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-   -   REI 20/20 Discounts on...Junk? (https://www.bikeforums.net/general-cycling-discussion/1144711-rei-20-20-discounts-junk.html)

FrenchFit 05-20-18 08:26 PM

REI 20/20 Discounts on...Junk?
 
I want to say I am an REI co-op loyalist; joined in the Berkeley store in '85, son worked for CA and OR REIs in undergraduate and graduate school, I've acquired more than my share of REI stuff over four decades and given a lot as presents. But is seems like they are more of a distributor for mediocre overstock stuff these days, and weak product offerings generally.

Take running shoes for example, they carry what I recognize as the worst offering of top companies, the shoe styles that can't sell from company websites or Amazon. REI's pricing and selection on their athletic clothing is ridiculous, and even then it's not the good stuff, it's stuff the companies are dumping. Look at their cycling jersey collection, they should be embarrassed. Royal Robbins, Patagonia?...it's the stuff that been on closeout for months on those company websites.

Backpacking gear? I think I can save some serious money elsewhere.

I think this enterprise has lost its way, and I find it depressing..:(

What am I missing here? Cheer me up.

End of rant.

skidder 05-20-18 09:01 PM

They've definitely changed since I started shopping there in the late 1970s/early 1980s when it was focued on backpacking/backcountry travel and mountain climbing. Back then they were more of the 'co-op' there name implies, but in the early 1990s they seemed to change their business model to a growth format and expand into other activity areas (bicycles among them) and (what I'll call) the car-camping arena, and trendy clothing for those who just want to look outdoorsy (most similar companies have gone this way, too). I wouldn't say all their house branded stuff is junk, but it is overpriced and not up to the standards they used to hold. I rarely shop there anymore; bicycle tires and a few other accessories (a helmet last year) seem to be my main purchases these days.

P.S. When the start selling golf clubs, that's when you'll know for sure they've 'jumped the shark"

canklecat 05-20-18 11:23 PM

I'm pretty meh on REI. They're convenient for some stuff because they carry a decent selection of bike lights and a display board to try them. Ditto tires, tubes and basic bike stuff. Prices are comparable to most retailers. I usually visit my real LBS first since they're only a mile away, but REI is my second choice because it's easiest to get to via bike.

I notice a lot of employee turnover -- I rarely see the same employees from one visit to the next. I get the impression new employees think it'll be a laid back place to work and soon find out they're expected to engage in the hard sell method to pressure customers into buying a membership at a minimum. Most employees I've met there are pretty laid back other that the membership thing, but the last time I was there an employee I hadn't seen before was laying on the used car salesman technique a little too thickly. High pressure to buy stuff he knew nothing about. And I rarely see more than two or three customers in a big store, so I don't see how they'll stay in business, unless I just happen to visit during their slow times.

CliffordK 05-21-18 02:41 AM

Hmmm...

I like REI for some things like camping gear, camp stoves, etc. I can't think of any local store that is better than them.

However, perhaps they lack the depth for specialty activities. I don't think I would consider them as top tier for kayaking equipment.

Likewise, their selection of bike gear seems to be somewhat limited. They were one of the stores I asked about 520 BSD tubes, and got a NO.

In theory, I like some of the new offerings of CO-OP cycles including some rugged CF bikes. However, I suppose I don't find myself standing in line trying to buy one.

Sy Reene 05-21-18 04:33 AM

REI can be useful for some spot purchases if they have an item that you can't find discounted anywhere and you have a 20%-off full priced item (eg. Giro E70 knit shoe); and their selection in some things is OK (eg saddles choices include some brooks, fabric, selle italia). Their jersey selection is pretty horrible.. OP is right, it looks like they've joined the Marshalls/SierraTrading/Homegoods group.

rgconner 05-21-18 08:45 AM


Originally Posted by skidder (Post 20351166)
P.S. When the start selling golf clubs, that's when you'll know for sure they've 'jumped the shark"

Jumped the shark or moved into middle age with their average customer?

Seriously, I think they are just moving with what their key demographic wants.

pdlamb 05-21-18 08:54 AM

I don't know about the "key demographic" bit. When I've been in an REI store the last few years, I'm reminded more of the store Eddie Bauer opened up in the local mall 10-15 years ago. Outdoorsy looking clothes, the kind you might buy if you want to project the "I saw a picture of a model outside" look. Read the tags, though, and it's cheap foreign-made cotton or maybe polyester.

That Eddie Bauer store, and indeed the mall it was in, are gone now. I hope REI doesn't follow them.

DrIsotope 05-21-18 09:18 AM

I have a new-ish REI membership, and 90% of my purchases have been socks. You can get some killer deals on socks. I picked up a Twin Six jersey on closeout (which is very nice) and at the right time of year, the cycling clearance stuff can be pretty reasonable. I look at REI like any other store trying to hold on to brick and mortar in this age-- sometimes we shop there in the hopes that the place will stick around. I've become "that" old guy, who pays a little extra at the LBS rather than hitting the internet, because I really want them to keep the lights on.

pesty 05-21-18 09:40 AM

I've wained on my feelings toward REI over the last couple of years. I joined in the early 90's because I was doing a lot of rock climbing at the time and it was a great place to buy ropes and other gear. In the early 00's I started getting back into cycling and they actually carried a pretty good selection. Over the last 3-5 years though their cycling stock has gone way down to the point that I don't even really look at them anymore.

That being said, right now they have some great deals on Brooks saddles. They have C15/C17/C19's and several leather saddles under $100 and C13s (all 145mm) for $131.19. Outside of ebay, I've never seen a C13 at retail for under $190.

Leebo 05-21-18 10:17 AM

I buy a lot of stuff there, good deals on off season stuff and sales. They also put up lots of area trail work $$$ for local support. I buy patagonia, smartwool and keen a lot. Bike jerseys? Not so much. For me they excel at camping and back packing stuff. YRMV.

linberl 05-21-18 11:11 AM

Clothing is something that gets marked down quickly and can be found dumped on many sites. That's not REI's best option. But - for gear - after you've price-checked online you go and see what they have. The end of year dividend is essentially a permanent 10% discount. For big purchases, you add that to the bi-annual 20% off coupons, and you've got 30% off some nice gear. I bought my Burley Travoy there that way - it's an item that is not discounted very often by retailers. There aren't many brick and mortar stores that can offer the breadth of choices in camping gear, etc., along with reasonably knowledgeable salespeople. If REI disappeared, we'd be left with sports basement and dicks sporting goods.....for a place where you can get everything in one visit. Our local REI is always busy.

wgscott 05-21-18 11:37 AM

Their credit card used to be a great deal. I would buy pretty much everything with it, and then get a huge dividend every year. Now you get 1% for any non-REI purchase, and anything discounted at REI doesn't count (and the "discount" usually brings it more in line with amazon or some other on-line competitor). In addition, spurious charges would show up on my card every few months, necessitating cancellation and reissuing the card. Now I hardly use it at all, and only for (increasingly infrequent) REI purchases.

I too joined at the Berkeley shop, but it was 1986. That place was always packed.

athrowawaynic 05-21-18 12:11 PM

It was ok for buying the Elemnt Bolt. Saved $5 (when you net the dividend from membership cost), since that wasn't/isn't really cheaper anywhere else.

Obviously, spreading out the membership cost (if you assume I'll make any additional purchases over my lifetime) increases the savings.

The return policy is excellent, but the prices are not really attractive. I'd probably give their bike shorts and jerseys a try though.

Doug64 05-21-18 12:38 PM

Ortlieb Backroller Classicpannioers are on sale at REI now at $135. A darn good price on one of the best panniers available. That sounds like high quality gear at a good price!

mstateglfr 05-21-18 12:51 PM

I love REI, but i am also aware of the limitations the retailer has. These limitations are economic and geographic.

in iowa, there isnt a ton of rock climbing, yet the climbing section in REI is relatively substantial. Geographic limitation for success.
They have to compete online with huge bulk retailers and typically dont come close on prices for cycling gear. Economic limitation for success.

- my wife and i get athleisure clothing from REI when the prices make sense. I love their house brand 1/4 zip shirts. At markdown, its solid quality and great price compared to alternatives.
- we get jackets for our kids from there- the house brand winter jackets are light, durable, and warm for a good price. Thats the magical quadfecta of kids clothing.
- each spring is Keen sandle time for the kods and the coupon makes em a solid price.

as for cycling(this isba cycling forum), REI seems to struggle. They are speciality big box retailer so they dont do a specific 1 thing great and as a result the offerings are slightly watered down and basic.
i dont look for REI to innovate cycling. They are a trend follower and that makes sense, given their dedication to the sport and clientele.
What i like most about their cycling department is its open until 9. I can grab something basic in the evening.

i do wish the house brand clothing would come back. After they killed off Novara, it seems like their house brand cycling accessories died too. Hopefully theybare just taking a really long time and we will eventually see more COOP branded jerseys, sunsleeves, gloves, etc.

Pendergast 05-21-18 04:34 PM

The main reason I buy bike products from REI is that they're open later than the bike shops here. Actually, that's probably the only reason. The store hours are just more convenient for me.

honcho 05-21-18 09:09 PM

REI's bike department isn't bad but it isn't great either. Killing off Novara and replacing it with COOP didn't make much sense to me, especially renaming their touring bike (from Randonnee to Adventure something) which had a pretty good reputation when compared with the Trek 520 and Surly Long Haul Trucker. Like so many brick and mortar retailers, they have tried to focus their store inventory on the things that sell fast. Unfortunately, they usually don't have what I'm looking for even though they've gone from having two stores in the metro DC area to at least five. REI did a good job of killing off the independent specialty retailers in this area and what they didn't kill, the internet finished the job.

jefnvk 05-22-18 07:12 AM


Originally Posted by rgconner (Post 20351783)
Seriously, I think they are just moving with what their key demographic wants.

Bingo. They sell to a generic, adventurey outdoors crowd. Someone really into biking, or kayaking, or hiking, or rock climbing probably isn't shopping there regularly. A generic person who will go biking one weekend, then kayaking a couple times a summer, then maybe do a Memorial Day weekend camping trip with college friends is their bread and butter. Listen to the conversations they have with many of their customers sometime, far more skewed to the "new-to-the-outdoors" over veteran adventureres.

Their departments are limited for someone really into any of the sports they offer, but big enough to get people into it at a basic level, and to supply the regularly bought items to more advanced users. The only area they really shine to me is their selection of bike tools, often has stuff that Performance Bike doesn't carry, and beyond that as already mentioned they are open a bit later for generic replacement things. I'm not old enough to know how they used to be, but if I had to judge compared to places like Cabelas, it wouldn't surprise me to see they have also gone from a place with a well known outdoors reputation to a more run of the mill big box store.

I'd argue political activism isn't really helping their cause, either, even when sticking strictly to environmental matters.

WNCGoater 05-22-18 07:28 AM


Originally Posted by jefnvk (Post 20353548)
They sell to a generic, adventurey outdoors crowd. Someone really into biking, or kayaking, or hiking, or rock climbing probably isn't shopping there regularly.
...far more skewed to the "new-to-the-outdoors" over veteran adventureres.

Their departments are limited for someone really into any of the sports they offer, but big enough to get people into it at a basic level, and to supply the regularly bought items to more advanced users.

I'd argue political activism isn't really helping their cause, either, even when sticking strictly to environmental matters.

Agree with the above. They have the basics. If you're into backpacking in a big way, sure you may pick up some Mtn. House meals or canister fuel, or Smartwool socks at REI but you're probably going to pick better gear from other sources for the most part. Same with any other category.

I also find their clothing prices outrageously expensive. But a lot of Columbia, Patagonia, Mtn. Hardware, etc is "trendy" and thus, grossly overpriced regardless where you buy it. You pay a lot for the name.

I don't understand businesses wading into the political swamp. No matter what your stance on what ever cause, when you start publicly taking a stand, you're going to offend some of your customer base. Focus on your purpose and leave the politics out of it. I've written several retailers off my list because of the public "stance" on this issue or that.

Leebo 05-22-18 09:03 AM


Originally Posted by WNCGoater (Post 20353586)
Agree with the above. They have the basics. If you're into backpacking in a big way, sure you may pick up some Mtn. House meals or canister fuel, or Smartwool socks at REI but you're probably going to pick better gear from other sources for the most part. Same with any other category.

I also find their clothing prices outrageously expensive. But a lot of Columbia, Patagonia, Mtn. Hardware, etc is "trendy" and thus, grossly overpriced regardless where you buy it. You pay a lot for the name.

I don't understand businesses wading into the political swamp. No matter what your stance on what ever cause, when you start publicly taking a stand, you're going to offend some of your customer base. Focus on your purpose and leave the politics out of it. I've written several retailers off my list because of the public "stance" on this issue or that.

Good clothing IS expensive. But for me it last a long time and performs well. Patagonia and smartwool are tops for me. I hate buying full price retail, I go for the sales, closeout and off season purchases. Ever go to the garage sales at REI? Politics? Yes it can get messy, like the outdoors stances that REI and patagonia take. Going to hike on oil and gas platforms? Bike on a strip mine? More people, more pressure on lands, It's not like they are making new land anymore. REI in the Boston, MA area gives back lots of $$ to the local trail work and other advocacy stuff in the area. They gave 10 K for a boardwalk in the lands that we do trail work. Pro built, beaver dam, 3 conservation areas etc. That makes me sit up and notice. Works for me.

jefnvk 05-22-18 09:52 AM


Originally Posted by Leebo (Post 20353807)
Politics? Yes it can get messy, like the outdoors stances that REI and patagonia take. Going to hike on oil and gas platforms? Bike on a strip mine? More people, more pressure on lands, It's not like they are making new land anymore.

People use the outdoors in many ways, and not all outdoor groups care to take that into account in their advocacy. The Sierra Club, which REI is partnered with, objects to ORVs on public lands. Even if I am behind their principal of protecting public lands, their views on land use do not align with mine and they try to prohibit a recreation I enjoy, why would I support that?

Now, I personally keep my buying purchases politics free, but I doubt most do. If you have a product I need at a price I'll pay, I'm buying it (which, is the bigger problem with me with REI pulling Bell and Giro over politics). It is not great for any business to get into politics, you will alienate people. They've already lost a helmet and likely a bike shoes sale from me over that political stance. Not because I am agreeing or disagreeing with their stance, but because I am not changing preferred brands because of other's politics.

no motor? 05-22-18 10:34 AM

I joined REI in the early '70's when I was in high school and sporadically bought things from their cool catalogs over the years until they opened their first store in my area. That was around the time I started camping with my motorcycle friends, and I bought some things there that served me well for many years until I gave up motorcycling. REI expanded to multiple stores by then, and none of them were that close to me anymore and my rare visits there made me think their typical customer had become thy parents who buy a 4 wheel drive vehicle to make sure their kids get to soccer practice in any weather. I never experienced the membership pressures, and surprised some of the clerks that I both remembered my number as well as how low it was. I haven't noticed their political stances as I really don't have much contact with them, but they did respond to a letter I wrote to them many years ago about being dissapointed in their selling items made in Red China. The other semipolitical things I like about them is their emphasis on human powered activities and avoiding guns. If I wanted to go to a store that catered to people like Dick Cheney I'd go to Cabela's - and hope I didn't get shot in the parking lot.

Nachoman 05-22-18 11:10 AM


Originally Posted by wgscott (Post 20352139)
Their credit card used to be a great deal. I would buy pretty much everything with it, and then get a huge dividend every year. Now you get 1% for any non-REI purchase, and anything discounted at REI doesn't count (and the "discount" usually brings it more in line with amazon or some other on-line competitor). In addition, spurious charges would show up on my card every few months, necessitating cancellation and reissuing the card. Now I hardly use it at all, and only for (increasingly infrequent) REI purchases.

I too joined at the Berkeley shop, but it was 1986. That place was always packed.

I was frequenting the Berkeley REI during that time too. I spent a small fortune there on backpacking gear and equipment.

jefnvk 05-22-18 11:13 AM


Originally Posted by no motor? (Post 20354016)
If I wanted to go to a store that catered to people like Dick Cheney I'd go to Cabela's - and hope I didn't get shot in the parking lot.

I shop at both. Sure as heck not getting my boating and fishing gear at REI, and I'm not getting my Ortliebs or Brooks saddle at Cabelas or Bass Pro. They serve different needs. What is quoted above, however, is the attitude that drives customers away, that it should cater to people of a certain political persuasion and mindset.

If that's the way they want to go, fine, but it is an incredibly stupid business decision to alienate on the order of half the population with such ridiculous statements. Especially so in a day of brick and mortar shops dying out in favor of online shops.

autonomy 05-22-18 11:24 AM

My local REI is always packed whenever I visit. During the special sales it's a zoo and you'll have trouble finding parking. Midday on a weekday it's still pretty busy. I notice that a lot of the customers are of the 'getting into a sport' kind or stopped by because they needed an item for activity X this weekend (like waterproof gloves). I also see a lot of Patagonia gear worn in Whole Foods... doubt that all of those middle-aged people wearing belay jackets are ever using them as such (hey, at least I go hiking and cycling in mine!). I've bought some cycling and kayaking gear at REI but quickly outgrew their supply. Unfortunately, none of their CoOp/Novara cycling clothing fits me, not slim enough and sleeves are weirdly shaped.

It's harder for REI to compete against the manufacturers themselves, who sell direct to customer, then the online discounters like backcountry and sierra trading post.


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