Ethics Activity: The L.L. Bean Return Policy

Jul 26, 2016
Ethics, Activity, Purchase Decisions, Current Events, Audio Resource, Activities, Cartoons


I was listening to this audio segment (20.5 minutes) of This American Life’s podcast “Get Your Money’s Worth” (Act 2: Bean Counter) about retailer L.L. Bean’s return policy and thinking “what a great discussion starter about the ethics of customer returns.” We have an ethics lesson on our curriculum roadmap so please send along any other ways that you bring ethics into your classroom.

Here are some questions for your students to ponder as they listen to the podcast:

  • What are the details behind the L.L. Bean guarantee?
  • Why do you think it is valuable for a company like L.L. Bean to have a policy like this?
  • What instructions did the company provide to their team about how to deal with customer returns? What do you think was the purpose of the questions that their employees asked customers before taking the returns?
  • What were some of the examples of what customers returned that surprised you?
  • Where do you draw the line on what is ethical vs. unethical when it comes to returning merchandise?
  • Write a statement that describes your “personal return policy,” when it comes to companies that have similar return policies to L.L. Bean (Costco and Nordstrom to name two)
  • You are hired by L.L. Bean to modify their customer return policy. What do you change it too in order to cut down on those who abuse the current system?

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.