I could hear the collective sob of dirtbag climbers across the nation as news broke yesterday of REI towing a harder line on gear returns. Legendary stories abound of people abusing the old liberal, no questions asked return policy in order to fund their alternative outdoor lifestyles. It looks as though the glory days have finally come to an end. 

What finally tipped REI over the edge you ask? Perhaps it was Leif Karlstrom's blurb in Outside Magazine last year about his illicit "REI sponsorship" that created a wider gear fraud movement. According to REI's Senior Vice President of Retail Tim Spangler, the company noticed an alarming growth trend in returns over a year old, causing them to finally take action. 

The new policy will not only impose a time limit on returns, but enforce stricter guidelines on what type of gear is accepted. Excerpts from the new returns policy found on the REI website read as follows:

"We stand behind everything we sell. If you are not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund. Items must be returned within a year of purchase, except items purchased from REI-OUTLET which must be returned within 30 days of purchase.

You must have a proof of purchase (store receipt, gift receipt, shipping invoice, or member purchase history) for all returns and exchanges.

Used items must be cleaned for a return or exchange. If you send merchandise that is not cleaned or laundered to the REI Returns Department, it will be returned at your expense."

So there you have it. About 90 percent of returns are already made within a year so this new policy will probably not bother the majority of us. REI will continue to take back defective products regardless of their age. 

Thoughts? Have you ever taken advantage of REI's liberal returns policy?

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  1. I use their return policy all the time but typically for items less than 6 months old. I will admit, I spend more money in their stores BECAUSE of their return policy. I will be happy to buy more from our local mom-and-pop outfitter and gear shops.

  2. I have only returned something to REI once but it was with in three months and was still new in the box. One of the reasons I value my REI membership is because of the reassurance that return policy provides.

    REI is my favorite store, when I win the lottery I’m going to head to my store and say give me one of everything.

  3. Finally! It had to happen…
    I used to be the Master Tech for a REI store in California.
    I have seen my share of abuse of the “no questions asked” return policy but I did ask some questions once.
    The store manager witnessed my questioning and later pulled me aside and reprimanded me on my pro-active behaviour. All I was doing was asking the person returning the bike what she didn’t like about it and why she was returning it. I knew she bought it just for a charity ride (she said so prior to her purchase) and planned to return it all along.
    The REI store manager said it was not REI’s policy to question, just accept, even if the fraud was evident. According to number crunching the loose policy was attracting more business and generating more money despite the few abuses.
    It looks like the scale has tipped the other way and that it is no longer the case now.
    I welcome their new policy even if I no longer work at REI.

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