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Caveat: REI has gutted its return policy

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Caveat: REI has gutted its return policy

Old 06-09-13, 02:57 PM
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peterw_diy
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Caveat: REI has gutted its return policy

For those who haven't heard, REI has wrecked its return policy. The two most important changes IMO:
1) No returns after one year.
2) No returns of merchandise due to dissatisfaction with "ordinary wear and tear".

Nonetheless they still have the nerve to display "100% Satisfaction Guaranteed" throughout the REI.com website. They recently emailed some customers (members? "Gearmail" subscribers?) to announce the change, but if you just casually browsed REI.com you would have no reason to think anything had changed.

I think the "ordinary wear and tear" clause is particularly bad -- isn't the whole point of a "satisfaction guarantee" that the customer decides if the product met expectations? That the customer is the judge of whether the product has been wearing out too fast?

There's a Denver Post blog post with more details and juicy anecdotes. Stuff like folks buying gear cheap at yard sales & returning it for cash (the new proof of purchase clause covers this), folks crashing their carbon bikes and returning them (the new "improper use or accidents" clause covers that, no need to go further). And hints of financial distress ('[REI senior vice president for retail Tim] Spangler said that the company started noticing a “material impact on our profit”') even though the 2012 financial statement shows that despite an increase in "sales returns" ($3m more than in 2011), their profits still increased far more than the returns increase (e.g., they returned $7m more to members in dividends than in 2011).

I used to feel good about shopping at REI. They used to test gear & publish honest assessments.

Then they settled for reprinting manufacturers' sales pitches.

Then the casual clothing started overtaking the technical wear.

Then the annual ballot for the REI board started featuring only as many nominees (endorsed by the current board, naturally) as there were open slots -- there was no point whatrsoever in reading the nominee biographies or casting a ballot.

But I kept shopping, largely because the old return policy made me comfortable choosing gear REI offered. Certainly it wasn't for the dividend -- their adherence to suggested retail pricing means that, aside from the occasional 20% member coupon, you can always find the gear for less money elsewhere.

"Gear & Advice You Can Trust" they still say. But they no longer stand behind that slogan.

Caveat emptor.
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Old 06-09-13, 03:08 PM
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ive only been in REI once and itl probably be the last. everything was kindof mishmoshed all over the place and the salesman by the clipless pedals asked a customer "what kind of fixie do you have, does your fixie coast and have gears or are you always pedaling?"

at that point i laughed and left
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Old 06-09-13, 03:45 PM
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I like almost everything I've ever bought at REI.

I always thought the idea of return yea-old purchases was way over the top. Overall, it's other customers who pay for this feature.

If I haven't figured it out within a couple of days... I figure I should hang on to the merchanise.
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Old 06-09-13, 04:10 PM
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I like REI myself and will continue to shop there. However, they will now have to be more competitive. It's unfortunate so many people abused their return policy. I can't blame them. Costco had to do the same.
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Old 06-09-13, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by gerv View Post
I like almost everything I've ever bought at REI.

I always thought the idea of return yea-old purchases was way over the top. Overall, it's other customers who pay for this feature.

If I haven't figured it out within a couple of days... I figure I should hang on to the merchanise.
+1. Too easy for a return policy like that to turn into "equipment rental".
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Old 06-09-13, 05:15 PM
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I certainly don't go into REI for bike stuff, nor for the prices, even as a member (my wife has a membership for whatever reason). The only real reason I go in there is that they're about the only place to get first aid supplies beyond band-aids and gauze.
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Old 06-09-13, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by FatherAlabaster View Post
+1. Too easy for a return policy like that to turn into "equipment rental".
+1. Many companies wind up having to change policies because customers abuse them. The many are hurt by the selfish few.
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Old 06-09-13, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Mumonkan View Post
ive only been in REI once and itl probably be the last. everything was kindof mishmoshed all over the place and the salesman by the clipless pedals asked a customer "what kind of fixie do you have, does your fixie coast and have gears or are you always pedaling?"

at that point i laughed and left
I don't know if you know the context behind that statement made by the REI employee, or if you've ever worked retail. Some customers can be so clueless and yet so insistent that they are correct that retailers may have no choice but to resort to the customer's language, funny as that can sound to an informed person. In your case, based on my experience with REI employees who work the bike section, I'm going to guess that the customer was probably insistent that (s)he had a fixie but gave conflicting information to the REI employee who then had to untangle the mystery before further help can be rendered.


Originally Posted by FatherAlabaster View Post
+1. Too easy for a return policy like that to turn into "equipment rental".
Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
I like REI myself and will continue to shop there. However, they will now have to be more competitive. It's unfortunate so many people abused their return policy. I can't blame them. Costco had to do the same.
A wise person once told me that when seemingly ridiculous rules exist, that must mean that someone had done something really stupid to warrant the creation of those ridiculous rules.

I am sorry that REI had to descope their satisfaction guarantee, but my annoyance/anger is aimed directly at those who had abused that policy (yes, I'll too will use that word instead of some PC word "stretch"). Still, the new policy doesn't seem that restrictive if one isn't an abuser. One year is plenty of time to figure out if I like something enough to keep it.
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Old 06-09-13, 06:56 PM
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To what is so well stated above, "wear and tear" means the buyer had and used it long enough to have "bought" it! I'm amazed and often angered by how some people abuse fair policies and hurt it for everyone.
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Old 06-09-13, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by FatherAlabaster View Post
+1. Too easy for a return policy like that to turn into "equipment rental".
Originally Posted by shane_bike View Post
+1. Many companies wind up having to change policies because customers abuse them. The many are hurt by the selfish few.
^^THIS^^ is the truth; there isn't even an REI in my town, but the same things happen a lot of places. The Corporate Antichrist (Wally) gets it all the time -- returns for "she didn't need it no more", or some made-up BS, like "sound went out" on a perfectly good TV.

Had one just three days ago; a woman had a Schwinn cruiser, 7-speed, the chain popped loose due to someone's tinkering with the derailleur adjustments. I took 2 minutes to fix it and make sure everything else was good. The woman apparently went nuts when she came to pick it up, accusing ME of causing scratches SHE had put on the bike. So I had to mark it down 35%.
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Old 06-09-13, 07:15 PM
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REI moved well away from its Pike St. roots decades ago. Active wear clothing is where the money is at now. I was in a store a year ago and shopped with one eye open for items and the other for a clerk. Clerk never showed. I went home & sent a hot email to the store which got me a manager and $50 gift card.

I explained how modern customers shop. Surf the internets universe of bike stores, read the reviews, decide on a product then buy. If a customer is actually in the store, well gee golly...they aren't on the internets. And if you can't approach a customer, answer questions, the probability is low that a sale will be compensated. Customers who are really into their sport have a vast knowledge of it at many levels. They have the potential to be repeat but if you PO them..they have so many internets choices (i just love "internets") they may never come back.
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Old 06-09-13, 07:49 PM
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If you take something back after a year and its looks like its been around the wonderland trail a couple of times the you are just abusing the policy. If you get it home and after a week don't like the fit and its not worn out they will still take it back. Good golly people used to abuse this all the time. I don't blame them and no I don't work for REI but my son used to and the stuff they took back sometimes was falling apart it had been used so much. Now if the tent you bought last week and you were not smart enough to seal the seams even it they were supposed to be sealed before that 93 mile trek around Mt Rainier and your tent leaked you are a doofus. Always seam seal even a new tent. DUH Nordstroms used to take back anything but they too were getting hammered by people that would buy something really expensive and charge it then use it to go to a wedding or what ever and take it back lots of times with major stains or damage. People will exploit a generous return policy no matter what.
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Old 06-09-13, 08:02 PM
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I have a friend that regularly uses stuff for over a year and then returns it to REI for money back. I always thought it was ridiculous that you could get something and use it regularly for an entire season and then return it. I spend $1000 on a bike from there a couple of weeks ago and I am still debating the fit so I appreciate the fact that I can ride it for a while and take it back but if I can't figure out if I need something within 30 days there is a problem. I think 30 return policy is reasonable on almost anything and after that I am happy with store credit on something that is defective but I would not consider returning something after a month because I changed my mind not to mention returning it after a year because I want the new model. And as others said consumers ultimately pay for it
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Old 06-09-13, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Fly View Post
I don't know if you know the context behind that statement made by the REI employee, or if you've ever worked retail. Some customers can be so clueless and yet so insistent that they are correct that retailers may have no choice but to resort to the customer's language, funny as that can sound to an informed person. In your case, based on my experience with REI employees who work the bike section, I'm going to guess that the customer was probably insistent that (s)he had a fixie but gave conflicting information to the REI employee who then had to untangle the mystery before further help can be rendered.

i work in retail too, i know the deal

i watched the conversation start and the customer didnt mention what kind of bike at all just that he rides a lot around the city and was thinking about clipless shoes
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Old 06-09-13, 08:56 PM
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Hey, it's the new America, teeming with cretins who have no character, no morals, no ethics.
Buy something, completely use it up and return it for cash back a year later without batting an eye.
No one with a shred of decency would pull something like that.
I'm sure some of them will make fine politicians.
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Old 06-09-13, 10:17 PM
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It is good that they finally woke up to the fact, that some are just abusing the return policy.

I was at their Garage Sale event a couple years back. Someone had returned a Randonee Touring bike that had obviously, had gone coast to coast. I takes pretty strong nerves to return something like that.



I will continue to shop at REI despite the return policy change. They sell quality stuff's.
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Old 06-09-13, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by DVC45 View Post
It is good that they finally woke up to the fact, that some are just abusing the return policy.

I was at their Garage Sale event a couple years back. Someone had returned a Randonee Touring bike that had obviously, had gone coast to coast. I takes pretty strong nerves to return something like that.



I will continue to shop at REI despite the return policy change. They sell quality stuff's.
I was just at a sale yesterday and saw a returned bike that was "too small." The cables had completely worn through the paint on the head tube, and something on the seat tube had worn through the paint on the seat tube near just above the water bottle mounts. The rear brake pads were down. Oh and it was 9 speed 105 cranks and Ultegra RD.
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Old 06-09-13, 11:05 PM
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Even with the changes, REI has a pretty reasonable return policy. You realize of course that there is no law specifying any merchant has to to take back anything - and if you haven't figured out in a year whether or not something is reasonable to hang onto...
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Old 06-09-13, 11:33 PM
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I have been a member since 1969 ... Recreational Equipment Inc Rocks
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Old 06-10-13, 12:35 AM
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I'm disappointing, mainly because I won't feel quite as free loaning out my REI camping gear to friends. When it still had the iron-clad return policy, I could do so in peace, knowing that if one of my friends really buggered up my tent (I like my gear, and don't quite trust my friends) I could exchange it and not have to bother them for money to replace it. Now I'm going to have to be more careful; with my gear or with my friends, that I don't know.

Oh, and the quality of the Garage sales are going to go down precipitously as well.
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Old 06-10-13, 06:45 AM
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I like it. I have no problem with the change in policy.
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Old 06-10-13, 08:01 AM
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I loved their return policy, and it was a big reason I shopped there. Recently had a light and the mount broke after a couple years. Rather than forking out $20 for a new mount, which also probably would have broken, they took back the old light and sold me a different one. Same with a trunk bag that had a broken zipper. When asked if they could fix it, the answer was no, but we'll take it back for a full refund, and I bought a replacement bag from them. Perhaps some abuse the policy, which is the reason for the change, but the return policy really set them apart from the competition. Sorry to see it go.
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Old 06-10-13, 08:35 AM
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i have never bought any big items from REI. There prices are just to high for me. I did go in and talked a knowledgeable sales associate about backpacks and backpacking stoves. She did a great job answering my questions and even interacting with my 8 year old daughter. I was very impressed with her knowledge and patience. I ended up not buy the pack there because I bought it online for almost $80 less. I valued her knowledge but not enough to buy it full price.

I took the pack in and they formed the belt to my waist. For free no questions asked.
I did buy a coat online from REI and it is coming apart and I was wondering about taking it in because the cord for the hood has come loose. I wonder if they would fix it or take? (they don't sale the coat anymore)


Performance Bike has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed return policy. I returned my bike I had bought for commuting when the fenders drove me up the wall. I also returned the 24" geared bike I bought for my daughter who does not want to ride a bike with hand brakes. (crazy) I was tired of it being in my way in the shed. Performance took both bikes back.
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Old 06-10-13, 09:29 AM
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Moving away from a city that had one saves me a lot of money.
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Old 06-10-13, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by FlatSix911 View Post
I have been a member since 1969 ... Recreational Equipment Inc Rocks
I've been a member since the early 70's, often longer than the employee I'm talking with has been alive. Now get off my lawn!
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