Roy Exum: L.L. Bean: Still The Best

Sunday, February 11, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In 1912 an outdoorsman in Maine – Leon Leonwood Bean -- began selling a “duck boot” that he called the Maine Hunting Shoe. It is a rubber boot on the bottom but at the ankle the upper part changes to leather. What made it more unique was that every pair came with a lifetime guarantee and it’s the ironclad warranty that has made it the most sought-after boot in the world today.

That guarantee, which has made L.L. Bean one of the most respected companies in America for over 100 years, was felled on Friday with every bit as much sorrow and forlorn as though some great and majestic California Sequoia tree had just been cut down by a hoodlum on a drunken tear.

Company president Shawn Gorman, in an open letter to L.L. Bean customers, didn’t white-wash why there is now a one-year guarantee in its place. “Increasingly, 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.”

As a third-generation owner of “many things Bean,” I often jump into my “Maine Guide Shoes” – that have lived for decades under my side of the bed -- to fetch the newspaper on rainy mornings. While I’ve been through a number of replacements, I always buy mine because I’m the one who wore the soles down. It is the right thing to do. But the fact there is the guarantee is what has made L.L. Bean millions. Many believe it is the best marketing stunt ever devised.

When his boots final took off, other business owners would laugh at L.L. Bean for the senseless boot warranty, seemingly oblivious to the realization the same customers would buy thousands of other items out of loyalty. Want another laugh? Right now there are 600,000 pairs of L.L. Bean Guide Boots being constructed for this year alone. They can’t make ‘em fast enough – my gracious, there are, at this very minute, over 50,000 pairs on back-order.

If I have learned one thing in my life, it is that “you get what you pay for.” My goodness, I am such a brand loyalist I am in a league all by myself. A brand name means just one thing to me: it is a reputation I respect and a brand I trust. Let me give you some examples of how that works:

PATAGONIA – Back in the early ‘70s, a rock climber in California, Yvon Chouinard, started an outdoor clothing company where he offered heavy-knit Scottish rugby jerseys for other outdoor pursuits. Soon he got into down jackets, canvas shorts that last a lifetime, and the best quality of goods in the world. I got onto “good ‘Gonia” real early as a sports writer and almost 50 years later can easily say I wear something Patagonia four or five days in every week. This gear is fabulous. It appeals to me. I like colors, versus some guy who wears the grays and browns of a pile of rocks. Patagonia is very pricy but they have an ironclad guarantee as well and what they can’t repair – for free – they’ll replace. To me, with its eco-friendliness and love of our planet, Patagonia is one of my top five favorite companies in the world.

SUNGLASSES – In the mid-80s another California guy – Bill Capps – started the Maui Jim sunglasses company and it has been “my shade” ever since those first few months. This summer my lab retriever annihilated a $300 pair I had left on the front seat. Talk about breaking your heart, not to mention the bank! It was totally my fault but, for 10 dollars, I got a repair number and a shipping label from the company and they promised they would try. Two weeks later a box arrived and I swear I think they sent me a new pair. Unbelievable … and you think I’ll ever wear any other brand of sunglasses. Yeah, they cost a lot but, for the true value, not much over a lifetime.

READING GLASSES – I’ve got Eye-Bobs reading glasses scattered not just at home and in the car but all over the South. They are made to a degree of excellence that assures me my vision is in no danger. I’ve had cataracts in both eyes and my mom went through horrors with low-pressure glaucoma. Never try to save money when your eyesight is involved. But Eye-Bobs? Same deal: They’ll repair up to five pairs for 10 dollars and that covers the shipping both ways. What shocked me was that I mailed the pairs of broken glasses on Monday and they were back by Friday. If you want to sell reading glasses, under-promise and over-deliver.

I adore, respect, appreciate, and support the best -- Lucchese cowboy boots, Bill’s Khaki’s, Brooks Brothers dress shirts, John Deere, Caterpillar earth machines, Delta, Coca-Cola, Lexus … there is a reason. Nothing takes the place of excellence. L.L. Bean guaranteed it.

Near Virginia Beach on the coast, people can see the huge sign for miles reads, “Newport News Ship Yards.” What they cannot see – only visible from the water – is what the shipyard employees read every day on the backside of that sign: “We build good ships. At a profit when we can; at a loss when we must. But, always, good ships.”

* * *

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

royexum@aol.com


Being Unsportsmanlike Is Intolerable

Hoping Jeff Styles Ends Up Back On The Air

Forgotten


During the UT Vols vs. Missouri game Saturday UT's quarterback was seriously injured by Missouri linebacker Tavon Ross. Football is a rough sport and injuries frequently occur. Being unsportsmanlike ... (click for more)

Started listening to talk radio in 1992 and through the years tuned a lot of my co-workers and friends into a great way to start the day. Hated what happened this summer but still tuned into ... (click for more)

Nov. 10, 2018, the 243rd anniversary of Captain Samuel Nicholas appointing Robert Mullan chief Marine Recruiter at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Then Veterans Day, but Elvis and I were on the patch. ... (click for more)


Opinion

Being Unsportsmanlike Is Intolerable

During the UT Vols vs. Missouri game Saturday UT's quarterback was seriously injured by Missouri linebacker Tavon Ross. Football is a rough sport and injuries frequently occur. Being unsportsmanlike is not tolerable. Travon Ross was ejected from the game and in an act of defiance or ego, he raised his arms and fists like he was something special as he left the field. That ... (click for more)

Hoping Jeff Styles Ends Up Back On The Air

Started listening to talk radio in 1992 and through the years tuned a lot of my co-workers and friends into a great way to start the day. Hated what happened this summer but still tuned into the morning show and then slowly, completely tuned out. It was just plain boring.....every week or so would check back but no change. All nice guys, but three straight men with no lead man. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Truck Driver Charged In Death Of Another Truck Driver In Head-On Crash Near Trenton

A tractor-trailer driver from Pennsylvania was charged on Friday in the death of another truck driver. The Dade County Sheriff's Office said Gustavo Rodriguez-Pagan was driving on Interstate 59 near Trenton when a head-on crash occurred. His vehicle crossed the median and struck another tractor-trailer. Authorities said they found Rodriguez-Pagan walking around the accident ... (click for more)

Girl Injured In 5-Vehicle Crash On I-24 Near Wildwood Exit

A young girl was critically injured in a five-car crash on I-24 in Dade County on Saturday. The accident was near Exit 169 at Wildwood. Authorities said a roll-back tow truck that was hauling two vehicles struck a van with a family inside. The van then struck three other vehicles. The wreck happened just before noon. The girl was found unresponsive in the van. (click for more)

Sports

Lee Women Advance To NCAA Division II Final Four

Lauren Weimer headed home the decisive goal and Taylor Green made clutch save after clutch save to continue a magical run for the Lee women's soccer team as it knocked off No. 3 Columbus State, 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at the Lee Soccer Field to punch its ticket to the NCAA D2 Women's Soccer Final Four. Anna Lanter made a run down the sidelines and delivered a beautiful ball ... (click for more)

Mocs Drop 63-42 Loss To Southwest Missouri

The Chattanooga Mocs had a hard time finding the bottom of the net in a 63-42 loss to Southeast Missouri in the Goldie & Herman Ungar Classic. The Mocs were limited to less than 30 percent shooting for the second consecutive night at the Mitchell Center. Jerry Johnson, Jr., led Chattanooga with 12 points. Jonathan Dalton and Ledarrius Brewer pace the Redhawks with 15 and ... (click for more)