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Touring Bike from REI vs LBS?

Old 04-30-13, 11:30 AM
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Touring Bike from REI vs LBS?

Hi all,

I'm looking into getting a Surly Cross-Check and have a LBS and an REI right near me that both offer the bike at the same price. REI has a VISA card that offers an additional 5% back (on top of their 10% member dividend), as well as a $75 gift card. I'd be getting 15% dividend back on my purchase at the end of the year (>$200) + a gift card, not bad. My concern here is the expertise and service at an REI vs a local bike shop, as well as I usually enjoy supporting smaller businesses. I believe the warranty on Surly frame is same at both, and the LBS offers the simple services free, not sure about REI.

It is really hard to pass up $275 in cash rewards essentially for going with REI, so I was just wondering if anybody has any experience with the service or purchasing process from REI, or any additional things I may want to consider from the LBS.

Thanks!
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Old 04-30-13, 11:59 AM
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I posted this awhile back in a previous thread. I have had nothing but positive experiences with REI.

Doug64
My experience with REI has been excellent.

An example: I'm on my second Sierra Designs Lightning 2 tent. I had my first one for a little over 5 years when one of the carbon fiber poles split. It was a great light weight 3-season tent that had seen hard use snow camping, bike touring , and backpacking. I brought the pole into REI and asked if they had a replacement pole I could buy. After checking, the sales person found that Sierra Designs had changed their poles for that tent to aluminum on the newer models. While not as light a the carbon fiber poles they solved the splitting problem with light weight aluminum poles. He also said that they did not have any replacement poles in their catalog, but would see if he could find a set. After a fruitless search, he asked if I had the rest of the tent with me, which I did. When I returned with the old tent after retrieving it from my truck, there was a brand new Sierra Designs Lightning 2 tent sitting on the counter. That is the kind of service that I have always received at REI, but what came next really surprised me. He looked up my old purchase in their computer system to verify that I had indeed purchased it at REI and found out that when I purchased the tent 5 years earlier I had paid full price for it. He then told me they were on sale at this time and handed me a $75 cash voucher.

Bottom line-- I walked out of the store with a new tent, $75 in cash, and I got to keep the $30 I received as a dividend for the purchase of the original tent 5 years ago! Do they have a loyal customer- you bet!

Our REI stores are located in "biking towns" , and have pretty good mechanics.
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Old 04-30-13, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64
I posted this awhile back in a previous thread. I have had nothing but positive experiences with REI.
+1. Their return policy is ridiculous ("Oh, you used these for 8 years and don't like it anymore? We'll take it back.") and they consistently have helpful, low pressure sales people.
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Old 04-30-13, 02:27 PM
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You won't get an additional $275 worth of expertise or free repairs from the LBS no matter how good they are.

Go with REI.
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Old 04-30-13, 02:46 PM
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I'm sure my loyalty to my LBS has netted me far more than $275. Depends on the shop and how friendly you are too, I guess
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Old 04-30-13, 03:25 PM
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I'm another for REI.

I like to support the local bike shops, but the service I have gotten here in Atlanta at most shops has been far overpriced. One experience of particular note is grabbing a cassette tool a few weeks ago from the shop that built my LHT from the ground up, the guy who personally built the bike handed me the tool off the shelf, I happily walked away, got home, and it didn't fit. Looked at the package and noticed that it was for a freewheel. At this point I was a little miffed, but when I brought it back to the store and had to argue with the manager for 15 minutes about taking it back for the correct one... well, I appreciate REI's return policy... lemme put it that way.

REI may be overpriced, but it evens out and then some if you use coupons and have an REI card. It is a rather dangerous store to have close by though. O:-)
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Old 04-30-13, 03:42 PM
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funny , I've measured expertise in years and knowledge not dollars ..
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Old 04-30-13, 03:42 PM
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REI is an LBS after a fashion... I have visited several with great bikes and knowledgable bike staff. And I have been in many great LBSs which also carried a ton of backpacks and tents and offered great service. It comes down to your exact situation and the two stores you actually have there, not a hypothetical or an internet opinion pole.

Pick the one that makes to happy and caters to your needs. The choice may flip back and forth depending on what you are looking for. Its your checkbook and your experience. Just do it!
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Old 04-30-13, 04:19 PM
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The bike shop here at the Dallas REI is top notch. I've had nothing but positive experiences with them.
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Old 04-30-13, 04:32 PM
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The quality of the service is really going to depend on the individuals at the particular REI and LBS. I know a couple of the guys working at a local REI and would trust them at least as much as many of the LBSs. And, as others have mentioned, the return policy of REI can come in handy if you ever run into a warranty issue where you have a dispute with the manufacturer.
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Old 04-30-13, 05:26 PM
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The biggest advantage to REI is their 100% Guarantee, IMO. If you're not happy return it. Unfortunately most LBS can't afford this service.
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Old 04-30-13, 06:38 PM
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All depends on your LBS. I wouldn't go anywhere but my LBS, especially for all the intricacies of touring, but they are touring experts and walking encyclopedias. If yours is more roadie-focused or not at a level that amazes you, then the consistency of a place like REI might be better.
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Old 04-30-13, 06:50 PM
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+1 REI a very happy customer-
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Old 04-30-13, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by mvallejo
Hi all,

I'm looking into getting a Surly Cross-Check and have a LBS and an REI right near me that both offer the bike at the same price. REI has a VISA card that offers an additional 5% back (on top of their 10% member dividend), as well as a $75 gift card. I'd be getting 15% dividend back on my purchase at the end of the year (>$200) + a gift card, not bad. My concern here is the expertise and service at an REI vs a local bike shop, as well as I usually enjoy supporting smaller businesses. I believe the warranty on Surly frame is same at both, and the LBS offers the simple services free, not sure about REI.

It is really hard to pass up $275 in cash rewards essentially for going with REI, so I was just wondering if anybody has any experience with the service or purchasing process from REI, or any additional things I may want to consider from the LBS.

Thanks!
It depends in part on the LBS, and how you feel about them.

And how much $275 means to you.

And to them.

And what else you might do with it.

And whether you want to do something that feels good and right and true (whatever it may be), or something that makes sense only from an accountant's way of looking at things.
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Old 05-01-13, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Niles H.
It depends in part on the LBS, and how you feel about them.

And how much $275 means to you.

And to them.

And what else you might do with it.

And whether you want to do something that feels good and right and true (whatever it may be), or something that makes sense only from an accountant's way of looking at things.
I don't disagree with this, but I'll point out that REI is not Walmart. In some sense, I was confused by the question in the first place because REI is my LBS. They've got the best selection of parts, tubes, tires of anybody in town. I've had many fantastic interactions with the employees who always seem happy to help and know what they are talking about (as much as anybody). I have no qualms about buying anything from REI. In my experience, they are a little pricier than other choices, but if REI is the cheap option, then the choice seems clear to me.
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Old 05-01-13, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by cplager
REI is not Walmart.
+1. REI is big business that has it roots as a co-op. The employees are all enthusiasts and the culture is about enjoying the outdoors, not business and accounting. I realize that its difficult for an LBS to compete but that doesn't make REI "the evil empire".
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Old 05-01-13, 07:48 AM
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As others said, depends on the store. Same with REI, depends on the store. And, stores change over time, as do personnel.

I bought a frame that needed to have a tap run through the bottom bracket threads. Had the local REI do it. The work quality was good, the price was great and the work was timely. I would go back to them if I needed more work done.
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Old 05-01-13, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
I'm sure my loyalty to my LBS has netted me far more than $275. Depends on the shop and how friendly you are too, I guess
+1. Over the years, I have boought 5 bikes from one LBS. I have gotten tons of free and discountred work and parts over those years. An employee even made a free house call to cut through a cable that was keeping to bikes locked together in the house when my GF lost the key. And they always find time to get my work done quickly, even when they are swamped. Funny how that works.
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Old 05-01-13, 08:24 AM
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Out of curiosity, what is that LBS? (@indyfabz)
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Old 05-01-13, 08:32 AM
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Thanks all. Going to go with REI for this! Now I just have to hope my REI Visa card comes in the mail before I leave for California in 2 weeks! Not to mention they'd still have to order the bike. Having this new bike for my CA tour is going to come down to the wire =P
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Old 05-01-13, 11:56 AM
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I shop at REi on a regular basis. That said, i'm not a fan. Most of their products need the discounts/,membership refund whatever it is called just to be competitive. For example today you can buy Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 Binoculars from REI for $550. Or, you can buy them everyplace else for $479.

Or to make it touring bike specific - Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers REI $180 The Touring Store $153.

I've found this same over pricing runs through most of their product lines. They are neat stores but you are getting hozed. Still I shop there. Mostly for the convenience.

Last edited by tom cotter; 05-01-13 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 05-01-13, 12:01 PM
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About buying a bike there. Again, you are paying top dollar. But the other side of that equation is the service. If your local REI offers great service -go for it.

Again, my local REI can't do a handlebar tape job without screwing it up, so not all REI bike service departments are created equal. We just drew the short straw. CHk it out before you write the check.
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Old 05-01-13, 12:04 PM
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I love REI. The store I shop at predominantly has excellent mechanics. I bought a Surly Troll frameset from them, and a ton of other stuff. I recently returned a trunk bag with a bad zipper, and even though it wasn't in their records, they still gave me a full refund 4 years after purchased. Of course, I bought a replacement from them, as well. Same with a light that had a broken mount. Returned for full refund a couple years later. Prices are typically full list price, so sometimes I'll find a much better deal online. The 20% off coupon helps.
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Old 05-01-13, 12:16 PM
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Another possibility is saving the money then doing something good with it, like restoring the eyesight of the poor individuals in India who can't afford the simple operation.

That amount of money can apparently restore the eyesight of a number of people, who find that being able to see improves the quality of their lives and their chances quite a bit.
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Old 05-01-13, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
As others said, depends on the store. Same with REI, depends on the store. And, stores change over time, as do personnel.

I bought a frame that needed to have a tap run through the bottom bracket threads. Had the local REI do it. The work quality was good, the price was great and the work was timely. I would go back to them if I needed more work done.
I agree with this.

Not all REI's are the same, nor are LBS's.

Also, I was not saying in an earlier post that REI was bad or worse, or that all LBS's are better, or more saintly, etc. There is a lot of diversity.

And finding the best places to put your money, or the best things to do with it, or to support and contribute to with it - and to do it well or truly or rightly - can be a challenge.
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