Dear L.L. Bean,
When I lost my favorite pair of L.L. Bean rag wool gloves last week, I immediately purchased a replacement pair online. Chronically prone to losing my gloves, I even bought an extra pair.
I’d like to explain why I canceled that order.
I’ve been a customer of Bean’s for nearly 40 years—since the days when the clothes in your catalog were modeled by staff members in the office parking lot in Freeport, Maine.
I even worked as a technology consultant to L.L. Bean in the 1990s when the catalog was integrating its first workflow software. I was told all about “Beanness”—the company’s expression of its unique culture and its guiding philosophy—and was taken on a tour of your fulfillment center. I still have the Swiss Army knife I purchased from the outlet store afterward.
I’ve played chamber music at summer festivals hosted by the University of Maine at Orono and by the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, where I fell in love with the state’s rocky coastline; since then, I’ve always been happy to support Maine-based businesses. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Bean merchandise over the years.
And I’ve always been willing to look the other way when Bean family members spouted lies, supported right-wing candidates whose beliefs were antithetical to my own, and endorsed right-wing causes that directly threatened me, my family, and my friends.
But this time things have gone too far.
Linda Bean, one of your founder’s granddaughters, donated a lot of money to Donald Trump’s campaign (donations that turned out to be legally questionable), moving our president-elect to give the company a shout-out Jan. 12 via yet another clumsy, impetuous presidential tweet.
In response to a swift backlash, L.L. Bean has countered that the company itself “does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics.”
It seems like Donald Trump didn’t get that memo. And when the president-elect devotes 140 characters to exhort his Twitter followers to buy your products, it’s too late for a declaration of political neutrality, as other retailers are no doubt realizing.
Trump is not just another right-wing politician: he is a national disgrace uniquely unfit for the office of president of the United States. Beyond his politics, he is a dangerous, careless egotist who threatens our very democracy. I am a lifelong Democrat, but I would not have supported his candidacy if he were a member of my own party.
“... when the president-elect devotes 140 characters to exhort his Twitter followers to buy your products, it’s too late for a declaration of political neutrality, as other retailers are no doubt realizing.”
Most families have members who disagree with one another politically, and the Bean family is no exception, as I know L.L. Bean’s Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman has noted in the past. But like it or not, Bean family members are representatives of and ambassadors for their family-owned business.
Linda Bean has certainly not shied away from this role. Whereas other Beans have been wisely circumspect about their political donations—both rightward and leftward—Linda Bean, a two-time Republican Congressional candidate, last week told Fox & Friends that calls for a boycott by “a small kernel of hardcore bullies out on the Left Coast” have actually resulted in “a slight uptick in our business.”
She sure sounds like a company spokesperson to me.
Linda Bean is, of course, free to do what she pleases with her share of the profits from L.L. Bean, and to support the politicians whom she chooses. But I won’t help her do so any longer. The return of two $30 pairs of gloves will not impress Linda Bean or move the needle at L.L. Bean, but it makes a big difference to me.
“Linda Bean is, of course, free to do what she pleases with her share of the profits from L.L. Bean, and to support the politicians whom she chooses. But I won’t help her do so any longer.”
Twitter seems to be our next president’s favorite medium. Since L.L. Bean is apolitical and does not endorse Donald Trump, perhaps you should tweet your repudiation of his endorsement of L.L. Bean.
Until then, I’ll find a different place to shop for gloves. Because currently, it seems like support for fascists is now a quality of “Beanness.”