I've been raving about these incredibly comfortable (if a bit silly looking) boots ever since Bean began offering them about a year ago. They quickly became my go-to boot, and saw extensive duty in midwestern CRP and cornfields, Minnesota grousewoods, Montana prairies, and Texas brush country.
And then this note came. Bad news again. I was curious, so I decided to contact the company's media relations guy, Mac McKeever. Mac quickly put me in touch with Jeff Miller, a Senior Developer for L.L. Bean's Upland Technical line, which was definitely good news.
Jeff is a lifelong birdhunter, and grew up in the shadow of the L.L. Bean mothership in Freeport, Maine. "I have been chasing grouse and woodcock around for over 35yrs - starting around six years old with a pneumatic cork gun that I carried while my dad hunted over a good friend's setters," Miller emailed me. For the last 15 or so years, he's been raising and training his own shorthairs. Good guy, and the real deal.
But back to the boots. I explained my situation to him, and asked him why my order was canceled and the boots are no longer avaialble on the website. Here's his emailed reply.
"You and I are both big fans, as well as a bunch of other guys, and I'm sorry to say that I don't currently have the toe-bumper/mudguard issue solved for [fall 2011]. The last revision was improved considerably but after several weeks in the field we saw signs of the same potential issue and I am in the middle of the fourth revision/redesign to solve the problem. I assure you, I am doing everything I can to resolve it quickly and get them back on the market - they really are great boots but unfortunately it doesn't look good for this October."
Major bad news. But I'm going to give Jeff and the folks at L.L. Bean some major credit on this. There are a lot of companies out there that would capitalize on the buzz around a new product and churn out junk, just to make a quick buck. But that's not L.L. Bean's way of doing business, and I applaud them for it.
So I'll wait. As long as my current pair stay comfortable, I'm going to continue wearing them. They may need a dab of Liquid Nails here and there, but that's the cost of being an "early adopter." It also makes me comfortable to know that when they finally DO have a design that passes the torture tests, it's more than likely going to be bombproof. The most important thing? L.L. Bean just earned a lifelong customer.
And good thing, too, because Jeff and I got to talking about some of the other Technical Upland gear that his company is pioneering. I'll have more about that in an upcoming post.