I’m really fed up with L. L. Bean. I like their merchandise well enough, but their customer service and ordering system has always stunk and today’s experience on the phone was the last straw.

No FedEx
It all started innocently enough when I called L. L. Bean and asked about the status of my order. After a five minute wait, I was informed the merchandise had shipped and would arrive tomorrow or the next day. Not a very precise answer, but good enough, I suppose.

The trouble started when I asked for my FedEx tracking number so I could track my package via FedEx’s website. I was coldly told by L. L. Bean that I was not allowed to have that information “for my own safety.”

Wha?

My own safety? I told her she had to be kidding! She said she wasn’t. She then told me that I could call any time and give an L. L. Bean customer service representative my phone number and they would be happy to track the package for me over the phone.

I politely told her I was perfectly capable of tracking my own package via the FedEx website. I added that I didn’t want to have to pick up a phone and have to deal with L. L. Bean when I can interact with FedEx’s CGI database instead.

Take Ten
Once again, my L. L. Bean customer service representative repeated that she would not provide my FedEx tracking number “for my own good.”

Huh?

My own good?!! I asked her why L. L. Bean can accept my credit card number over the phone (that’s the first thing they ask for when you call up to place an order, BTW: They don’t care what you want to order, they want your payment information straight up) but they won’t give me my FedEx Tracking number over the phone? Isn’t that a bit ridiculous, I asked?

The customer service representative told me she’d have to speak to her supervisor. I was placed on hold for 10 minutes.

As I sat on hold, I began to boil. L. L. Bean, I remembered, is always a hassle. Their computer system has the ability to instantly bring your phone number up on their monitor and all your existing account information pops up as well. The sales representative you speak with knows precisely who you are, your purchase history and where you’re calling from before you even open your mouth.

Next Day in Two Days
I also remembered what a hassle it has been to argue with L. L. Bean over the meaning of “Overnight Shipping.” I order product over the phone and across the internet all the time and L. L. Bean is the only company I’ve dealt with who starts the “shipping clock” for Overnight Delivery the DAY AFTER you place your order! When you buy Overnight Delivery, that means you get your product the VERY NEXT DAY.

When you buy from L. L. Bean, NEXT DAY means TWO DAYS after you place your order! Silly, isn’t it? There’s no benefit in paying for Overnight Service from L. L. Bean since their default FedEx shipping usually arrives in the same time frame. That’s why I chose the regular shipping method this time.

Supervisor
My customer service representative came back on the line and she told me that THIS TIME ONLY they would make an exception to their security policy and provide me with my FedEx tracking number.

Eh?

I asked her why this had to be an exception and not the rule? She had no answer. I told her that the L. L. Bean security policy sure is a pain for customers trying to get information we paid for and that I was going to write an article for Go Inside Magazine detailing the oddity of what she had been telling me for 20 minutes so my readers would know they were not alone if they ever wondered about this wacky policy themselves.

She immediately told me to hold while she transferred me to their Public Affairs division. The instant before she hit the transfer button I shouted to get her attention: “Could I please have the FedEx Tracking Number?!!”

She finally gave me the number and transferred me to Public Affairs.

Public Affairs
I sat on hold for another 10 minutes for Public Affairs to take my call. Finally, a flustered woman asked me what I wanted. I explained to her what you’ve read here and she PUT ME ON HOLD AGAIN! A few moments later the flustered woman came back and told me the person who could answer my question about L. L. Bean’s blanket rule of not providing FedEx tracking numbers was out of the office. Why was I not surprised? I asked her if she could explain the security policy to me and she said she could not.

I thanked her and told her I had enough information to write my article, and I severed the connection.

Alert!
Buyer Beware! The quality of what you purchase isn’t only in the merchandise, The goodness of the people behind the sale counts, too! I’ve never had a pleasant interaction with L. L. Bean’s customer service because they either place the blame on you, or they’re overtly paternal and treat you like a witless child who cannot be trusted with a tracking number.

Sorry, Wrong Number
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the FedEx tracking number L. L. Bean provided me was INVALID when I tried to track my package via the FedEx website.

Five Minutes Pass
Ah!

L. L. Bean’s incompetence grows! My order just arrived and they sent the wrong size on two out of three items!

I called customer service for the second time today. The L. L. Bean computers were down! I was told to call back in half an hour.

Ugh.

I called back… again and again and… finally got through… two hours later.

An L. L. Bean sales representative named Bill told me he’d cross-ship the correct items OVERNIGHT (remember, that means two days, not one) and he’d include a free shipping receipt so I could send back the over-sized items via the Post Office without charge.

Two Days Pass
Well, it’s Thursday and the L. L. Bean replacement shipment arrived as promised! All is well with the world. The sizes and styles are correct. I wasn’t charged a second time for the products and free return shipping for the incorrect items was, indeed, included. This time, L. L. Bean got it right and I credit them for rectifying the situation as quickly and as painfully as possible.

Conclusion
Now… if L. L. Bean would only re-define their meaning of “Overnight Shipping” to come in line with the rest of the merchant industry and if they would only give us our tracking numbers when we request them… L. L. Bean would be unbeatable.

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