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Reader Reviews

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Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)

in 1 - COMPANIES (Customer Service)

Average Rating
4.50 / 5 (26 reviews)

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Mike Barney
( eaglemb )

AZ, the Great Southwest!
REI . on 11/17/2006 22:31:48 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

REI's return policy is as good as it gets, they have good stock with numerous outlets, an amazing garage sale, and are listed as one of the 100 best places to work in the US. They don't match prices, but they often have sales both online and in the stores, and you get a dividend back at the end of the year based upon your purchases. The people I've talked with both online and in the stores are knowledgable and courteous. Finally, they annually fund various conservation efforts and others who have ideas or initiatives that help hiking, backpacking and camping.

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Doug Hile
( dhile )
OK, maybe on 11/18/2006 16:15:32 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 2 / 5

I have only found the help at REI better than Waly World. They do have a good selection if you are a main stream hiker. If they don't have what you want they will order it for you. But then if I'm going to order it why pay there price, to fund the returns of somebodyelse.
I find that most of their help thinks it is better to look right than get it right. I will go there to look and for a sale but that is it. I found the best help at small shops or on line. But in all fairness I only go to REI about once a year.

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David Neumann
( idahomtman - M )

Northern Idaho
REI...good but not perfect on 11/18/2006 16:50:12 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I've been a Co-op member for 38+ years and have always found some good buys there. The Co-op has changed significantly since I first joined. For one, they have more than one store! They meet the need for the average backpacker, but a little weak for the ultralight crowd. I still manage to make several hundred dollars worth of purchases each year. I have had very good success getting questions answered and quality customer service.

Edited by idahomtman on 11/18/2006 16:51:04 MST.

Roger B
( rogerb )

Here and there
Service on 11/18/2006 18:52:36 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

In my view REI is one of those companies that focus on service and as a consequence I prefer to deal with them if they stock the brand or item I am looking for. My gripe is that if an item does not fit or has a fault in it I have to pay both to receive it and to return it. However, REI along with a company in Illinois, are my preferred providers.

Craig Shelley
( craig_shelley )

Rocky Mountains
Good customer service on 11/18/2006 21:56:46 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

We have a small REI store about 2 miles from my home. They frequently don't have items that I want but can. It doesn't cost anything to ship to the store and it doesn't cost anything to return it this way. I find the store employees are helpful and more knowledgeable about the their products than the vast majority of retailers. The member dividend is a nice extra. In addition, there are some good sales or special % off coupons for online purchases that make the REI price very competitive. I often shop elsewhere but my experience with REI is they are an excellent quality retailer. I will keep buying from them.

Ryan Jordan
( ryan - BPL STAFF - M )

Greater Yellowstone
REI Provides First Rate Model for Outdoor Shops on 11/19/2006 01:11:33 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

OK, I'm partial.

I grew up in Seattle.

For a kid who dreamed about the wilds endlessly, my Dad taking my family from our home in the burbs to Capitol Hill was a real treat for me. I have fond memories of REI's old flagship store, and I admit, it has been a fixture of my outdoor growth for as long as I can remember.

Now, REI is probably more responsible than any single retailer for fostering the enthusiasm of outdoor activities than any other single retail chain.

They have an authentic sense of environmental stewardship and even though they aren't on the leading edge of ultralight, they don't need to be. For a mass market retailer, they have certainly exercised some leadership in bringing lightweight designs to the mass market in the past few years.

I have no complaints with REI. Their staff knowledge about lightweight gear is highly variable, but that's probably true even in small outdoor specialty shops. Their design crews responsible for designing and building REI branded gear are very knowledgeable and have a good handle on the lightweight market.

The get a 4 for now because they don't stock the print version of Backpacking Light Magazine, and they really ought to if they are going to meaningfully engage the increasing number of people who are interested in lightweight backpacking. REI seems serious about pursuing the lightweight gear market but lacks a holistic approach for doing so as of yet: (1) more sales staff with specific experience and training in lightweight backpacking, (2) lightweight gear selection, and (3) lightweight information and education.

I don't care about the dividend anymore because my lovely wife has been claiming it before I even have a chance to remember getting one.

Edited by ryan on 11/19/2006 01:12:37 MST.

sam sam
( 123456789 )
It's a great online store on 11/19/2006 17:48:22 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Some of us don't have a lot of options locally. is excellent in my view.

As Ryan Jordan indicated, REI really has done a lot / the most in making it easy to get outside.

They have a lot of good people online on their chat service that really do know their products.

They also have a lot more lightweight and ultralightweight gear.

John Adams
( scsjohn )

Great company on 11/19/2006 22:09:33 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I live in Chicago and REI has 2 stores in nearby suburbs. I really like their sales, CS and garage sales. They stand behind all their gear and they have seminars for the outdoor community.

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Rick Dreher
( halfturbo - M )

Northernish California
The Big Dog on 11/20/2006 18:22:12 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

As another Seattle kid who loved few things more than pilgrammages to the Capitol Hill store, I still associate the smell of cresote with hiking gear.

It's hard to imagine backpacking without REI. In the States they've been the cornerstone of our pastime for decades, and would be very difficult to replace. How many of today's gear makers would exist without REI's marketing prowess? I've also always appreciated their willingness to develop their own gear and their support of outdoor organizations and causes. They were also one of the first retail companies to successfully tackle Web-retailing. The after-sales customer service remains the best I know of.

Has their focus wandered? I think so. Has the shopping experience been watered down? Yup. Do they surrender too much floorspace to clothing? Definitely.

Despite the carping, they've managed to keep a self-propelled outdoor sports core that steers them in a positive direction.

They've supported lightweight hiking through gear selection and development, as well as highlighting it in catalogues and the Website. I expect this will continue. I'll close by noting that when I saw Andrew Skurka's coast-to-coast presentation, it was at my local REI.

b d
( bdavis )

Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
We would die to have an REI nearby on 12/01/2006 17:21:38 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

REI has been great to us ... even taking back a pack we took on a camp trip and didn't like (dirt and all). Their mail service is great, since we live up on the mountain.

Our experience, in the larger REI stores anyway, is the staff is very knowledgeable about the products they are selling.

To the point they have spent several hours with us identifying the right sleeping bag and pack set up.

And, they do not push their own goods or brand over others. That is really pretty amazing in the commercial competitive world.

That said we are going to call them and insist they carry the print version of BPL and all of Ryan's publications.

Edited by bdavis on 12/01/2006 17:23:02 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
( sarbar )

In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Could be better, used to be better! on 12/11/2006 09:25:34 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

Long time REI customer, but do I shop there as much these days? No.
What changed me was the very obvious shift in the Seattle area stores. A couple years ago many of the older experienced employees disappeared, and a crop of young college aged kids with little outdoors experience started showing up. What bugs me to end is the "Are you a member" crud. Turns out that their performance is based on how many members they sign up. No thanks! How about asking if I want help before you start the shill?
The Flagship store is a shell of what it used to be. The worst was when they moved the map room downstairs. It didn't make any sense, the room was so neat, with the huge compass in the floor.

One of the biggest gripes out here is that the Flagship store now charges for parking in the garage, with only one hour free. No validation for purchases. The checkout is often understaffed, so getting out in under 30 minutes can be a laugh on the weekends. Most of the REI's here have gone to putting the clothes up front, and gear in the back. The selection has gotten smaller also.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy shopping at REI-especially at garage sales. I enjoy the dividend. I especially love the 100% return policy, but I wish their customer service would get better, and go back to having trained employees!

Patrick Young
( lightingboy )

Great Stock! 100% return policy! on 12/14/2006 16:26:18 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I have had both very knowledgable and not so knowledgable customer service. They do stock a great variety of products that have helped me engage in outdoor activities. The return policy is awesome and has helped me refine my gear. They are not my first choice for purchasing though, especially since I've gone ultralight. I frequent my local gear stores and other online ultralight stores first unless REI has a sale that blows everything out of the water.

Lorraine Pace
( SowthEfrikan )
Clever tactics on 12/21/2006 16:57:12 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

The service at REI is outstanding. I've returned or exchanged things several times and they have always cheerfully obliged. Even though I am now looking at ultralight gear I still find things I want at REI. I notice that Go Lite has made it into their stock.

Living out in the country, I especially like that I can order a product online and pick it up at a store. Of course every time I go to the store I get distracted by all the shiny things and buy more.

Shipping to a store is a smart way to sell more.

Richard Lyon
( richardglyon )

Bridger Mountains
Excellent customer service on 01/02/2007 15:24:31 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Just list the positives: annual dividend; no shipping charges if you have it shipped to the store, big inventory, easy-to-navigate website, great clearance sales, very friendly to outdoor groups, no-questions-asked returns and exchanges, even over the phone you get to deal with a real person who cares. I'm not keen on REI's overemphasis on "civilian" clothes but I've never had a bad experience on the few occasions I've had to deal with a problem. And the last time REI was truly exemplary. Last spring my dividend arrived with a coupon for 20% off any product. I called to buy a tent I'd had my eye on. The rep said REI was sold out but offered to check to see if any of its retail stores had one. She called back five minutes later with the Denver store on the line and walked the salewoman through the transaction, including applying the coupon and my dividend. Now THAT'S customer service.

Edited by richardglyon on 02/12/2007 15:57:26 MST.

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James Pitts
( jjpitts )

Midwest US
100% satisfaction guaranteed on 01/08/2007 19:43:08 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

...and they really mean it. I have seen people hopelessly abuse the return policy but REI stands by it. The prices are fair, especially if you use an REI Gold Visa. The dividend makes for a nice gift at the end of the year.

I buy a lot of stuff there, not just hiking. I buy climbing gear, kayaking junk, clothing (generally gifts, I am a white tee-shirt kind of guy at home), etc. I bought my kayak at REI... major purchase. In fact I buy more of the other stuff than hiking stuff by far.

Anyway, for major purchases I'll buy at REI so I get the guarantee because I know they really mean it.

christopher witter
( cwitter )

Mid Atlantic
100% Guarantee.... on 09/30/2007 20:55:41 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Their staff standards seem to be slipping slightly, but I won't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. I usually know what I want etc just need help finding it. I recently return a Timex watch that was 2 years old and had a catastrophic failure while taking it off, the integrated band split in half (bad design) I carried it in my pocket for another month before the battery died. I returned the watch today, needless to say with that one return if there is ever anyway I can buy it from REI I will.

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Donald Segretti
( Dick-Nixon-in-72 )
I like REI on 10/29/2007 21:42:43 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

They're usually pretty good at taking things back for almost any reason. They have reasonable prices when items are on sale, and I like their garage sale.

Jed Augustine
( jaugusti )

Like it, love it, want more of it on 02/22/2009 13:44:02 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I'm partial too, though not from Seattle.

Growing up in Atlanta there are not many places to go within the city that can excite you about the outdoors, but whenever the parents told me we were going to REI, I knew a greater adventure was in store.

I echo all of the positives of other posters. Customer service, dividend, coupon, etc. I have had hits and misses with the staff, but I think REI has too, and when they've had a miss, that staff member disappears, and goes unmissed. The people that have been around for years have helped me learn about the backstory of backpacking, differents methods and techniques for the backcountry, and different systems of gear. They have helped me find some of my favorite spots to backpack in the southeast, and I have never been swindled. I do worry that things are shifting more heavily towards profit, but I offer two anecdotes to give greater context for the concern.

A friend of mine had had the same pair of hiking boots, bought from REI, for 4 or 5 years. The tread was well worn and she'd been many miles in them. The trouble was she had only ever taken at most 3 night trips in them, and at the end of each and every one of those trips she had developed tendonitis in her achilles (swelling, pain, etc), with the onset beginning as little as one day in. She just thought this was part of hiking. She tried to return them when I pointed out that boots shouldn't do that and was rebuffed by a young sales representative who didn't say they wouldn't take them but made her feel sufficiently guilty (you've had them for 4 or 5, etc) to leave. Do you think they should have taken the boots? I am not sure.

What I do know if that I have been practically commanded by a sales rep to return something. I was at REI trying on boots to replace my previous hiking boots (pre-BPL days) and mentioned to the sales rep (who had worked there for a decade or more) that the boots had caused circulation problems in my feet after a day of hiking, but that the problem would go away over night. The rep told me to return them. I didn't think this was a serious problem of the boots and I thought that it certainly was in the realm of reasonable problems to have after a day of hiking, but the guy insisted that I should return them. He said that the policy is to keep the costumer satisfied, no questions asked. When I protested, he said that a guy who had bent a kayak in half came to return it and they accepted it, no questions asked, so I should be able to return my boots.

I think this represents the position of the older generation, or the generation of REI staff with more years under their hipbelts. It is representative of a professional integrity that makes me want to go back to REI even after discovering MLD, ULA, GG, BPL, etc, because I know I won't be screwed with. THat isn't to say that there isn't misinformation or traditional backpacking dogma, but I prefer to think it is without malice. The trouble with such integrity is that it does open the company up to exploitative customers, but it is all the more impressive that they maintain the policy in spite of that. I'm sure people have been exploiting the policy since the REI Co-op was started and the fact that they haven't changed the policy as a result convinces me of their integrity.

However, I am worried about a shift towards profit, as indicated in the unpleasentness of the younger sales rep with my friend. Maybe that was a justified response or an isolated incident, I do not know, but I hope for great things from REI as they've become lighter over the years.

Edited by jaugusti on 02/22/2009 13:44:34 MST.

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Barnett Childress
( Barnett_Childress )

New England
Good Overall for a large Store Chain on 07/01/2009 12:49:38 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

Sometimes hard to find items at my local store but you can always order online and have items shipped to the local store free. Excellent no questions asked return policy.

Sometimes the staff at my local store doesn't seem to know the gear to well.

John Tunnicliffe
( BenWaller )

Northern California
What problem? on 08/12/2009 20:29:17 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I've never had a bad customer relations experience at REI and I've been a member for a very long time.

In my view they too often get a bad rap.

The fact is that today there are too few "outfitter" type retailers in the market today, certainly far too few who maintain a physical presence near here (and I'm in the North Bay, wine country, fitness freaks, hikers, runners, kayakers). Presence is pretty important if you want to actually feel the goods before you slap your money down. I for one am actually grateful for their presence.

The Web, fun as it can be, is great for price, terrible for product inspection. And I don't read glad product reviews unsuspiciously.

I'm not one to resent the fact that REI doesn't provide the latest and greatest uber-lite gear or that REI does carry a bunch of imported gear. They are in business to do business and that's what business looks like today. Everywhere.

What does REI do that I like? They put decent boots on sale. And bike parts and clothes and rope and books and bags and tents. They treat me well. What they don't know on the sales floor, because many of the staff are just kids, I try to teach them, because I know more than they do in some cases, because I've been doing this stuff for a helluva long time.

True, I've spent way too much money with the Company but when a product turns out to be crap, like the Vargo junk, they take it back and say thank you for shopping with us and we're sorry for your inconvenience. I can count the number of other companies capable of that level of customer service on one hand.

REI? Good Company and I'm glad they're here.

5, not 4.


Edited by BenWaller on 08/12/2009 21:43:03 MDT.

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