I bought a pair of Bean Boots last winter. When I dug them out of the closet a few months ago, they looked old and torn. Because I know that L.L.Bean will exchange my boots for a new pair, no questions asked, I'm tempted to drive to Freeport and redeem a new pair of boots. What constitutes an abuse of L.L.Bean's return policy?

L.L.Bean is famous for its lifetime "satisfaction" guarantee. It's the company's manifesto: "Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want to have anything from L.L.Bean that is not completely satisfactory."

If you need to exchange an item, L.L.Bean pledges to make it as easy as possible. No customer service authorization necessary. That means that if come tenth grade you grow dissatisfied with your monogrammed lime green backpack, L.L.Bean will give you a store credit for the purchase value of your decade-old bag.

It isn't hard to see how this generous and charming policy can be abused. You can wear your Bean Boots for a month, decide they're a size too big, and return them. Or you can buy a shirt for a formal event and return it the very next day.

The customer service line at the L.L.Bean flagship store in Freeport is always crowded with satisfied, faithful customers replacing time-honored products. But too frequently people queue up toting trash bags full of emptied attics or consignment store purchases hoping to revive their wardrobes or make a buck.

A few months ago, I asked a customer service employee how L.L.Bean polices abuses of their policy. She explained that the company asks that local Good Will and Salvation Army stores remove the L.L.Bean tag from donated clothing. Otherwise, the company operates on an honor system.

If, after three blissful years, your Wicked Good Moccasins start to tear at the seams, it is entirely reasonable for you to exchange them for a new pair. If at any point you are not pleased with an L.L.Bean product, it is right to return it. But if when you purchase an item, you have reason to believe that you will not want or need the purchased item after a short period of time, you flout the company's considerable good faith.

I hate when people talk on their cell phones on the first floor of H&L. Is it just me, or is that wrong? Talk to me, Ethicist.

At the senior etiquette dinner, Karen Mills stated that cell phones should be silenced during dinner. If you're expecting a call, she said, ask to be excused to the washroom. She added that there are very few circumstances under which cell phone use is permissible at the table. Her only example was parenthood.

According to a December New York Times article on cell phone use at the dinner table, sixty-four percent of the 40,569 restaurant-goers who rated restaurants for the 2011 New York City Zagat restaurant guide, believed texting, browsing, checking email, or talking on the phone in a restaurant to be "rude and inappropriate."

I tend to believe that texting at the table is not fundamentally wrong. If use of your cell phone might be interpreted as a demonstration of disinterest or disrespect, it should not be used. But in most dining hall interactions, I argue that cell phone use demonstrates neither.

You must seek to demonstrate respect for the people around you. If your behavior indicates a lack of care for other people in a public place, it is inappropriate. Make a gesture toward kindliness. Take a few steps toward the stairwell when you take a call.