When Caroline Bradley of Dover, New Hampshire clicked “Agree” to the terms and conditions of the L.L. Bean customer service live chat, she only wanted to find out if her new Bean Boots were durable enough for the New England winter. But she was about to find out far more than she could have ever imagined.
“Yep, I’m gay,” says Bradley via email. “I’ve never been able to fully articulate it to myself, but it’s true. And I have L.L. Bean’s live chat feature to thank for letting me come out in a way that felt safe.”
Perhaps if she had to wait more than a few seconds for the next available sales representative, she may have exited the chat. However, L.L. Bean is notoriously responsive, and Bradley was soon able to ask, “Is selecting a Gore-Tex Lined Bean Boot good for snowy weather?”
“Right away I knew that Ryan, the representative with whom I was chatting, was trustworthy,” said Bradley. “From his first ‘Hello. How may I assist you today?’ to his cartoon avatar, I knew that he was courageous and kind, like Jane Goodall or the moose I considered a friend during my adolescence.”
Ryan Hutchins, one of the most highly regarded customer service representatives at L.L. Bean, promptly addressed Bradley’s concern, saying, “Hello, Caroline. Yes, Gore-Tex is perfect for snowy weather. Was there a certain boot you were interested in?”
“Ryan’s words about the comfort that the Gore-Tex provides made me feel as warm and safe as my feet will be, once my boots arrive from Maine in three to five business days. I felt more like myself and more at home in that moment than I had ever felt before,” said Bradley. “It just seemed like the perfect time to finally announce my orientation.”
“I said, ‘I am gay.’ And it felt amazing to say, even just in that little earth-tone chat window. That’s when I knew it was real.”
“Yes, we are the number-one outerwear company in the country, but our primary goal is to be a friend to our customers,” explained Elizabeth Granlaw from her CEO office located in a cove along the Harraseeket River. “If they are relaxing by a fire, we are the cable-knit sweater their grandmother would have made if she were a large company.”
When asked to speak about her experience with Bradley, Hutchins could not recall the specifics of the conversation. “Most people use our customer service chat, the Bean Zone as we call it, for one of three reasons. One – they have a question about our products. Two – they’re currently lost in Acadia National Park and they need us to give specific directions. Or three – they’re coming out as gay.”
Bradley is looking forward to wearing her boots in the snow and having sex with women.