No, you misunderstand me. I understand that REI will take the item back. I am, however, firmly convinced that to do so is wrong.
REI, to its credit, is bending over backwards to ensure customers are satisfied. I appreciate that policy, and I hope that they continue it. I strongly believe that customers have the obligation to respond by not taking unfair advantage of the policy, though.
Taking something home, having second thoughts, and then returning it is fine. Taking your time and leisurely trying it out in a way that does not destroy its newness and then returning it is fine. Being able to thoroughly examine something in the relaxed atmosphere of your home, and then returning it is fine. Do these things and be glad for REI's generous return policy.
But to take something out for four days or more on the trail and then try to return it is a perversion of the system, even if REI will allow it. Taking advantage of REI's policy to return used gear that has no problem other than you have decided you do not like it is wrong (even though REI may allow it).
As to a "better than competitive price" -- sorry, but not these days. REI sells most things at MSRP. Things are often cheaper elsewhere. I have not noticed that REI sale prices are better than elsewhere, either. REI used to occupy a unique notch -- but those days are long gone. (I remember when it was a Seattle-area store, with mail order for the rest of the country. My COOP number is low 5 digits.)
As to the rest of us not paying more -- TANSTAAFL. He has caused an economic loss (the item is no longer as valuable as it was; his refund will be in excess of the value of the item) -- and someone eats that loss. Perhaps fewer evening events. Perhaps charging for things that used to be free. Perhaps smaller dividends for members. But the money that was lost on that unfortunate transaction has to come from *somewhere* -- it does not come out of thin air.
Furthermore, he has had an economic benefit (both the use of the item and the knowledge gained) and is unwilling to pay for that. Why?
Another loss to the rest of us -- REI does not sell much that is ultralight. With people taking advantage of their return policy such as we are discussing, I would not either. Selling gear you have to be careful of would be far too expensive, because of unfair returns. Now *there* is a loss -- REI is convenient and I get my dividend, but few of my purchases can come from there these days.
No, I remain convinced that trying to return items in less than new condition (unless there is a manufacturing defect) is a perversion of the system, is wrong, and costs the rest of us.
Please accept your personal responsibilities and do not do that!