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Ethics and REI Return Policy
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Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Ethics and REI Return Policy on 01/11/2008 09:25:21 MST Print View

In the course of filing paperwork I came across REI receipts, most from 2001, for backpacking gear I no longer use or want. Specifically: two synthetic sleeping bags (too heavy and too cold), a Paclite jacket (not breathable enough), and a tent (to heavy). If I return these items I will get over $500. What would you do?

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Ethics and REI Return Policy on 01/11/2008 09:37:12 MST Print View

REI's guarantee

Was there anything the matter with the items themselves? Or did you just change what you wanted, after you bought them?

You can probably talk an REI Customer Service Specialist into giving you a refund. But I don't think it would be right. Yes, REI has determined that its 100% guarantee is worth, in customer satisfaction, the cost of giving refunds to a small percentage of people who return items for extraneous reasons. However, I don't think that's a good reason for me to be one of those people.

Note: I have worked at REI for the last 2 years as a part-time salesclerk, so I've had occasion to learn a lot more about this. But I have been an REI customer and member since the early 1970's, and my opinion about returning items has not changed.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
REI return policy on 01/11/2008 11:17:27 MST Print View

I agree it is not ethical to take advantage of a store's return policy purely for one's own benefit, if the vendor bears some non-trivial cost. I have no problem, of course, with returning recently purchased, new, unused items that go right back on the shelf.

The "golden rule" seems applicable here. The vendor's return policy is there to protect you from getting stuck with faulty or inappropriate items, misrepresentation by manufacturers, etc. REI apparently has a very generous policy, and it should not be misused.

Joseph Jacaruso
(CaptainJac) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
REI Refund on 01/11/2008 11:56:02 MST Print View

I know a lot of people that think of REI as a place to "use" gear until something better is on the market. I over heard one man telling another that he had returned shoes his grandson had out grown.

How do people sleep at night with that kind of ethics?

If I buy it and there is nothing defective its mine and no longer the responsibility of the store.

REI did take back a pair of boots I purchased. While trying on a new pair I aplogized for taking so much time. I added my last pair of boots had caused blisters. The sales associate asked where I bought them and I told him REI. He insisted on me returning the boots. In this case I had no problem returning a used item since they insisted I bring them back for a full refund. I expected nothing but would have been trilled at a partial refund.

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: REI Refund on 01/11/2008 12:09:06 MST Print View

I agree with most of the comments so far. A return is OK if the item is defective, does not fit or perform the way it should. I have no problem though returning an item after quite a while (1-2 years) if the long-term durability or performance is not what I expected it to be. The NEED for an item (and needs do change over time) should not be a reason for a return.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Ethics and REI Return Policy on 01/11/2008 12:15:25 MST Print View

Seems like REI's beneficial, generous return policy should have a limit at some point. Even if REI is kind enough to take things back way, way later than any other store.

After all, REI is a co-op pretty much operated for and by its members. Taking over-the-top advantage of its return policy affects the bottom line for all who are members.

In part for that reason, I have refrained from returning my REI mountain parka that I purchased about 40 years ago from the then-only REI store (located in Seattle).

Plus, I just plain like that parka. I wouldn't trade it for an eVent Thruhiker. It's an antique, and definitely extinct, since it's made of 60/40 cloth -- not to be found new anywhere today -- at least not that I know of.

Best of all, when I want to relive the good old days, that old REI parka goes very nicely with my circa late 1960's gear which includes my Kelty Cruiser (that replaced a much older wood-framed, canvas-covered trapper pack), my North Face Mountain Tent, & my SVEA w/Sigg cookset.

So, hang onto those old REI purchases. Don't stick REI with them. Even if you don't come to view them as a kind of scrapbook, you may make a fortune one day on eBay.


Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Ethics and REI Return Policy on 01/11/2008 12:25:36 MST Print View

Well I have an REI SubKilo that I bought less than a year ago when I first got into backpacking. I used it a few times and still have it. I got a WM bag which is far superior. Before I got the WM I may not have had complaints, but after gettig it I found some flaws. Particularly, the down seems to leak out of the hood of the REI bag pretty easily. I've been wrestling with whether or not it's ok to return it. The bag has been hung the entire time I've owned it. I still have the stuff sack which it has never been in (I use a bigger one.) I lost the receipt so I was going to bite the $249 bullet and see if my girlfriend wanted it, but it doesn't fit her.

Now I think I may return it. It's not too bad, but the down leaking gets me. I don't like waking up with feathers in my hair! Even this I wrestled with though! I don't want to take advantage of such a wonderful policy! I may also replace my non-stick evernew that has had stuff sticking to it with a nomal one!

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: Ethics and REI Return Policy on 01/11/2008 12:27:49 MST Print View

You have my blessings Andrew ... :-) Excessive down leakige for me falls under the category "unacceptable performance".

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Ethics and REI Return Policy on 01/11/2008 15:57:10 MST Print View

"Particularly, the down seems to leak out of the hood of the REI bag pretty easily. I've been wrestling with whether or not it's ok to return it."

I work for REI. I wouldn't hesitate to return it for the reason you mention if this has gone on for a while. A bit of leakage at first is not all that unusual, but if it continues to shed after a few uses, this is a performance issue.

Return it, and make somebody else very happy at the next scratch and dent sale.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Ethics on 01/11/2008 16:42:17 MST Print View

Why not sell the items used? Ebay, here or some other sites. Just because you bought the items doesn't mean that you should just return it willie nillie. When I switched to the other side, I sold all of my gear. Maybe not what I would have wanted to get for it, but at least someone else gained some usage of these items.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Ethics on 01/11/2008 21:05:24 MST Print View


$500 cold cash is mighty tempting -- but the fact that you posted with the heading "Ethics" tells me that your conscience is working just as designed. Listen to it.

If the items are defective, you would most likely have returned them years ago. I bet those items are just fine but your needs and wants have changed over the years -- and so they sit unused and unloved in your closet. That's obviously NOT REI's fault.

As above, sell them on Ebay. You'll still get a substantial amount of money back -- and have a clear conscience too. Best of luck!

Edited by ben2world on 01/11/2008 21:07:18 MST.

Paul Rancuret
(viking8388) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: Ethics on 01/11/2008 22:48:33 MST Print View

It is comforting to see that there is a unanimous opinion here!

I don't work at REI, but I'm there often enough that the store manager keeps joking that I need to fill out an application. So, needless to say, I do a fair amount of business with them.

Consequently, over the years, there has been a number of times that I (legitimately) benefited from their policy: Like Captain Jac, I had a pair of 4year+11month-old Montrail boots that they insisted on taking back; a four-year-old Marmot Precip jacket that kept wetting-out like crazy; a Garmin GPS with a defective screen; two leaky canister stoves.

And so, even though REI is rarely the cheapest source for gear, they routinely get my business because of their return policy (gee ... I guess their strategy is working!).

The cynic in me keeps expecting them to change their policy, especially when I hear stories like the family of four that had just returned a bunch of ski gear after two weeks because "none of it fit" (as told to me by the sales associate that was processing my Garmin return).

So Casey, my bottom-line opinion is in agreement with the other postings ... stick it on eBay.

Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
Ethics on 01/13/2008 12:04:03 MST Print View

I don't return used items unless they fail in normal use. I will return unused items that I purchased recently or where the exact item purchased is still in stock. I recently returned a combination bike lock to REI. I set the combination, locked the mechanism and could not get it to unlock using the combination I set. (Luckily I tried it first before locking up my bike.) It is possible that I made an error setting the combination, but I think that's highly unlikely. I was careful and used my zip code as the combination. The exchange clerk gave me a new lock without comment, but I could tell he thought I probably caused the problem myself. This bothered me a bit because, as I said, it is remotely possible that this problem was caused by my own idiocy. I hope the manufacturer has some way to reset and reuse this lock if it wasn't defective. It was an expensive lock.

Edited by WayneKraft on 01/13/2008 12:05:59 MST.

bobby c
(bobbycartwright) - F

Locale: i don't need no stinkin badges!
screw REI on 01/27/2008 19:44:22 MST Print View

Don't listen to these jokers on here. REI is a mega-corporation and if they received a few returns no one would feel it. A few things for you to consider:

Some have estimated that unused gift cards and small post transaction balances left on gift cards have given many retail corporations a ten to twenty percent boost in profits in recent years. That's basically money that, if they had a conscience, they would diligently return. Like, oh here, you've had this $25 gift card you haven't used, you must've forgotten about it. I know the system doesn't work that way but my point is that the corporations are making out very well on all their little scams.

Whatever you bought probably cost them a quarter of what you paid for it, then their minimal overhead, since they probably pay pretty low wages. And consider if it was made in China. The poor guy over there probably got paid less than a dollar to make your five hundred's worth.

Screw the corporations. Support your locally owned stores...Have a conscience about that.

Donald Segretti
(Dick-Nixon-in-72) - F
Re: screw REI on 01/27/2008 19:57:42 MST Print View

While there might be a feeling that corporations screw the world, who do you think brought you: Silnylon, Titanium products, and virtually everthing that is mass produced at a price most can afford. I don't think they're saints by any stretch, but taking the Michael Moore approach to GM is pretty ignorant.

Where do you think most of the small local stores get their gear from? How about GPS, who do you think brought that to the market? And now for now less than $100 each? If you'd like to know who, I'll give you a hint: Several large corporations is the answer, and they're all over $1B sales each per year. With all due respect, little companies couldn't have done that.

Finally, I think you'll find that 90%+ of your "locally owned stores" are infact corporations for the protection it gives them...

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 01/27/2008 22:17:24 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 22:31:46 MST.

bobby c
(bobbycartwright) - F

Locale: i don't need no stinkin badges!
ahhhh!!! on 01/28/2008 06:46:04 MST Print View

Yes, it would be ignorant not to acknowledge that many outdoor product suppliers are corporations, but we must consider what we want to buy and from whom to buy it.
A few of my main items in my pack...

Henry Shires' Squall Tarptent, made by a cottage industry in the USA, definetly not a corporation.

Steripen classic model, sort of a cottage type industry, they are probably incorporated but run their Maine based operation with a less aggressive stance than most other guys. Certainly not in the WalMart category of corporations...

A bunch of GoLite clothing and my pack is by GoLite. They're an LLC so not technically a corporation. US owned, and very active in the UL community, though looks like their assembly gets done overseas.

Innovation is the key to success in most money making endeavours, and holding on to and expanding the usefullness of a product line is what has made the great companies out there great. While yes, REI is a much, much better corporation than WalMart, they can still afford to take it in the can once or twice. With roughly 100 stores and a huge internet presence they would fall into the major corporation category. I would argue very strongly that they are doing way more than $100 million is gross sales a year. Maybe upwards of $250 million a year.

I do concede that REI is probably alot better of a corporate neighbor than a huge majority of other retailers. They undoubtedly have helped foster a love of the outdoors in many people that has helped backpackers and our environment. Yet I must still hold on to my cynicalism and say that by just being a successful global corporation, they've undoubtedly crushed alot of people to get there. That have shat on more than they have been shat on. Yet, there is no excuse for buying something for one weekend and returning it or just because the color didn't fit your mood a few weeks later.

So, in closing, I would suggest that if your conscience bothers you, just return the items which didn't perform well and be off!

Edited by bobbycartwright on 01/28/2008 06:52:57 MST.

Simon Winchell
(simonwm) - F
I think golite and steripen don't have a huge problem with REI on 01/28/2008 14:41:21 MST Print View

Ironic that two of the three products you listed are sold by rei, who is probably one of their largest vendors. Rei is a big corporation yes, and probably doesn't rank as high up the corporate morality store as something like patagonia, but frivolous returns are not in any way legit. Vote with your dollar yes, but by only buying products you agree with, not scamming companies that are pretty good by today's standards.

Edited by simonwm on 01/28/2008 14:42:12 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: ahhhh!!! on 01/28/2008 14:48:42 MST Print View


Take note that when you screw the corporation -- be it frivolous returns or even worse, buying for use on a trip or two with no real intention of keeping -- you are most likely corrupting your own soul -- without even knowing it. Humans are pretty good at rationalization -- until all logic is twisted completely.

bobby c
(bobbycartwright) - F

Locale: i don't need no stinkin badges!
karma on 01/28/2008 15:33:51 MST Print View

yes, karma will bite again one day...