LL Bean warranty changes: media coverage not helpful for consumer care

We always love to see consumer care making headlines in the business press - our discipline does not always get the recognition it deserves!

So we were a bit dismayed by the recent coverage of LL Bean changing their legendary warranty service. For years they have been famous for a 'no questions asked' approach to honoring their 'lifetime' guarantee - giving refunds for products purchased years or decades ago.

All you consumer affairs pros are nodding your heads or wincing - you can guess how this story goes.... Apparently abuse of this policy has doubled over the past 5 years, costing the company over 250 million dollars! No more 'unlimited returns.'

Many consumer brands have experienced a surge in coupon requests and attempts to 'game the system' - the 2011 launch of the show Extreme Couponing is not a high point in consumer affairs history!


Most consumer affairs teams have implemented some defensive measures that strike a good balance between 'enforcement' and 'love.' We have built 'repeater' checks and a variety of lower risk compensation approaches into CRS, plus our clients have often shared best practices at our client conferences that minimize the liability their brands face.

But when this issue gets mainstream coverage it hurts the brand equity of consumer care by highlighting a small portion of what we do for brands in a negative light! I would suggest two potential actions to counteract this kind of story line:

  • Pull together a summary of the steps your team takes to combat this kind of abuse as well as the results you have seen in total consumer compensation. Circulate it with a few links to the LL Bean coverage as a proactive step. A brief note sharing how you have gotten ahead of this issue is actually a great reputation builder for the department!
  • A profile of the consumers you engage with is a great 'antidote' to the perception that you are being taken advantage of. Again and again we have found that the people who engage brands are among the most valuable consumers. Drop me a line if we can help pull together a snapshot of your 'audience!' (johns@wilkeglobal.com)

The old saying goes 'there is no such thing as bad publicity' can ring true, we love seeing consumer care recognized as important, but in this case it may pay to manage the message a bit!


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Topics: best practices, consumer care operations