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REI currently working on new return policies
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Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: on 11/14/2012 11:36:56 MST Print View

If REI does this then could follow, which would mean an end to all the great deals on Geartrade. NOOOOOOOOOooooooooo!

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
REI currently working on new return policies on 11/14/2012 11:47:50 MST Print View

I still haven't seen a lick of evidence to deserve this much commentary. Where's any proof to this?

(PNWhiker) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Go for it REI on 11/14/2012 14:52:02 MST Print View

I really love REI. If they made a reasonable change (e.g. 6 months to return an item) in response to abuse I would applaud it. Yes, a business is a two way street. They want to keep me happy as a customer so I will repeat business. But I want them to be successful as a business so they can keep providing the service I appreciate. I've been to a couple of used gear sales, and yes there is absolutely abuse going on.

Thomas Conly
(conly) - F

Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow
Definite abuse on 11/14/2012 17:37:11 MST Print View

I've talked to a few former employees of REI on my AT thru hike and they said the abuse was unbelievable. What you see in the garage sales are only what is even remotely salvageable. That doesn't represent all the people who return or exchange things after they are completely used up. I met one couple who had thru hiked the PCT and the CDT (and were now doing the AT) using almost exclusively gear bought at REI and returned after they were done their hike. That's thousands of dollars lost for the company and you can bet that their gear never showed up in a sale.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Definite abuse on 11/14/2012 18:35:12 MST Print View

I don't think REI has publicly announced this. I do not know first hand what kind of "abuse" of the policy has happened. But knowing how much of the public has a sense of entitlement and a general lack of ethics, I am sure it is a big problem. And the abuse just raises the prices on everything that honest people purchase at REI.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
REI currently working on new return policies on 11/14/2012 19:01:43 MST Print View

The forever return policy might work for Backcountry, since you'd have to ship everything back to them. That would knock a bunch of returns out. Unless I'm confused, and Backcountry has brick and mortar stores now.

rei on 11/14/2012 19:07:57 MST Print View

I would not term it "abuse". Their policy is clearly worded, and nobody has to lie, or use deceit to take advantage of it.

Personally I think it is what their whole business is built around. When you buy from REI you generally pay full price, 10-20% more than at a deep discount retailer. Part of this may be because they have real stores with overhead, and some online vendors dont. However, using simple math, if the average item sells for 15% more than otherwise, they could come out ahead if less than 1 in 7 persons return that item.

Retailers dont necessarilly eat all of returns either. The manufacturers take open package returns back in most cases. The line is probably drawn somewhere, but where I have no idea. If it passes for barely used, it may go back to mfg.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
returns on 11/14/2012 20:38:25 MST Print View

"I bet many people take unreasonable advantage."

Jerry, the son of a close friend informed me that he spent no money on clothing - just wore Bean's stuff for six months, and returned it for exchange with various trumped up claims of defects. He was quite proud of this, and was probably exaggerating a bit. But a lot of it was probably true.

Of course retailers have to protect themselves from this kind of thing if they want to stay in business. I bought a WPB pullover shell from Bean's years ago for a long backpack that wetted out and was next to worthless after just a few days. They did refund the price. But I'd have been better off with a higher quality shell in the first place. I think the companies with a good reputation for customer service will strike a fair balance, and the others will not, no matter what their so-called policies say. Policy-making is much over-rated (along with the pundits who go on about it). You have to get down in the weeds and analyze the problem, and make changes specifically tailored to correct what is not working well.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Re: rei on 11/14/2012 20:47:43 MST Print View

It's probably a lot better than that on the REI accounting side of things, so it's definitely worth arguing from a "it's probably not as bad as it seems" standpoint indeed. Here's why....

Outdoor equipment, at least the major brands sold by REI, typically list for 45-55% of the retail price. Indeed, if REI sells an item at $100 they likely only spend $50 to acquire it to sell, meaning they're breaking even, at least from an inventory cost perspective, by simply selling one for every one that comes back. Even with inventory taxes, sales, and costs associated with personnel to sell said equipment (i.e. all the overhead sunk costs), they're still probably doing quite well.

So yeah, while it's clearly stated that you can bring the stuff back and if they make an offer they can't be disappointed when people use the system to its fullest, I think a lot of people feel like the practice is similar to the person you invite to a party who drinks all the booze, or eats all the cookies, or really does make themselves feel at home. You say it to be polite and offer the majority of people with shame the option to be more comfortable, but you don't expect lots of people to really take full advantage of the offer.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Keeping it in perspective... on 11/14/2012 20:58:26 MST Print View

Yeah, we all see the obvious abuse dumped in bins at the garage sale, but let's keep this in perspective...

REI has been in business for decades, maintaining prices that are mostly competitive in their market. Clearly, if the abuse was rampant, such a change would have happened years ago. Maybe it's finally reaching a threshold. Maybe it's the same as it's always been but the margins are coming down. But the business simply wouldn't be around to contemplate the change if the problem was widespread.

Don Abernathey
(OldGuysRule) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: rei on 11/14/2012 21:01:32 MST Print View

I don't think you understand the business side of things. REI isn't a cash cow for a bunch of investors. Abuse of REI's return policy by a bunch of gen-X low-lifes can run the coopt into the ground.

scott Nelson
(nlsscott) - MLife

Locale: So. Calif.
The Golden Shoe award... on 11/14/2012 21:30:48 MST Print View

I used to work at REI for two stints long ago. A favorite story was the "Golden Shoe Award" that a store gave to an Assistant Mgr. He struggled with returning abused stuff, but would grit his teeth and take it back. The Store Manager took some ratty old returned shoe, spray painted it gold and gave it to him for doing what the company wanted. That is a core part of their business- I would be surprised if they changed it. The stuff in the garage sales is stuff that REI couldn't, or wouldn't send back to the manufacturers for credit. Man, did the employees score some sweet deals digging thru the boxes before the customers did....

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: rei on 11/14/2012 21:44:58 MST Print View

Don't blame this on gen-x. People have been abusing the return policy since the moment they created it. As a former REI employee during most of the 90's, I was always amazed at how some things came back. The policy is simply a "100 Percent Customer Satisfaction" policy. It has never been about the stuff, but about how the customer felt.

Of course, that philosophy is likely the primary reason why they are still a big player in the outdoor retail industry. If it were to change for some reason, I wouldn't be surprised if they were to reinstate it when sales start to tank.

We shall see...

Edited by NamelessWay on 11/14/2012 21:48:41 MST.

And E
(LunchANDYnner) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Love REI on 11/14/2012 23:23:13 MST Print View

I love REI, and visit my Seattle flagship store atleast once a week (don't always buy something, but fun to look!). I have always been pleased with the service and product support they offer. I'm amazed they've been able to continue offering the 100% satisfaction guarantee during these hard economic times. I won't feel betrayed if they change their policy, as i feel they will strike a good balance if they do. Its upsetting seeing some of the products that come back, shoes worn until the soles are gone and returned because they were "uncomfortable." Yes, the return policy says 100% satisfaction guaranteed, but please, be a decent human being. Oh, my favorite reason I saw for returning an item after much use:ridiculous

It says "no padding, didn't like logo" padding in a tent... really...

Edited by LunchANDYnner on 11/14/2012 23:26:28 MST.

And E
(LunchANDYnner) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Dilbert's dad on 11/15/2012 00:17:58 MST Print View

Anybody watch the Dilbert animated cartoon back when it aired? In an episode, it explains dilbert's dad has been at an all you can eat restaurant for years on end without once leaving because he wanted to know if it was truly all you can eat. People who abuse the return policy because it says 100% satisfaction guaranteed remind me of Dilbert's dad in that episode.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Re: Love REI on 11/15/2012 00:46:08 MST Print View

Hilarious excuse. That's pretty ridiculous. The worst I've heard from an employee was from a guy who fell asleep with his boots next to the campfire and melted the soles completely off the boots. Brought them back and demanded another pair, which of course they obliged him with.

The garage sales are great for picking up Exped mats I've discovered, especially those with the integrated pump. A lot of people (sadly my girlfriend included) can't seem to master the idea that your hand has to seal the intake opening as you press down on the foam otherwise the air blasts back out the way it came in, and you never get the mat to inflate. I saw a SynMat UL and a DownMat UL at the last REI garage sale that both said "pump broken" and after some inspection it was clear they just didn't know how to use it. Too bad I'm all Exped mat'ed up and didn't need another (nor did anyone I know).

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
no change on 11/15/2012 01:09:16 MST Print View

if they change it theres no reason to buy REI ... you can usually find the stuff for less online with free shipping ...

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
If true it is not surprising on 11/15/2012 09:47:54 MST Print View

I do a decent amount of shopping at REI as I and my wife are also cyclists - and my wife does triathlons - so they cover a lot of bases for us. I shop sales and clerance mostly and find those prices pretty good. As a newbie camper/backpacker I also like being able to see stuff - talk to real people about products - try things on - etc... While the brick and mortar for many industries may be shrinking rapidly - outdoor provisions is one area where many people (albeit not very many on this site) do still need and value a bit of expertise and being able to touch/feel/try on stuff. A lot of new and weekend campers don't have the knowledge to buy online and pick the right stuff - it is a puzzling and overwhelming world for a newbie - trust me I know.

There is a smaller independent shop here in town that sells at roughly the same prices as REI - that continues to do well or at least well enough to keep the doors open. Any time I'm in there it has a decent amount of foot traffic. It is enough of a specialty kind of like a bike shop - that the brick and mortar model will continue to work.

I'll keep shopping there if they modify the return policy - particularly if it is solely to limit it to 6 months or a year from purchase. I'll know pretty quickly if something is defective (like the small leatherman I bought there about 2 months ago and am returning) or if it just doesn't fit/work...

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re Gen X lowlifes on 11/15/2012 12:14:54 MST Print View

This comment: "Abuse of REI's return policy by a bunch of gen-X low-lifes can run the coopt into the ground."

Nice. I'm one of those Gen X lowlifes you're insulting there. Got any facts to back that up?

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
REI currently working on new return policies on 11/15/2012 12:52:23 MST Print View

It's been my experience that being a lowlife transcends generations. But not families. Kind of like being stupid.