarantee policy] is a drawback, nor that customers are abusing it".

Gorman said the policy changes will affect only a small percentage of returns.

Leon Leonwood Bean, L.L. Bean's founder, is credited with launching the policy when 90 of his first 100 hunting shoes were returned.

She said her family, which includes three children, was willing to spend more at L.L. Bean than at Walmart or Target because of the expectation that the products would last longer. "We stand by our packs for a lifetime". "When I'm spending $70 for kids' snow trousers, I need to know that the company is putting enough care, quality and effort into them that they're not going to break 14 months down the road".

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Lifetime policies are meant to be helpful to customers, giving them the ability to refurbish elements that are easily worn out or broken-like a janky zipper, for example. Apparently, the offending returns recently cost the company more than the total annual revenue it receives from its flagship product, Bean boots.

The retail industry had $3.5 trillion in sales a year ago, with 10 percent of that, or $351 billion, lost to returns, according to a report from the research firm Appriss Retail. "But we have had a huge growth in abuse, and fraud, and a misinterpretation of that guarantee".

"Roughly 15 percent of recent L.L. Bean product returns abused the lifetime guarantee policy, L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald". He left with a gift card worth hundreds of dollars.

Not once til then had I taken advantage of L.L. Bean's unbelievable, lifetime return policy - even though I had purchased many items from them over the years, including a backpack, a compass and many turtlenecks.

Shawn O. Gorman, L.L.Bean's executive chairman, released a statement explaining the company's change from a lifetime return policy to a year return policy, now requiring proof of purchase.

A Bean Boot is seen in the return bin at L.L. Bean retail store in Freeport, Maine. The retailer announced on Friday that it was putting a stop to the policy, which let people return any item, for any reason, even if they had it for years.