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REI staff knowledge
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Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 19:56:05 MDT Print View

Hi Folks,

I was in REI today to get a down bag for my wife and the staff member in the sleeping bag section did not have a clue what she was talking about.

I have heard from friends that this is common occurrence.

Have other folk come across this?



Edited by stephenm on 06/03/2012 19:56:40 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 20:06:28 MDT Print View


Once in a while, the senior REI sales people are on duty, and you will get your questions answered properly. At other times, the junior sales people on duty had worked their last shift at Best Buy or Starbucks.


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 20:16:27 MDT Print View

That's what I kind of guessed Bob.

The Lady in question had a handheld computer and was checking the specs of the bag online, when I asked her the fill weight she told me is was 800 fill, I politely explained to her that was the quality of the down and then she said the website did not show the fill weight.

I was impressed that the REI own brand bag my wife went for had an EN rating.


Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 20:24:08 MDT Print View

I have had good luck sending an email to their customer service/product reps, but I wouldn't trust the salespeople on the floor. I'm guessing here, but I imagine that the email responders have access to more information and training than the in-store people. Just a thought.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 20:58:01 MDT Print View

Yep... They seem to care more about hiring people with sales experience than people with gear experience.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 21:06:10 MDT Print View

I don't want to be too hard on them. ...Well, actually I do. I made a lot of bad decisions early in my gear purchasing thanks to REI marketing and salespeople with minimal to poor knowledge. I say educate yourself, and REI is a fine place to shop. I prefer to buy locally if I can, but on big ticket items that have uncertain outcomes (like my NeoAir XLite), I still shop there. Honestly, if it weren't for the 100% Guarantee which they actually back, I wouldn't shop there very often.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
fill weight on 06/03/2012 21:29:25 MDT Print View

most of the other shops around here never mind MEC or REI couldnt tell you the fill weight either .... unless they bump it up to someone in their product development department or the manufacturer whose rep may not know it either

it is not a REI specific problem, at least REI generally put the fill weight on their web site for bags ...

most people dont ask about fill weight ...


Locale: South West US
Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 21:35:07 MDT Print View

Having worked there myself a couple of years ago, I would say that the level of knowledge varies greatly by employee. They do try hire people with experience, but that can mean a lot of different things. Quite often a person who has cycling experience has to cover the camping department, or the like. In those cases they probably won't give you the best advice. Also, in my experience, many customers just don't care about the technical aspects of gear. The questions they ask are more like "will this keep me warm" or "is this waterproof". No technical knowledge is needed to answer those questions.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 22:51:51 MDT Print View

My experience with sales folks at REI is highly variable. There are people I have talked to who have deep experience and knowledge. There are also people who seem to know next to nothing… but they are friendly and try to be helpful :-) I have found asking them what was their favorite backpacking trip and why pretty quickly gives me a sense of what sort of experience they have.


Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/03/2012 23:04:53 MDT Print View

Some know gear and some don't. The worst are the ones who think they know but really don't. That said, I've met staff at my local REI who are LW/UL nerds like the folks on this site, and we've had a good time discussing some of the finer points of gear. I think the best strategy is to do your research online first, on blogs and sites like BPL, and then go into the store armed with your knowledge.

a b
RE-Irony on 06/03/2012 23:27:45 MDT Print View

There is great irony in this thread for me.
Back in 1991 I was preparing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
A very wise REI employee recommended i NOT use Raichle Montagna Boots (at 5lbs a pair!) to hike the trail.
She said i would loose my toe nails.
Well.. I bought those boots anyways despite her advice.
I lost 9 toenails and the soles of my feet as well at mile 43 of the 2,665 mile trail.
18 years later i heeded the advice I got from that woman at REI, as well as a lot of info from Yogi's guide, and the internet, and Ray Jardine.. I completed the trail in 2009 with almost pristine feet.
The point is.. I could have easily listened to the wise woman from REI back in 1991 and saved myself 18 years of grief.
Obviously skill ranges among individual emplyees of REI vary widely but I am still impressed by that encounter so many years ago.
She had mentioned that she had hiked the Appalachian trail... Had i known at the time what that was, i would surely have taken her words more seriously.
The ultimate irony is that now I have hiked the PCT, CDT, and AT, and family and friends tell me I should work at REI myself.
I actually would consider it but i am making 27 bucks an hour plumbing right now.
Even more irony for you... Well, getting off the "path" to follow the money.
I also feel there is the real danger of the pressure to sell heavy useless gear to hikers when what they really need is to shed mental "pounds" of limitations.
Remember.. that REI employee in 1991 told me NOT to buy that piece of REI gear!
I don't think long distance hikers are the best people to espouse gear selection to "weekend" hikers either.
Different goals and different expectations of "comfort".
I hope all this makes sense and doesn't seem assenine.
It is true there is a divide between every persons hiking style and expectations though.
This is a really tough topic to discuss without sounding pompous or something.
It was just last year when i was on the AT and I would dread people asking me about my "light" pack and gear.
What works for a long distance hiker might be unacceptably light for someone else with different objectives.
This is delicate...
But, I think a lot of folks you find at REI are more "inclined" towards the weekend backpacker.
I am being very general here so don't beat me up okay.. I think you get the idea.
But of course there is still the case of the excellant advice, from that REI employee that i did not heed in 1991, so go figure.

Guess what?
REI accepted those Raichle Montagna Boots, even covered in snowseal, as a return as well... Yea that takes the cake.

Edited by Ice-axe on 06/03/2012 23:43:57 MDT.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Mountains
EN rating on 06/04/2012 07:57:14 MDT Print View

I was surprised to see EN ratings when I went into REI earlier in the year. The labels were inconsistent - some showed the comfort limit; others showed the lower limit; and others showed the 'old' temperature rating as guessed by the manufacturer.

I asked one of the more experienced salespeople to explain it to me, and he fumbled his way through a vague response. I asked him why only some of the bags had EN ratings, and he told me that all suppliers of sleeping bags have till the end of this year to comply. Then came my challenge - How's that working with Big Agnes? Their top bags cannot be rated using the EN 13537 test. He mumbled something into his beard and excused himself to find a less annoying customer.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
REI and gear pests on 06/04/2012 08:46:37 MDT Print View

Yeah, I can see where you could be a threat to the Boulder REI camping staff, Stuart. I have finally attained "Pest" status with Ali (the adroit store manager). A couple of times when I was in the store, and she was orienting new hires in the upstairs glass enclosed conference room, I could see her pointing me out to the group. I later learned that she was telling them, "Watch out for that one. He's a nice guy, but he can be a pest and take up a lot of your time."

I have made it my business to politely educate hew hires on lightweight backpacking techniques. Things like kitchen scales, dehydrated food/FBC, quilts, cuben & carbon fiber, and the Skurka-Clelland! philosophies. My messages don't seem to stick with them too often though.

However, there are a few fairly knowlegeable staff folks in the camping section, but you have to know who they are. With the constant turnover, that becomes difficult.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Outdoor stores on 06/04/2012 09:39:41 MDT Print View

Not sure I want to spend so much time in outdoor stores that the staff knows me by means i am not spending enough time outdoors. :D

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Mountains
Re: REI and gear pests on 06/04/2012 09:41:25 MDT Print View

Too funny, Gary. And to think, two years ago I was still walking around the store, marked up copy of the Backpacker Gear Guide in hand, believing most of what the staff were telling me. It was Smudge (?) who I schooled in EN ratings. He's been around for a few years, and I assume it's due to his supposed product knowledge - he doesn't fit the mold for salesmanship :-)

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Outdoor stores and gear pests on 06/04/2012 10:09:55 MDT Print View

I know just what you mean, Paul. But it's a good way to pass time on a snowy/rainy afternoon. And it's fun to spend time with the likes of Gary Neptune and George, the manager of TNF, as well as taking a slow lap through McGuckin's Hardware while I'm in the neighborhood. I've got a lot of free time.

As for Smudge, his other job is being a security guard at concerts in Mexico and the Caribbean--he's perfect for that.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
or you can hike? ;) on 06/04/2012 11:25:28 MDT Print View

>>>But it's a good way to pass time on a snowy/rainy afternoon.

On a clear day you can see REI from here. ;)

Looking into Gregory Canyon

(Looking down into Gregory Canyon)

Being serious..dunno. Playing "Stump the Chumps" at gear stores means less time for hiking, drinking a good beer at SoSun, cooking a nice meal or reading a good book with a cup of dark roast coffee.


To bring this back around, As Matthew stated, REI serves a different purpose. I don't think the average consumer at REI really cares about the wonders of cuben. Hell, I'm a reasonably experienced backpacker and I can only get so much excitement over EN ratings and cuben fiber. :O

Edited by PaulMags on 06/04/2012 11:28:28 MDT.

Terry Trimble
(socal-nomad) - F

Locale: North San Diego county
REI staff knowledge on 06/04/2012 11:54:09 MDT Print View

I have found some Rei staff knowledgeable you can always look at their wall with all the photos on it and it shows what each staff members expertise is in. Also their are some staff members who do the ultra light weight clinics I know one staff member is pretty cool and is into the minimalist approach of backpacking he's a Ex marine. He and his buddies go out some times with what they can carry in their pockets and the Rei Flash 18 packs for over night or a weekend trips. But he know better than to suggest it to people and he ask question to find out your skill in backpacking to get you the right equipment.

Edited by socal-nomad on 06/04/2012 11:57:39 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/04/2012 11:57:49 MDT Print View

Cheers all for replying.

Seem to be the same in other oudoor stores I have shopped in latey, some staff know what they are doing and some dont have a clue.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: REI staff knowledge on 06/04/2012 14:28:35 MDT Print View

Pretty mixed bag, but we're also asking for more and different information than most people are. I'd bet for most customers their level of knowledge is more than adequate.