Trust eroding at L.L. Bean and across America

  L.L.  Bean shoe car ( Bootmobile ) in Freeport, Maine, on July 7, 2012. Besides being the headquarters town  of Bean, Freeport has long hosted many outlet stores, some of them with high-end names. But some have struggled and even closed because of competition from Amazon, which has been destroying brick and mortar stores by the thousands across America. This has done a number on many Main Streets.    On a happier note, the Freeport area continues to have many fine seafood restaurants, as copious quantities of lobsters, clams, mussels and some species of finfish are still being pulled out of Casco Bay. (But cod are disappearing.....)

L.L.  Bean shoe car (Bootmobile) in Freeport, Maine, on July 7, 2012. Besides being the headquarters town  of Bean, Freeport has long hosted many outlet stores, some of them with high-end names. But some have struggled and even closed because of competition from Amazon, which has been destroying brick and mortar stores by the thousands across America. This has done a number on many Main Streets.

On a happier note, the Freeport area continues to have many fine seafood restaurants, as copious quantities of lobsters, clams, mussels and some species of finfish are still being pulled out of Casco Bay. (But cod are disappearing.....)

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

Trust is eroding in America. Our long-term prosperity and democracy depend upon its renaissance. The latest example of the decline of trust is the increase in fraud forcing L.L. Bean to change its famous 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed/return program. In this long-entrenched feature, the Freeport, Maine-based retailer had promised to repair or replace its products (mostly clothes and footwear) with no questions asked.  Bean customers, like the old company itself, have had a reputation for integrity. But fraudsters have been proliferating in America (our commander in chief is one) and the company has increasingly been ripped off by dishonest consumers.

As Shawn Gorman, Bean’s executive chairman, said:

“Since 1912 …our commitment to customer service has earned us your trust and respect, as has our guarantee, which ensures that we stand behind everything we sell.

“{But}, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.

“Based on these experiences, we have updated our policy. Customers will have one year after purchasing an item to return it, accompanied by proof of purchase. After one year, we will work with our customers to reach a fair solution if a product is defective in any way.’’

The lowering of trust prevents and disrupts business relationships. Over time, it makes it harder to maintain prosperity. One of the most important factors in America’s success has been that it, like northwest European nations and Japan, has generally had a higher level of trust in business and government than in most of the world, with, of course, some famous exceptions. A collapse of trust would hammer the economy. But that’s the direction we seem to be taking.