"Otherwise, no complaints since then. Seems they've cycled in more incredibly positive and helpful employees, too."
I've been dealing with the REI Flagship Store up here in Seattle for nearly 29 year, and know a couple of HQ employees. REI is currently locked in an existential struggle with Internet retailers, especially Amazon, and knows it can ill afford to alienate any customer. Based on that reality and your comment above, I'd say you weren't the only customer to receive substandard treatment, that one or more of them did write to HQ, and that the fecal dispersion system was activated, exactly as Greg said, in a very tightly focused pattern. Hence the newly hired incredibly positive, helpful employees. If I were in Chicago, just out of curiosity I'd check the local Starbucks to see if the former manager was pulling shots. ;0)