Local lawyer takes on L.L. Bean firings

AUBURN — A local lawyer said Thursday she is representing several fired L.L. Bean workers who lost their jobs earlier this week after buying a leather tote bag that was discounted due to an online pricing error.

Rebecca Webber said she was still investigating the terminations, but believed the number of fired workers likely is a much larger group than "less than a handful," as characterized by a company spokeswoman earlier in the week.

Webber said she was concerned the company may have defamed the fired workers.

Although the people Webber has talked to are all women, older than 40 and longtime employees, she said she hadn't yet learned the demographics of all of the fired workers.

"My understanding is that everybody who made an order of this product who was an L.L. Bean employee was terminated," she said.

A spokeswoman at L.L. Bean could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The product in question, a woven leather tote bag, originally priced at $169, was marked down to $19 for roughly two days earlier this month. Customers started calling customer service representatives to order the item. Some of the workers who fielded the incoming calls and placed the outside customers' orders, in turn, called the company's online service to place orders of their own because the price was so attractive.

"It just was a snowball effect," one of the fired workers said.

Word got out about the apparent-sale item and others put in orders until the item was flagged and the price corrected.

About a week after placing their orders for the bag, they were investigated for fraud within the company, fired workers told the Sun Journal.

"We were never trained to question the price," said one of the fired workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We were always told to trust the system, trust the system."

An item on the company's website Thursday showed a sale price of one item 70 percent off, she said.

"How are employees supposed to judge if this is right?" she said. "It wasn't the fact that we were being conniving or we were stealing or whatever, it was the fact that something was on sale and we said, 'Hey, this is a good deal. Let's get it.'"

Another of the fired workers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said significant markdowns on merchandise that's being liquidated or is outdated are nothing new. "It happens all the time," she said. "We have no idea what's going to be put on clearance."

All of the employees' orders were put on hold, then canceled.

Workers who bought the bags were summoned to an office, led to a room and questioned at length by company fraud investigators, the former workers said.

"We were treated like we were criminals. ... As far as we know, we didn't do anything wrong," one former worker said.

The company's investigation continued for at least a week. The workers were then put on paid administrative leave.

A week later, they were called in one at a time and fired.

"The next day it was hard to look in the mirror," one fired worker said. "I felt horrible about myself."

Workers still on the payroll are afraid to buy anything on sale for fear of being accused of employee misconduct, a former worker said.

"It just doesn't make sense," she said.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Alan Brubach's picture

Not Surprised

As a ten year vetrean of Beans I'm not surprised at all,the culture at Bean's has gone from Family to Corparate with no regard to the Employee's they are now just a number on a Badge.As far as a Union going in they will fight that with every Dollar they have.The employee's tried this before and the company won.There is a reason why you don't hear of people wanting to go work for them like you use to in years past.Mr Bean is turning over in his grave over how the Employee's are being treated now..I hope the Fired employee's WIN!!

Bob Deschenes's picture

Firings, L.L. Bean

L.L. Beans will never see my face again. I always recommended their store to visitors in town. How in hell were the buyers supposed to know t was an error. Where the hell was your proof reader? Maybe everyone should star calling L.L. Beans to check ou their prices and just flood their system. L.L. Bean is wrong and they should man up to it and rehire those persons. Why don't they bill whomever bought some on the internet and explain it was an error? I don't believe that it was a plan for these persons to screw their employer. Who ever is at the top is just using his anger and retaliated on those close enough to get.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Something is wrong here.

Granted we don't know all the facts in this case. Did the order takers order on bag each or did they order a huundred? The later amount would nmost probably constitute fraud.

If they only ordered one each then there shouldn't be any problem. The fired employees perhaps knew of the terriffic bargin. However they acted as customers when ordering the bags. They did nothing illegal. Did the women know it was one heck of a buy I'm sure they did. I would imagine one had a customer on the phone that advised the order taker what a great deal this was. There are no laws against taking advantage of a good deal. I don't believe That LL Bean can cancel their orders.

The employee coming under fire should be the one that made the mistake.

David Cushman's picture

From what I have heard

A family friend knows some of the people involved. The quantities that some of the employees ordered were not even close to 100. They ordered one or two for personal use. I don't think they were trying to sell them on Ebay...

Denisa Laflamme's picture

Ignorant

How unfair to those employees, they are being treated like criminals and they did nothing wrong, its not like they went into the actual store and swapped prices on the item. LL Bean is being ignorant and unfair to these folks.....I hope that this group of people sue them and win!!!

Jim Cyr's picture

L.L.Bean firings

Maybe they should get unionized! If this unjust ruling is allowed to stand, we have a big problem with their corporate understanding with their public perception of fairness. I don't believe Mr.Bean would have allowed this outcome with their dedicated employees!

 's picture

What we haven't been told

We haven't been told why the company thought the fired workers did something wrong. There must have been some idea that they had. Did they think these employees knew that the price was misprinted? If so, why? The story as it stands makes L.L. Bean appear both irrational and very unfair, but there must be something more to it.

Rebecca Webber's picture

I think Ms. Kuenning raises

I think Ms. Kuenning raises some good questions because it does seem very hard to understand why a company would let go long time workers with good records. But the fact is that none of the four women, all well over 40, thought they were doing anything wrong. Why? Because there is no policy on discounts that discounts of a certain amount are off limits to employees. Emails and calls have been pouring in with one example after another of discounts as high and higher than the one these employees were looking at regarding this tote. A $50 skirt for $8.95, another bag for nearly $200 for $19.99, and more... All of those were apparetnly legitimate. The only rule that folks keep saying they were told -- and they are consistent on the exact wording -- is to "trust the system." That is what these ladies did and got fired.

 's picture

This story is disturbing. If

This story is disturbing. If employees are allowed to purchase items in the same manner that consumers are, then they should be held to the same consequences. Other consumers were allowed to keep the totes at the discounted price and their orders were not put on hold. These employees were not aware that the price was a misprint.

Amazing how LL Bean could make their employees, who've given years of service to the company, pay for their incompetent proofreading abilities.

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