As a former REI employee who left just as things started to fall apart. Yes, you would not believe the stories customers would give to the front line people (cashiers).I agree, I've been expecting them to take this step for quite a while now. Abuse was pretty rampant in certain categories (but then again, then I've gotten some great stuff from the Used Gear Sales, which will no doubt suffer under the new changes) and have on occasion over the years taken back items that were old enough that 'only REI would have taken them back for a full refund', I admit it. The thing is, I almost always purchased something to replace that item during the same store visit; and often more items while I was at it. I always felt comfortable purchasing gear from REI under the old policy, and don't think the new policy will affect my future purchasing decisions at all.
1) My daughter is not quite able to wear this jacket. Could I just exchange it for the next size up? (member records show that it was bought 15 months ago)
2) These shoes!!! You said they had a lifetime warranty on them!! (busted shoes after *** 9 years *** on the trail, flat-*** worn out)
3) (How about this one?) I would like to exchange these shoes to a narrower brand. (running shoes bought 9 months ago, lost weight after starting running as exercise)
4) I would like to exchange for another jacket just like this. (after wearing it around a sparky fire on a windy night)
I'm sure there's lots of stories that I haven't heard, since I didn't work front line. It was one reason I left REI. I was getting fed up with the quality of literacy (or how about laziness) of the customers. I have worked hard at forgetting the dumb things that they asked me to help with (I do remember that a girl was asking for a cattle branding iron, and another person was asking for fencing hardware). These people SIMPLY DO NOT THINK. They do no research before showing up at the store. Oh, how about this!! They drive in from an hour away, only to find out we don't have the product in stock.
I forgot to mention something that might affect your buying decisions after you read this. As you recall, I left REI in late April, wanting to get a fresh start in something else entirely. The fact is, the wrong kind of people infiltrated REI and started to chip away at what REI once was, and it may have started sometime before I was rehired over 8 years ago. Changes were being made to the company at many levels, and one tactic they used, which to my knowledge had not been done in this company before, was hiring an outsider at any level above a full-time non-supervisory employee. Our previous store manager, a great guy who ran a tight ship with great results for many years at REI, was told to up and leave for another store for him to open, without consideration for his family's setting in the area and having to uproot it again, and replacing him with someone who had no REI experience, never worked on the floor there before, and didn't understand REI culture. He was sent in to house clean, as he had NO connections with anyone that would impede his ability to simply cut people off and send them out, no matter what. I didn't realize this until months after he had been there for a while.
I really would like you to consider shopping elsewhere, seriously, considering these facts. I had total 10 years altogether, and I had become expensive for the company because of my hourly rate and vacation/sick leave accrual rates. They were cutting several other older people and myself of our hours while giving them to the newer employees (so they wouldn't object to the cuts they received as well, which was NOWHERE what we received). I ran into someone today who told me that she had been laid off, and then discovered that they hired another person in her place without telling her they had "reopened" the position (which is part of the house-cleaning plan). We who had worked more than 20 hours per week as part-timers were able to receive full health insurance benefits were no longer able to hang onto to it, even if we continued to pay the higher rate than required for part-time insurance. And guess what? Now, they're dropping part-time-level insurance for part-timers as well! Now, it's just another retail store. If you know of a store that treats their employees better, please shop there. Another thing she told me is that now, people who have shopped at REI are beginning to state that they'd rather support Academy instead of REI.
It looks like thus far, given my limited ability to spend for traveling, I'm going into farming. I just came off a ranch on Sunday and came to Houston to house-sit for ANOTHER former worker of REI until he gets back, and then I leave for a small organic permaculture farm that I'll help develop in the fall to get it ready for the growing season next year. While I'm there, I will work at a work-share farm to earn some food in exchange for my labor. While I'm here in Houston for the month, I'm volunteering at Last Organic Outpost, a really cool farm that I got to work for a bit today. Really neat place situated on a former rice mill facility just east of downtown Houston. I'm going to volunteer out there about 3 times a week to give me something to do while I house-sit.