Saturday, January 14, 2017

Buy L.L. Bean

For the first time I can recall, I agree with something Donald Trump Tweeted (although for very different reasons): “Buy L.L. Bean.”

Yes, it’s unethical and inappropriate for an incoming president to be endorsing and promoting a company. Yes, Linda Bean should be held accountable if her personal donation to a Political Action Committee (PAC) supporting Trump exceeded the legal limit.  But to take that out on the L.L. Bean company is almost as misguided and childish as Trump’s usual behavior. 

L.L. Bean is a great company.   

As a child growing up along the coast of Connecticut, I got excited when the L.L. Bean catalogs arrived in the mail from the company’s headquarters in Freeport, Maine. The north woods of Maine had a strong, alluring mystique to me in those days, and I was eager to grow up and explore the wilds (wearing L.L. Bean gear, of course – like the rugged outdoorsmen portrayed on the covers and throughout the catalogs).

I read all about Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967), a hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman. I read his classic 1942 book, “Hunting-Fishing and Camping.” 

Leon was frustrated he could not find a good, light boot to keep his feet warm and dry on his wilderness adventures, so he made his own, with leather tops and rubber bottoms.  In 1911, with a $400. loan, he began making and selling them out of his brother’s basement, and offered a 100-percent money back guarantee if people were not satisfied – a policy the company sill remains known for.  His boots became (and remain) popular, and grew into the huge catalog and retail company known as L.L. Bean. 

During my first excursions into the wild -- particularly during damp, cold, chilled-to-the-bone New England winters -- I wore L.L. Bean from head to toe; Wool hats, shirts, jackets, gloves, pants, long-johns and, of course, the classic “duck boots.” The customer service was, and remains, excellent, and the products are tough, durable and dependable. 

Linda Bean is Leon’s granddaughter. She is one of 50 people who serve on the company’s board of directors. She has little involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business. She owns her own business, called Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine, which includes selling lobsters. She has pushed for the sustainable harvest of lobsters. She is a Republican. She made several failed runs for Congress. She has contributed a lof of money to Republican candidates. She once compared President Obama to Hitler.  She reportedly donated $60,000 to a Super PAC supporting Donald Trump, which exceeds the $5,000 limit.  She has a cousin who was one of the largest contributors to President Obama.

The Bean family, like many American families, is apparently a large, extended family with a diversity of opinions and views.

The L.L. Bean company itself does not get involved in politics. They do not endorse or contribute money to any candidates.  From all I’ve read and heard, it’s apparently a great place to work: Fair and competitive wages, great insurance policies, same-sex benefits, generous employee discounts, ample vacations and time off, and they even have an employee outdoor club that encourages workers to get out and enjoy the wild places they also help protect. 

They helped protect Katahdin Lake and the forests surrounding it. They donated $1 million to help the Trust for Public Lands purchase and protect land that expanded the size of Baxter State Park. They gave $1 million to the National Park Foundation. They support the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Woods Initiative to protect and expand public lands and recreational opportunities throughout the state. In the past 10-years they have donated more than 30 million to a diversity of nonprofit outdoor-recreation and conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, The American Canoe Association, the Maine Islands Trail Association, Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited.

They support sustainable forestry. They're part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Initiative. They seek and implement ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. They converted their fleet of delivery trucks to biodiesel. Their headquarters in Freeport is a model for sustainable, "green" design, construction and efficiency.

They fully support the Constitutional right of freedom of speech for their diverse employees and board members – and their rights to support any political candidate they want on their own time and with their own money.  As it should be.

L.L. Bean is a great company.

I don’t agree with Linda Bean’s politics. That’s her business. It has nothing to do with her grandfather’s business.

Buy L.L. Bean.

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