The Blinders Are Off: L.L.Bean, Labor & Lent

I feel ashamed. It wasn’t until L.L.Bean withdrew their legendary Satisfaction Guarantee that I took off my blinders. I knew they were making the majority of their products overseas; I knew the quality had declined; I knew prices hadn’t gone down to reflect that. I even knew that labor and environmental practices in China are notoriously terrible. Somehow I conned myself into assuming that L.L.Bean vendors were paid almost as well as their US employees; the “golden rule” they promised to follow wouldn’t allow it otherwise. Maybe it was more convenient for me to focus on pretty plaids vs shoddy treatment via wages to the people making them. I never did look into it until now. Here’s what I discovered:

The following segment about wages is found in the L.L.Bean “Code of Conduct” from the “Manufacturing and Labor” page on their website where the following promise is made:

“No matter where an L.L.Bean product is made, you can be assured that it was manufactured under legal, safe and fair working conditions. Because we believe every worker – and every person – deserves respect.”

L.L.Bean Overseas Wages.jpg

Here are the legal minimum wages* for the countries listed on their labels. All of these labels are from clothing in our closets purchased within the past couple of years:

L.L.Bean Label Made Overseas (1).jpg

Sri Lanka’s Minimum Monthly Wage: $70.75 US Dollars

L.L.Bean Label Made Overseas (2).jpg

China’s Minimum Monthly Wage: $158 – $346 US dollars

L.L.Bean Label Made Overseas (4).jpg

Malaysia’s Monthly Minimum Wage: $236 – $256 US Dollars

L.L.Bean Label Made Overseas (3).jpg

Vietnam’s Minimum Monthly Wage: $146 – $165 US Dollars

L.L.Bean Label Made Overseas (5).jpg

Mexico’s Minimum Monthly Wage: $145 US Dollars

I need to make more informed and responsible choices as a consumer moving forward and not rely on reputations and wishful thinking! Of course the vast majority of products in the global economy are made in many of the above countries so I’m not suggesting that there’s a magical but neglected “Made in the USA” (or Canada, Ireland, England, France, etc.) catalog. Vintage is a great option for ethical and sustainable shopping for home goods and furnishings, but not for clothing (for us).

For Lent and beyond I’m giving up my blinders. They do not serve me or the world well. For the times when the only option is to purchase something made in a country that does not pay something even close to a livable wage (and I know some will argue that includes the US), rather than deny it or wallow in guilt, I want to respond in a meaningful way. I will spend time this Lent coming up with what that means; perhaps sending an email to the company or donating a small percentage of the purchase to a related good cause. 

*Sources: List of Minimum Wages by Country; Comparative Wages in Select Countries; Mexico to Raise Minimum Wage.

Disclaimer: I am unable to vouch for the accuracy of said sources. They and the wages listed above are provided as informational only and not verified fact so you will need to draw your own conclusions.

10 thoughts on “The Blinders Are Off: L.L.Bean, Labor & Lent

  1. Your bright and burning conscience has burned away the fog. I think your Lenten proposal is excellent; and your piece today has opened many eyes further. Have a “full” Shove Tuesday, a faith filled Lent and a fabulous and blessed Easter. (Whether your facts are on point or not precise, your theme is important for all to consider.)

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  2. This gave me a lot to think about. Thank you. Do you have any recommendations for quality, modest, ethical clothing? I’m fairly new to LL Bean and have definitely noticed the decline in quality, but this adds a whole other dimension to my unhappiness. 😦

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    1. Thanks for reading and asking! I currently do not have such sources, but during Lent I will be dedicating some time every day trying to find options. I will share my findings here afterward, whatever they may be!


      1. Averyl,

        I have been walking down a similar path regarding consumption- specifically clothing! For me, the best answer has been twofold: Shopping solely for vintage/ secondhand (at the very least you can see how the garment has held up after some washing and wearing AND purchasing used saves items from a landfill) and, when impossible to find something suitable this way, searching out companies which seem interested in safe conditions and ACTUAL living wages for their employees. I have found one company in particular- EverlaNe. Of course, you can never be 100% sure when purchasing new. I have recently begun volunteering at a high end thrift store one day a week and enjoy finding lightly used clothes for both of us, as well as vintage household goods, at very reasonable prices. The part I am most proud of is that our thrift store supports some amazing local programs (urban gardens, cooperative housing, job training) for the homeless and marginalized in our community!! Truly there is power in voting with your dollars.


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        1. Andrea, I have seen and admired some of the incredible thrifted finds you’ve posted online. I’ve not had good luck with vintage because I am rather tall, so usually sleeves/length are too short for me. You definitely have a knack with that so volunteering there seems like a perfect thing for you!


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