One thing that L.L. Bean is famous for is their satisfaction guarantee on everything they sell. At first this may just seem to be part of a marketing ploy to credit their products as excellent quality, but I’ve seen their commitment to this firsthand. My cousins owned a pair of Adirondack chairs purchased in 1992 which were supposed to be durable in any climate, and after owning them for 10 years they began to rot and grow fungus. They went to L.L. Bean to buy new ones and explained to the clerk that they owned these before and wanted the same one, to which he replied that they could have the chairs for free because all L.L. Bean products have a lifetime guarantee. This may sound like a gimmick L.L. Bean uses to add some perceived value to their products, but it is one that they can be seen upholding time after time and it represents an attitude that is relevant to “The Story of Stuff”. In the video, Annie Leonard describes how companies are incentivized to product low quality products because it will keep customers coming back to buy more often. L.L. Bean rejects this model with their satisfaction guarantee and therefore creates their own incentive to manufacture products that are durable and of high quality for their customers.
This introduces the other part of the video which talks about how companies increase their profits by finding ways to externalize costs. L.L. Bean is considered to be an expensive clothing retailer by many, but this may be the result of the company charging prices which actually reflect the cost of the production of products.
Interestingly, L.L. Bean has posted on their sight a response to allegations of “abhorrent labor conditions in Jordanian facilities”, a country in which L.L. Bean has factories. The response explains L.L. Beans complete rejection of these conditions and that the allegations do not apply to the specific factories in which L.L. Bean contracts work.
One thing I found interesting in relation to this was the wording of the company’s code of conduct which states with regard to wages, “Employers shall pay employees, as a floor, at least the minimum wage required by local law or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher, and shall provide legally mandated benefits.” What I found particularly interesting here is that although the wording sounds good, the company has only really promised to either pay at the legal lowest limit, or else the industry standard. An industry standard in this case would be the market rate, so obviously they wouldn’t have the option of paying less than that. This reminded me again of the ways in which the video explains the externalization of costs, and it seems to suggest that L.L. Bean is willing to save their customers money at the expense of employees in their manufacturing facilities.