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Is an REI membership worth it?
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Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
returns on 03/28/2011 17:56:09 MDT Print View

The ability to return something years down the road that I bought there makes it completely worth it to me, the dividend is just icing on the cake.

There are plenty of things they have there for similar prices to other retailers, so given that choice, I'll buy it at REI so that if it wears out in a year, or I decide I don't like it, I can take it back, no questions asked. When I was buying a pack, this policy paid for the membership many times over. Take it on a trip, and return it if it didn't satisfy, pretty rare to be able to do that anywhere anymore.

It's not the place for SUL gear, granted, but for plenty of things, casual outdoor wear, footwear, etc., it works for me.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Is an REI membership worth it?" on 03/28/2011 17:57:51 MDT Print View

YES - if for nothing else than their unlimited return policy.....even years after the purchase date. Buy it, try it, don't like it?, return it.

They got smart a few years back and require a receipt, either physically or one they can look up in their computer database (aka you need to know the approx month and year of the purchase).

Please do not abuse the policy with the "buy it, use it for your hike, return it for a full refund" cycle. You'll cob it for the rest of us.

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Is an REI membership worth it?" on 03/29/2011 00:15:18 MDT Print View

>They got smart a few years back and require a receipt, either physically or one they can >look up in their computer database (aka you need to know the approx month and year >of the purchase).

Not if you're a member. They can look up your purchase history and verify that you really did buy the item from them.

My dividend paid for a pair of Keen lightweight hiking shoes. I've gotten quite a few good deals on some pretty nice gear from REI over the years, including a Vargo titanium stove, and some Ibex wool base and mid layers.

REI also supports local conservation organizations here in Washington.

And their staff don't get commissions -- they're not paid to sell you stuff, they're paid to provide customer service. Not all of them are good at it, but they do try -- I *have* encountered REI staff with less knowledge than me, but it's been the exception rather than the rule.

Personally, I think the REI bashers are for the most part small-minded fools -- REI does sell a lot of stuff that's oriented toward base camping and fashion rather than backpacking or lightweight (let alone ultralight) backpacking, but they also sell Nemo tents, including the trekking-pole supported Meta. REI has to make money, so they sell stuff that people will buy... and that means that most of their stuff is cycling, kayaking, and fashionable toys for yuppy car campers, but as ultralight backpacking gets more popular, REI's selection of ultralight gear is improving (Vargo titanium alcohol stoves, for example).

REI isn't perfect, but you *can* get a lot of good gear from them, provided that you know what you're after and that you ask the right questions.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
rei on 03/29/2011 01:16:54 MDT Print View

you can go UL at rei ... marmot heliums, used by many here, sold there ... MH Phantoms.... osprey talon, exos, hornet ... neoair, baiac, RR solar ... patagucci down sweaters ... marmot super mica ... etc ...

of course if you buy it from REI ... it suddenly becomes leaden weights ... and you magically transform from a ULer to a HWer at the stroke of midnight

im sure how someone will prattle on about ULA, MLD, GG, etc ... and how their stuff is lighter ... sure, but do ya have a no questions asked unlimited time guarantee?

we wont even talk about REI outlet sales, garage sales, etc ... everyone except for me seem to pick up climbing shoes there for like $20 a pair ... booooo

scavo ralary
(ralary) - F
quite good on 03/29/2011 03:42:50 MDT Print View

I always get rei stuff,and quite like their gear

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
# on 03/29/2011 07:23:47 MDT Print View

257 xxx

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
lifetime on 03/29/2011 07:35:46 MDT Print View

I'd say as a general rule lifetime-anything for $20 is a good deal.

Also: the war's over, REI won ;-/

Edited by JohnJ on 03/29/2011 07:37:58 MDT.

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
Memberships are commissioned IIRC on 03/29/2011 10:39:03 MDT Print View

As mentioned previously, items purchased on sale do not count towards dividends. Extolling the virtues of their sales or conservation activities is somewhat of a strawman given that the initial question was whether the membership was worth the small fee. I think that has been answered- good return policy, good value if you purchase at full price in store. I neither return items nor purchase full price in store, so I would not get a membership today if I had not done so a decade ago.

Also, I was told by an REI manager that the only customer purchase that does come with a commission is memberships- hence my initial tongue in cheek post.

Lastly, calling people who do not like REI small minded fools is both foolish and small minded. I have no seething hatred for the store, but unless abusing a return policy was more important than employee knowledge, good selection, and local information I do not see a reason to use REI over the numerous small stores in the MidAtlanatic and Northeast. Over the past 15 years I have been in almost every REI from NJ to IL and south to TX. The experience and knowledge of REI employees as compared to those in small shops is not comparable; perhaps this is not the case out west, or perhaps my sample is not representative because I keep getting the cycling guy in the climbing section. Of course, that does not happen in the Mountaineer or Ragged Mountain.

John Elbare
(jelbare) - MLife

Locale: Florida
It's worth it for me on 03/29/2011 11:44:44 MDT Print View

I received my REI membership as a gift several years ago. I do buy stuff from time to time. Just used my dividend to get a pair 5-10 Guide Tennies for $45. Whenever I need something, I look for the best price in the right size. Sometimes its REI. I also shop at Campmor, Moontrail, Mountain Gear, etc., etc. I am frequently in places that have REI stores, so perhaps I use it more than if I did all of my purchasing online.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: It's worth it for me on 03/29/2011 12:22:47 MDT Print View

Yes, its worth it.

If nothing else, their stores quite often have a lot of literature on the area.

No, they don't have the most knowledgable staff. They are a BOX store. Small shops will always be better in this regard like Pro Mountain Sports or Feathered Friends or Marmot etc.

They do have a very wide selection of goods including that giant group of people who go car camping out in the ol' west. Power Stretch Tights are the same at REI as they are at Marmot. A camp chair is the same at REI as it is at Sports Authority or Dicks.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Is an REI membership worth it? on 03/29/2011 13:01:21 MDT Print View

The membership was only $10 when I got it (1980's) and it has been worth it. Or maybe it was $5! I primarily use REI for odds and ends (like fuel canisters, maps and socks), or if I think I may have to return an item. Even back then, in the days of 40-50 lb. packs, I bought more gear from Campmor than from REI--even with the postage and no dividend, Campmor had the same stuff cheaper.

I still think REI membership is worth the membership fee. Even with only a few small purchases a year, you'll earn it back in dividends in a couple of years. You'll earn it even sooner with those 20% off coupons. If nothing else, you'll get the $20 back just on the reduced tuition for REI members for the NOLS Wilderness First Aid classes they now offer frequently, and which I highly recommend.

In the late 1980's there was a big campaign among members to elect a board that would get REI out of the yuppie clothing business and back to its roots. The campaign failed, and I've had a low opinion of the place since. That doesn't mean I don't shop there if they have something I want at a reasonable price!

Edited by hikinggranny on 03/29/2011 13:13:33 MDT.

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: Is an REI membership worth it? on 03/29/2011 13:29:06 MDT Print View

I've had a membership in REI since the mid 1970s ( I am older than dirt) so the fee is long forgotten. In fact I don't even remember if there was a cost. That aside, I've been known to rent a car and visit the REI store in Anchorage while waiting for a jet on my way from Juneau to western Alaska. Sure, not everything is ultra light, but I've found that the breadth of their selection -- and the ability for me to see and touch stuff -- is a great incentive.

My store is only 2 hours away, but that's by jet, so I'd say a 3 hour drive is probably worth the cost. Maybe my view en route is nicer....

Juneau Ice Field

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Yes on 03/29/2011 14:34:11 MDT Print View

My wife and I got an REI membership shortly after we got married back in 1973. At that time, it was one of the very few places one could get good backpacking equipment at decent prices.

Over the years we've used it for a lot of gear: backpacking for us and the kids, car camping, cycling, etc. While the cottage industries own ultralite and hammocking, REI carries a good bit of gear that works with those just fine...and as it's been said above, the chance to try and return gear is well worth the price of admission!!!

Jake Palmer
(jakep_82) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Is an REI membership worth it? on 03/29/2011 15:57:22 MDT Print View

It has been for me. I've been a member for over a decade and it's paid for itself many times over at this point. I'm about to purchase an Exped Synmat UL 7 and just that purchase alone pays for the membership ($155 - 20% = $124). And if it develops a leak I can take it back to the store and they'll hand me a new one on the spot. That's what they did when my Big Agnes pad started leaking and it's one of the reasons I keep going back.

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Memberships are commissioned IIRC on 03/29/2011 19:55:54 MDT Print View

> Lastly, calling people who do not like REI small minded fools is both foolish and small minded.

If you're replying to me, you should read what I wrote again. There's a big difference between people who don't like REI and people who bash REI.

Brad B
(HillbillyfromAL) - F
REI Membership worth it? Absolutely on 03/30/2011 21:49:56 MDT Print View

Even if you just shop online every now and then you could easily recoup the $20 that the membership cost. They usually have a 20% coupon on a regular priced item 3-4 times a year. They have one right now until APR 10th, MEM2011 is the code. I'll be buying a carbon reflex 3 when the next one rolls around in May, $600 dollar tent save $120.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: REI Membership worth it? Absolutely on 04/07/2011 18:29:14 MDT Print View

Members since the early 80s. Totally worthwhile for us. We started using the REI credit card a few years ago, and pay pretty much everything with it (paying it off each month...) So in addition to the 10% on full price items, we get 5% on sale items at REI, and 1% on everything else we buy. Our dividend has paid for some nice big-ticket items over the years. This year's dividend is comfortably over $500. So yeah, that one-time fee was pretty worth it.

Note that you can have a membership for each family member. So you can get multiple versions of the member sale 20% coupon.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
Discounted Lift Tickets on 04/07/2011 19:50:18 MDT Print View

I'm surprised others haven't already brought this up, but one of the greatest benefits the membership offers to me is the discounted lift tickets to the local ski resorts. This season they offered discounted tickets, generally about $15 less, to eleven ski resorts. Totally worth it to me.

Edited by FeetFirst on 04/07/2011 19:51:05 MDT.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Is UL backpacking all you do? on 04/07/2011 21:43:39 MDT Print View

If all you ever do is UL backpacking, and you don't buy anything from REI, then it's not worth it. However, as an assistant Scoutmaster in a Boy Scout Troop, I need all sorts of equipment... climbing harnesses, rope, basecamp tents, etc. and I love REI because I can actually go and see the equipment in person.

From a UL perspective, I'm transitioning from heavy equipment to lightweight equipment (not necessarily UL) in preparation for Philmont. A couple of weeks ago I bought an REI Flash 65 pack. I took it on a weekend backpacking trip last weekend and felt like the model I got just didn't fit quite right. I took it back (after using it for 3 days) and was given a full refund no questions asked. I then ordered a ULA Circuit which should be here tomorrow.

Earlier this year I took my $15 dividend and 20% off certificate and bought a Thermarest Alpine down quilt for $50 off. That paid for the membership. I'm not sure I'm in love with the quilt, but it works well enough and I got a really good deal on it.


Edited by markrvp on 04/07/2011 21:45:09 MDT.

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Memberships are commissioned IIRC on 04/08/2011 10:43:48 MDT Print View

I work part time at an REI, and no, memberships are not commissioned. Employee evaluations (and store evaluations) include meeting membership targets, but this is not a commission. And there is a good reason for aggressively promoting membership. As anyone with a background in consumer cooperatives knows, coops live or die by their memberships.

Now, if a member gets an REI Visa card, using my referral code (because I gave them the Visa card form with my code on it) then I get a payment of $20-$40 depending on whether there's a promotion going on or not. Plus the member gets a gift card for $20-$50, once again depending on whether there's a promotion. Which there is at the moment. $50 gift card for you!