Lands’ End “Guaranteed. Period.” falls short

January 8, 2011

John D. Goodman
Executive Vice President, Apparel and Home
Sears Holdings Corporation
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179

Dear Mr. Goodman,

“Guaranteed. Period.®” is a lie.

In case you’re not familiar with it, here is the entire guarantee offered at www.landsend.com:

The Lands’ End guarantee has always been an unconditional one. It reads: “If you’re not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.” We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always. But to make sure this is perfectly clear, we’ve decided to simplify it further. Guaranteed. Period.®

A number of years ago, I purchased a Lands’ End “squall parka”. Over time, the parka deteriorated in several ways reflecting defects in materials and workmanship: a horizontal seam on the back of the parka split, the zipper stopped working properly, and the seam beneath the hanging loop split open.

I tolerated these problems for several years. Finally, a few weeks ago, I found an old wool coat at the bottom of my cedar chest that I felt I could live with for a while in place of the parka, so I boxed it up and sent it back to you with a short letter which read as follows:

To whom it may concern:

Please replace the enclosed Lands’ End coat with the nearest match in your current inventory….

I am asking for a replacement because the seam on the back of the coat has split and cannot be properly repaired without taking apart the whole coat….

I wouldn’t be asking for a replacement if the coat had merely worn out, but I consider a split seam to be a manufacturing defect….

P.S. Forgot to mention – The zipper is broken at the bottom too.

Before doing this, I glanced at your Web site and saw that you still offer a “squall parka” there which is nearly identical to mine. It seemed obvious to me, as I believe it would to any customer reading your “Guaranteed. Period.®” promise, that you would exchange my parka for one of those. What you did, instead, was to send me a gift card for $59.50, $40 less than I originally paid.

I chatted online with a Lands’ End customer service representative about this. She told me that if Lands’ End does not have a record (which is kept for only 2½ years) of the original purchase for a returned item, and that item is no longer available, you send a gift card for the last price the item sold at. She then told me to call your toll-free number for additional assistance.

When I called, the customer service representative quickly agreed to send me a new squall parka at no charge. I’m grateful for that, but it isn’t nearly enough to excuse your earlier handling of my return.

Now that I’ve actually experienced your guarantee in action, I know what it really means:

The Lands’ End guarantee has always been an unconditional one. It reads: “If you’re not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

Actually, if we’ve tweaked the item just enough to give it a new part number since you bought it, we’ll claim that we can’t exchange it, even if the new item has the same name and is nearly identical to what you bought. You don’t think that the little tweaks we make to our products every year are really for the sake of constant improvement and innovation, do you? Give us a break! A parka is a parka. We make those changes as often as we can, to sunset our old products so we no longer have to exchange them when people ask us to.

Oh, and by the way, if you do send back an item we’ve “tweaked,” then don’t expect us to refund what you actually paid for it. See, we only keep records of past purchases for 2½ years. If you’re lucky, you’ll still have the receipt showing what you paid for it, even though we don’t say in our guarantee that you need to save it, and you’ll think to enclose a copy of it with your return, even though we don’t say in our guarantee that you need to do that. If you don’t send back the item with a receipt, then we’ll send you a refund for the last price it sold at. The last price that most items in our catalog sell at is the closeout price, which can be as much as 40% less than what you actually paid. Pretty clever of us, huh?

If you call us up and complain, then we’ll quickly give in and do what we should have done in the first place, i.e., send you the closest replacement item like you asked us to. But most people won’t bother to complain, so we come out ahead. Who cares if we piss off the few customers who actually try to take advantage of our guarantee? After all, we don’t actually want that kind of customer!

The zipper on my JanSport backpack, which I’ve had for even longer than my parka, recently broke. The JanSport lifetime warranty is, at first glance, less generous than Lands’ End’s: “Our warranty applies when the product is used for the purpose intended, under normal conditions, and does not apply to damages caused by typical wear and tear over time, unreasonable use, accidents or neglect.” Nevertheless, two weeks after I sent them my backpack, it was returned to me, good as new.

You can be certain that the next time I need to buy a backpack, it’ll be a JanSport. You can be equally certain that I’ll do everything I can to avoid buying anything from Lands’ End in the future.

I told the JanSport story on my popular consumer activism blog at http://blog.kamens.us/jansport. I’ll be posting this letter on my blog as well, at http://blog.kamens.us/landsend. Anything you have to say in your defense will be posted there as well.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

CC: landsend@landsend.com

Print Friendly

Tags:

6 Responses to “Lands’ End “Guaranteed. Period.” falls short”

  1. Dan says:

    What, so what you’re saying is that when you called and complained they agreed to send you a new coat?

  2. Katherine Nagel says:

    Over the last 40 years, I’ve purchased roughly half of my clothes through Land’s End catalog. During that time, I’ve had five occasions to return products. The first three times, there were no questions and no delays. I received replacement products in less than a week, in one case with a partial refund check, since the replacement product was less expensive than the original. The fourth time I asked for a replacement was shortly after Sears purchased Land’s End. That experience was similar to the one you reported. Since then, a Land’s End Inlet opened in a neighboring town. The last time I needed a replacement, I took it in person to the Inlet. That experience was similar to my earlier ones–no questions, and an immediate replacement with a similar product. My conclusion: the problem is not with Land’s End personnel or policies, it is with Sears. When you do an end-run around Sears systems, the process still works as advertised.

  3. [...] wrote last week about Lands’ End’s poor handling of a return under their “Guaranteed. [...]

  4. JonT says:

    That wacky Google AdSense! Did you know there’s a Lands End ad next to your post?

    • jik says:

      I would never be so coarse as to point out that any clicking on such an ad would initiate a tiny transfer of wealth from Lands’ End to me, with Google taking their cut.

Leave a Reply