I just returned from the closest REI to my home. I have been a member for about 40 years, and have returned something only one time before, when it had failed. Today, I brought in three items that I considered to have manufacturing defects above normal wear and tear, but was rejected on all three items.
First, a pair of REI branded hiking shorts, which I have had for about 2 years, but which had the zipper break after about a year. A nylon zipper with a metal pull. The metal pull had cracked in half, leaving the zipper useless. The pants had very little wear and were in very nice condition. I was told this was normal wear and tear and not covered. Fine
Second, a pair of REI branded multi section carbon fiber hiking poles made by Komperdell. I have had these for seven years. Recently, I noticed they would not tighten at one joint. The twist-lock locking mechanism had come un-bonded from the carbon fiber pole. I was told this was normal wear and tear and was not an acceptable return. The manager who I ended up arguing with told me with a slight smirk that if they were his, he would just epoxy it back together. Didn't matter that I tried to explain how difficult it is to bond plastic and carbon fiber
Thirdly, I have a pair of REI branded binoculars. I bought these about 20 years ago but they have almost never been used and are in excellent condition except the rubberized coating on the body of the binoculars has recently started to "melt". It is a black sticky goo now, very sticky and comes off on my hands when holding them. It also picks up anything that touches it and is tearing up the foam on the inside of the case. Sorry, normal wear and tear, to be expected.
Now, I realize they have tightened up their return policy, especially when it comes to being merely dissatisfied with a product. But when I buy something with a lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship, I expect that to mean for the lifetime of the product, for as long as I own it. None of these items were misused, or worn out, they just failed under normal use. As far as I can tell, REI doesn't warranty anything for life anymore, even though their policy still states "If your item has a manufacturing defect in its materials or workmanship, you can return it at any time." Any problem you may have after a while will always be defined as normal wear and tear. As all of these items are REI branded, I don't have the option of dealing with the manufacturer.
I don't buy much from these people anymore, maybe some socks or a shirt, a head lamp and such. But I believe I will be buying even less in the future, unless I have no other options.