Paid memberships are a tricky game. You know, the ones whereby paying a one-time, annual, or monthly fee you open up the possibility for potential savings or other benefits.
I’ve justified the purchase of three paid memberships from retailers. I’ll tell you who else at the end of the post, but first, why I justified getting the REI Membership for myself. I’d love to hear which paid memberships you have justified putting up the expense for and why.
In the last few years, backpacking has become one of my favorite hobbies. I wrote a series of backpacking posts (you can find at the end of this article).
Anyhow, I bought all of my initial gear about 4 years ago. Recently, I’ve gotten obsessed with going ‘ultra-light’ with my backpacking gear. There are a lot of benefits to going ultra-light, namely, you can walk farther, faster, longer, and it’s a whole lot less painful. Quite simply, it’s a much more enjoyable experience.
Well, those who make the gear in the industry know that there are a whole lot of people who feel the same way as I do who are willing to pay a premium for ultra-light gear. Ultra-light backpacking gear is a relatively recent popular niche (although a lot of people have been quietly practicing it for years). Therefore, the best ultra-light products also tend to be the newest products. Technology in the niche has been changing rapidly. And, unfortunately, less material weight does not equate to a lower price.
REI has two websites you can purchase from – REI.com, specializes in selection, customer service, and their own name brand. And also REI Garage, which offers steep discounts on overstock and closeouts.
And if you want to push your savings in to high gear, the Upromise card also offers cash back rewards for REI purchases made online through Upromise.
REI Review: Here’s What Makes REI Stand Out as a Retailer that I Trust & Want to Buy From:
REI definitely has some unique things that make them an outstanding retailer:
- Return Policy: REI has pared back their return policy from “return anything at any time” a bit, but it is still outstanding compared to most retailers, and particularly for an outdoor recreation retailer. It is as follows,
We stand behind everything we sell. If you’re not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund within one year of purchase—with a few exceptions.
REI purchases of new items can be returned by mail or at any of our retail stores with proof of purchase, regardless of whether you bought the item online, in a store or by phone.
- Selection: Their selection is outstanding. They are the Amazon of outdoor gear. You name it, they likely have it. And if they don’t have it in the store, you can order it online. Don’t like it? Take it back to the store.
- Community: They have strong community efforts and make an effort to provide a wide variety of eco-friendly products.
- Customer Service: They have strong customer service and their employees are passionate and happy. In the interactions with their employees in stores, they seem very knowledgeable and happy to be there. I’ve also chatted in twice, was helped immediately, and received good answers right away.
- How they Treat their Employees: REI offers some of the best benefits for a part-time job out there, including 401K match, paid vacation, PTO, 50% off gear discounts and more. A rarity in the retail space.
REI Membership Benefits
For a $20 lifetime membership, you get:
- 10% of your purchases back in the form of an annual dividend.
- Access to REI “Garage Sales” on returned gear.
- Member-only sales and offers (typically at least one 20% off one item as a member sale per year).
- Discounts on gear rental and shop services (e.g. bike shop services).
Honestly, for me, it’s all about the 10% dividend and the 20% off discounts.
An Example of How the REI Membership Pays Itself Off Immediately
I’ve been looking to get a lighter 2-person backpacking tent. Backpacker Magazine had chosen a specific tent as their Editor Choice “tent of the year”. It’s easy to see why. The thing is sturdy, waterproof, fits two people, yet weighs a mere 2 lbs., 2 ounces! That’s less than half the weight of my previous tent (an ultra-light backpacker’s dream). The rub? It’s $350. And it’s $350 everywhere (nobody discounts it).
However, with REI’s annual membership sale, you can get 20% off of one full price item. It’s simple math. 20% off of a $350 item equals a $70 savings. That’s a 350% return on my $20 membership. Anything I order above and beyond this will be additional savings for me.
And if I’m not happy with the purchase or it is defective? I can return it!
Closing Thoughts on Paid Memberships
Paid retail memberships can work out for you if you know what you want first, and then discover that a paid membership would pay itself off if you stick to what you originally went for in the first place. The other two memberships that I alluded to earlier are with Costco and a local brewery (membership offers half off beer). In both cases, it should be fairly easy to pay off my membership investment and I stick to the essentials versus justifying spending extra just because I get a discount.
REI & Other Retail Membership Discussion:
- Do you have an REI membership? Has it been worth the money?
- What other retail memberships do you have? Why? Have they been worth the money?
I completely know what you mean by getting light stuff for backpacking and paying the extra money for it (or maybe my BACK and KNEES know what you mean!)
Here in Canada, we have something called MEC (mountain equipment co-op) and the lifetime membership is $5. It’s meant to be a nonprofit, so everything is pretty cheap there.
I haven’t been to REI but I want to- hear that they’re great for stuff, like North Face. Here North Face will cost you an arm and a leg, but one of my friends got a really good deal on a jacket from REI.
I’d pay for a lifetime membership of $20.
Costco’s yearly membership of $50 though….I don’t think I would do it. I did it one year and haven’t renewed it.
Just so ya know, R.E.I. Helped to establish M.E.C.
:-) Co-Ops are such happy places, the more the merrier!
We use our Discover card cash back to get a $30 Sam’s Club membership every year ($40 basic membership plus a $10 gift card). We decided to join since we buy several name brands that are much cheaper there – Nature’s Own Honey Wheat bread, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Charmin. They also have the best deals on steak and rotisserie chickens – $5 for the size of a chicken that would cost $8 at Kroger.
We go through enough of all that in a year to make back our $30 and then some even though there is only two of us…I think families could really take advantage.
I agreee totally on the ultra-light backpacking addiction. My brother and I used to have contests to see who could pack the lightest. My record is 26lbs., which includes pack, tent, food, 64 oz. of water, and everything else. Oh and the trip was for 3 1/2 days. I’m going to look into the REI membership, because I could easily save $20 a year on shipping alone if I ordered my gear in chunks.
Helpful tips on backpacking light:
1) Bring an ultimate-frisbee frisbee. Its big enough as a plate, deep enough to hold most soups, and is a great campsite activity.
2) One 2 1/2 qt MSR pot. I made all my meals in this for two weeks. Its light weight, holds a Nalgene of water for boiling, and my stove fits inside for easy packing.
3) Repackage everything. Packaging on most items weighs a lot and takes up even more room. Ziploc freezer bags work great because you can label the outsides.
If you want some more ideas, or want to bounce ideas off me, just email me. I love to help out.
P.S. I used to work at EMS for about 7 years.
I’m not quite sure it’s actually a lifetime membership — my recollection when I got one a couple years ago was that fine print said you had to spend $15 a year to keep it active — but for that de minimis burden it might as well be. I spent $357.49 there this last year (at least $15 every time I entered the store, I suspect), so $15 is a laughably small amount. :-)
REI’s great, I have an REI-branded credit card and a membership as well. Sometimes the penny-pinching part of me wonders if they’re actually better than the competition. I’m pretty sure I could get back more on a credit card elsewhere (well, perhaps not if you factor in the $50 gift card I got at signup!). Are the prices really better? The first major outdoor item I ever bought personally, eight years ago, I didn’t buy from REI because I could get it cheaper elsewhere. However, I’ve decided that even if some other place might be better, I don’t particularly care. They have a nice selection, the feel of the store is good, employees are helpful, free shipping to a nearby store is great (a few miles’ walk or bike for me, was even shorter at my previous apartment), and basically there’s nothing about them that I don’t like. I value any potential overhead (that might not even exist!) at less cost to me than would be required to do a serious comparison with other outdoor retailers.
Superior thinking dmeonsrttaed above. Thanks!
Disclosure: I also used to work at REI.
Something neat about the membership is that every member is given a unique number. So, you can always tell how long a person has been a member by how low their number is. It really is a lifetime membership. The membership doesn’t really expire, REI just won’t send you the coupons or dividends if you don’t show up to buy something every year (which makes sense, if you don’t buy anything, you wouldn’t have a dividend).
In the spirit of this site and because from time to time Mr. Miller’s will recommend other credit cards. I’d like to recommend the REI Visa Card. It was my first credit card and I’ve been very happy with it. For those of you who like to shop sales, it gives you an additional 5% back as part of your dividend on most everything you buy at REI or on REI.com regardless of if it is full price or on sale.
There’s a minimum annual spending amount to keep the membership active. However, it’s a simple matter of becoming active again. I hadn’t bought anything at REI for years (paid $10 for my membership) and it was active again. I think spending can be on any item, even on sale.
An active member gets to vote for board members, although I’m not sure how many members really care.
It is a life time membership. No dues, fees or minimums ever. Welcome to the Co-Op, and thank you for being a life time member.
@ Bleigh – would love to hear more weight saving ideas. I figure that I can cut my core weight in half easily (tent, bag, sleeping bag). The other stuff is more of a challenge.
@ Jeff – I don’t remember seeing anything about $15, but I didn’t read the fine print. Should not be hard to hit that though, of course. If you check REI, Sierra Trading Post, and Amazon, you’re probably going to find the lowest price.
You actually only have to spend $10/year to keep your REI membership active; see this page: https://www.rei.com/membership/benefits
The REI membership has been great for me when it comes to hiking gear, especially shoes. You can’t really tell how comfortable shoes are until you’ve put them to the test, and REI will take them back regardless of how much you’ve beaten them up and how long you’ve had them if you’re not satisfied for any reason. That on top of the coupons they send and the dividend makes the $20 membership pay for itself easily.
Disclosure: I am an REI employee.
One other benefit (and in my opinion, the most important) is that we keep a receipt on file for all purchases made using a membership. Because we do have a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all merchandise and no time limits on returns, often a receipt can be long gone by the time that you realize that your gear is not working out, for whatever reason. If you used a membership for when you purchased said item(s), we are able to access an electronic receipt and refund to you the full purchase amount in the same manner for which the item was paid, regardless of whether the item has been used. If the original purchase was not made using a membership number, returns without paper receipts become MUCH more difficult.
As far as the duration of the membership – it is a LIFETIME membership, meaning that once you buy-in to the co-op, you are a member forever. Your membership may become inactive because of lack of use but will not be discontinued. In that instance, you will simply stop receiving catalogs, fliers, etc. until another purchase is made under the membership number.
You’r right on G.E. The REI membership is a great one, given the ridiculous amount of money I spend there, the membership is definitely worth it.
I have been an extremely pleased REI member for 10 years now. another excellent selling point is that the membership is a one time fee. The 10% dividend alone quickly repays this cost. Also check for their quarterly garage sales (dent and ding sale). All that returned gear gets resold as is at INCREDIBLE discounts. Even better than the usual sales etc. Happy backpacking!
Does anyone know when the next member sale for 20% off a single item is? The last was in April but it seems to me it usually happens twice a year.
Just so you know, should you fail to spend $10 and thus become “inactive” it doesn’t mean you have to rejoin, just that you may not get your annual dividend packet (but, since you didn’t spend any money that year, doesn’t really matter, does it?). Your membership is, in fact, lifetime.
This article is inaccurate as it misses a key exception:
**You do not earn dividend credit on sale and clearance items**
REI’s regular full prices are not competitive. They are only competitive when on sale. REI frequently has sales. Typical savings are 20-50%. Eventually almost every item will go on sale. There is no reason to pay full price there. Therefore there is no reason to be a member.
Members do not get a refund on the following:
“Excludes sale/clearance items (prices ending in $._9 or $._3), items discounted 15% or more, gift cards, REI Adventures trips, REI Outdoor School classes and outings, sales tax, postage, mounting, engraving, labor, rental fees and membership fee.”
Spot on. Except for Bike Labor fees, which are discounted with membership.
I am so annoyed that I wasted $20 on this membership for just this reason. The prices at REI are higher than other retails (specifically Amazon) except when heavily discounted- and then you don’t get any extra benefits because you get no 10% ‘dividend’ and the coupons don’t seem to work on the garage sale items either! Not to mention the refund policy as absolute GARBAGE when it comes to the discounted items, which suddenly become “sold as is” which negates any reason to buy them at REI.
I have huge buyer’s remorse. I can see how this ‘membership’ would be useful to someone who buys stuff at full-price, maybe on short notice (i.e. usually what I would call a sucker). But for someone like me who waits for good sales, this is a complete ripoff. Guess I’m the sucker, they got me.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am also an REI employee.
Yes, folks, it IS a lifetime membership as Seska and Meridith correctly point out. I cannot tell you how many times I hear, “I was a member, but it was a really long time ago…” in response to my question about whether a customer is a member of REI. We look up their phone number or name, and *bing* there they are. It amazes me that they are surprised at this. I think that any REI employee worth their salt (come on, that’s all of us) will tell you all of the benefits and terms of membership. I think the problem arises in the convenient hearing of the customer. We all live in the now, and only hear the parts we want to hear, right? Also, all REI’s are outfitted with lovely enormous signs behind the checkout counters outlining the 100% guarantee and membership benefits. It’s all pretty transparent.
In response to Pretty Lou: I understand that you would prefer to wait for items to go on sale before you purchase them, but remember that thing about keeping your purchase history on file? Did you realize that you can return those sale items months, or even years down the road if they don’t meet your needs without a receipt? How many stores do you know of who will do that for you? Quite frankly, I’ve been a member for years, and I am a committed sale shopper. There are many items that I found cheaper elswewhere that I sorely wish I had purchased at REI now that they are no longer working for me. I also made the (common)mistake in the past of not using my member number on sale priced items. Always use your member number. It’s not ALL about the dividend. This is how we keep track of your purchases.
In addition, while REI Adventures, clinics and equipment rentals may not earn a dividend, they cost significantly less if you are a member. Many REI’s will even sell you a membership in exchange for the cost of rental gear just to get you inspired!
In my opinion, you can’t afford NOT to be a member.
The REI membership is a ripoff in most cases. You only get the dividend for full retail non discounted purchases. Who pays retail prices????? Maybe on a Western Mountaineering bag but you can even find those at discount a couple times a year. $20 for the privilege of paying retail prices, HA!
Billy, with the use of one 20% off coupon on a $200 item your REI lifetime membership is free. Then, for the rest of your life every 20% is gravy. Ever go to a member only used gear sale? I got a barely used $350 tent for $82 and a like new down parka (about a $300 item) for $75.
However, not everyone sees things the same. Enjoy the outdoors!
I believe purchase with their branded credit card means full dividend even though credit usually means 8% as opposed to their normal 10%. I believe they also give a partial dividend on sale items if their card is used. I don’t have that card myself, but it’s one way to get around the limits.
There is much more to REI than their products and prices. REI is a privately owned retailer. Millions of dollars go back into the community where the stores are located. The practice what they preach – stewardship is a priority and they fund thousands of initiatives involving national parks, opt outside initiatives and local trails. When you become a member at REI, it’s not just about the products (which are expertly made and utilize sustainable practices) it’s about giving back to the community and the public lands we utilize to enjoy the outdoors.
Let’s not penny pinch. Is it really worth it over 10-20 dollars? Or is it more worthwhile to spend a $20 one time fee to an organization who is preserving communities and lands for generations to use?
Perhaps you simply shouldn’t shop somewhere you can’t afford instead of blaming the company.
When you take your tent out the day before the season starts, and you rip it, you need new tent that day, and if you’re looking at that Marmot Limelight like I am, the dividend is more than the price of membership. Now, if you can plan ahead and use that 20% off coupon, yes you don’t get the dividend, but you save fifty bucks. That ain’t a ripoff.
REI is the only paid membership I have, paid for itself on the firs
t trip to the store. Who has time to wait for every essential to go on sale? Not to mention all the member only 20% coupons you’ll receive….REI membership is almost never a bad deal.
If anything goes wrong with these bikes, REI will claim zero responsibility and not even give you a refund (claiming that they’re only the seller, not the manufacturer and thereby dismissing any liability).
The case involved Monika Johnson, who (now deceased) purchased a REI/Novara branded carbon fiber front fork that failed catastrophically, resulting in significant personal injury, and permanent disability. REI issued a recall of the questionable units (using Monika Johnson’s photograph and never accrediting photo rights of compensation for such). Despite the recall, no liability was ever assumed, nor apology offered. She suffered damages which medical insurance would not cover, e.g., deductible, lost wages, loss associated with residual brain injury, dental and facial reconstructive surgery. ALL these costs were born by Monika Johnson individually. No disability was paid her.
This is absolutely disgusting. REI is showing itself to be a corporation that doesn’t care about the individual. If the same thing happened to REI’s CEO or one of her family members, I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t have been any appeals.
I just can’t get over the irony, that REI– the company that preaches 100% satisfaction guaranteed– left Monika high and dry. REI is all about branding to its members, creating that strong sense of value, community and reliability in their products. But when push comes to shove, when a member is seriously hurt through no fault of her own, this is their response. Shameful.
I’ve been an REI member for over 40 years.
Until this is resolved in a positive outcome, I will be proactively steering all business, mine and that of my friends, relatives, coworkers, and more to other more conscionable retailers.
Liability is a completely different beast. At the best I would expect them to mark the item purchased defective and refund the cost of the item (most retailers would not even promise that, and would never do that).
Do you even realize what you are asking for? Lets assume you run a mom n pop grocery store. You sell a bottle of milk to a kid, which happens to be tainted with some virus(which you had no knowledge of). The kid ends up disabled for the rest of his life. Now, would you paying him for his medical expenses and living expenses for the rest of his life or would you expect the manufacturer of the milk to do that? Retailers are never held liable for these things, and rightly so. Even if you make an exception for this kid and pay him, it would only set a precedent for you, and other customers would start asking you for compensation
Read the case. The defective item was designed and manufactured by and for REI’s exclusive in-house NOVARA brand. REI is therefore the manufacturer as well as the retailer and as such, wholly libel for defective products that result in disasterous consequences.
Sadly, the judgment for this came just days after the involved party was killed in a fall whole backcountry skiing.
Thanks for that info, Plinko. All I can say is… WOW!
Thanks be to Google:
Guess I won’t be shopping at REI anymore. Sadly, I’m sure a lot of companies would respond in the same way in this economy; however, REI is supposed to be a co-op with a much different corporate structure than all those “other stores”. But obviously, they’re no different. What a shame.
RIP Monika Johnson.
The gear at REI is way too expensive.
I constantly find the same gear REI Outlet has on super markdown online cheaper. Same product, shipped to my home, and it’s always a few bucks cheaper. Even when I get gift cards I have a hard time paying the huge mark-ups at the store. If the dividend was 30 percent I might be close to getting a fair price.
Shipping is stupid slow. I ordered two items on teh 18th, supposed to be delivered by the 24, not even pulled for shipping yet. I have ordered things from REI and they don’t even get packed for 4 days. Does it take that long to load a shoe box into a truck. Seriously 5 days to go from Puyallup to Seattle 15-20 miles. I could crawl on my hands and knees, break into the warehouse, thwart the efforts of security, find the box, create a shipping label, crawl to the post office, and mail it faster. Not good.
The staff is friendly, the stores are pretty, and I suppose I should be glad to pay for someone to buy gear and return it every two years for something new because they don’t like the color, or they wrapped firewood in the jacket and dragged it up the hillside 4 miles and for some odd reason it fell apart. But to me that seems more like uhhh stealing than customer service.
The bottom line is it’s too expensive, the warranty costs us honest people money because the prices have to be high to make up for the losses, and the transport times/shipping are rediculous. If you spend $200 you will recoup your $20 membership fee but you would have only paid $150 at another retailer.
They do have many things in stock but when the sales prices are more than other retailers normal price that is not good. Considering the size and buying power they should have that is not good.
I’ve been a member for about 8 years, but I’ve about had it with REI’s poor shipping/return/customer service department. I accidentally placed an incorrect order and within 45 minutes tried to cancel. Customer Service told me that it had already been “processed” but that I could return it. I find it hard to believe that it was actually on the truck, especially since it took another 5 days to arrive. They’ve now had my return (which cost me $12 to send back) for 10 days and it’s still not processed. Compare this to Amazon and you can see why I’ll be getting my equipment there from now on. Also, their selection is rather limited as well. In short, they’ve managed to lose a long-time customer (my dividend this year was $230) through lousy service.
Great article. I can agree the rei place has everything for the outdoors, makes it so nice. They even have silk underwear, which is extremely comfy to wear.
Best membership I’ve ever bought. It paid for itself in the discount + dividend that I got on my first purchase- a pair of low top hikers. I’ve had my membership for over 5 years, and get a dividend in excess of $20 every year. Truly worth the pay-in price.
REI absolutely BOMBARDS its members with junk mail! Your address is given to third-party retailers, who then bombard you with all of their own junk mail. They also share your personal information regarding purchasing habits to outside companies who then get in on the act as well. I use different name variations when I sign up for things, that way I can always trace the source. Sure enough, A TON of junk ail is now coming to my mailbox and ALL of it has the same spelling variation used for my REI membership. This mega-cooperation masquerading as a coop is FAR from green. BEWARE.
Easy, tell REI to not share your info. I NEVER get any mailings from them and only the occasional email. Simple.
Honestly, the 100% guarantee is one of the best things REI has done to make me a repeat shopper. Sure, prices are better in other places, but I know that if anything I buy at REI doesn’t work out for ANY reason, I can bring it back. If I don’t have my receipt, my membership tracks my purchase for me, which makes it even easier. I’ve already had to exchange a $180 item with no receipt, which they did with no fuss at all.
The membership is honestly one of the best memberships I’ve ever had. I felt weird paying for it, but the money actually goes to a good cause. I’ve already earned 4 times as much back in dividends since I got my membership 6 months ago, so it really made me more money than I expected.
Good service + guarantee + dividend = repeat customer for life
I agree. I’ve taken back items after 9 months, without any hassle. They might not have huge sale markdowns, but being able to return something vs. having to sell it for a fraction of the cost probably more than makes up for the difference.
I purchased a REI membership a few years ago. I spent a few thousand dollars since then and ended up getting a yoga mat for free…
So it isn’t a great deal, it is ok. Their equipment is expensive. With learning about Sally Jewell and her views and opinions and her recent nomination, I WILL cancel my membership.
I got an REI membership a few years ago. It paid for itself in the first month with my first 20% off coupon! The membership easily saves me at least $100 a year. Best membership ever!
REI’s garage sales paid for my membership at least 50x over. Shirts for $5. A bike car rack for $20 regularly for $100.
However, now that REI has cancelled their quarterly garage sales, I never go to the store. They carry very good products but I am not a camper or hiker or anything of the sort so I go other places for my outdoors (running/cycling) equipment.
It’s a shame for REI as I always ended up getting some other items in store (food or snacks) that now I go other places for.
Disclaimer: I work for REI … retirement job.
They recently toned down the return policy due to abuse. I could tell stories as could any REI employee. Once upon a time it was rare that someone abused the policy but it’s becoming more and more common. Not sure why? People just feeling entitled? Integrity on the wane? Lousy economy? Not sure …
But it’s still a top notch return policy and I’m sure that if something goes wrong down the line that really should not have REI will take care of you.
Most outdoor manufacturers will support their products by the way.
Our local stores (Portland) still have regular garage sales but the prices aren’t as low as they once were but there are still great deals to be found. I had no idea that any store didn’t have garage sales.
REI does not share you’re personal info. Nope. Doesn’t happen.
20% off coupons show up 3-5 times a year. REI is indeed a business and when sales are too slow they’ll issue a coupon.
Just like any business REI wants to stay in business and is in a battle with online discounters (who likely won’t match the REI warranty nor the service and knowledge).
All that said, I’ve been a member for decades and know for sure that it’s worth it but REI, to me, is becoming a bit like The Gap of outdoor gear. Lots of fashionable stuff, less community outreach, more centralized corporate control, less funky-ness and more slickness, and grasping for profit at the expense of the spirit of the founders and first few decades of business. BUT, we members can vote out/in board members. When you get their dividend READ what they stand for and vote accordingly. Question them. The basics are still there and REI can improve.
REI is not worth it. If you are an educated buyer you are better off online. REI gives a dividend (which expires by the way- and they dont tell you that when they sign you up). The prices are higher than competitors so you really get nothing for your membership. Years ago REI was good and their staff were all ‘outdoor enthusiasts’. Since their big expansion a couple years ago the staff at many of their stores are people who have never even been on a hike. Now they are just another big-corporate store with average integrity. It is a bummer than they went this way.
REI will try to notify you prior to dividend expiration. Not many let it expire. I worked there for five years and never heard of an expiration, though it must happen.
I agree that REI is becoming far more corporate (new CEO was last with Victorias Secret) and is just another outdoor store. Their employees will remain, at least for now, better trained than in most big retailers. The warranty period HAD to be changed due to the complete lack of integrity of a growing number of customers. I hate it, but it was necessary. You can still return anything for any reason in the first year and I promise you that some skiers, runners, etc. will return their stuff so that they can get the latest thing for cheap or free. Scum!
The selection, while narrowing and leaning more toward higher profit soft goods, will be better than at most retailers, if not all. I like it that they keep track of when and what I buy. I believe that if you’re a decent sort and have legitimate problem with an item after that first year, and aren’t a chronic returner, they will take care of you. Be nice and ask to speak to a manager.
The prices may well be higher and the dividend might not cover the difference, but I’d like to set up my tent, make sure that the pack or boots fit, get into the sleeping bag, and so on before I buy. Unless the price difference is huge I’ll buy at REI for providing me that service. Also, I can’t tel you how many times I’ve found amazing deals on brand new discontinued items. I got an excellent down parka for 75% off! mid weight boots for 60% off! and so on. This happens just poking around the stores. To me, and to many, that’s fun.
As members we get to vote on the board of directors. I plan to read their profiles and then vote for those who want to preserve REI’s original values. We should all do that. We can turn the place around and save it from going corporate.
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Are you a member of any national brain injury
The problem with REI Membership is that you become a number. If you have a complaint, even to the point of writing to the President of REI (Mr Jerry Stritzke), it will not get answered. As a fairly new member I have spent over $2000 dollars in preparation for a hike along the East Coast. In July 2014, I purchased over $200 and was given a $20 member bonus card. When I inquired what that was I was told it was a gift card for having spent at least $100. I was then told it could be used “towards future purchases”-I never looked at the card to see in tiny print that there was an expiration date. In the following weeks I made over $500 in purchases but I did not use the gift bonus card. When I decided to use the gift card it had expired the week prior. So I wrote a letter to the president and added copies of receipts (when I spent the $500)but I never received a reply. And, if you notice, I could have received 2 gift cards if I had split my initial purchase over 24 hrs. In the future, I will order from Amazon, etc.. There, my membership does not cost anything and I am not simply a number.
Please go to your local REI and ask to speak to the manager. Politely explain the misunderstanding. I’ll bet you will get a $20 discount.
Fully agree with Mike. Emails are a very inefficient way of getting anything done, people get flooded with them and tend to ignore them. Working customer service I had administrators that took everything too seriously so every email counted, and people have some pretty ridiculous issues. i had employees accused of being drunk, on drugs, exposing privates, not fixing their hair right, having bad teeth, bad posture, sitting unladylike, etc, etc. That is what people get in their email with yours. An appropriate email is a needle in a stack of crazy. For customer satisfaction issues its best to talk to a person face to face. Even though you are frustrated be as polite and straightforward as possible, let them know what happened and what you think is fair compensation. Always tell people what you expect them to do, it gives them something to respond to, keeps the dialogue going.
Contacting the company president because youdidn’t notice an expiration date is an extreme overshoot. That’s the kind of thing you resolve with customer service or your local store manager, and generally any retailer that emphasizes excellent customer satisfaction in their brand reputation would just fix it for you. Complaining because a ceo didn’t answer a personal email about a micromanagement problem is absurd.
Just curious about quality, pricing and service
REI membership is a NO brainer for $20 one time.
Quality – very good
Pricing – decent with 20% coupons, outlet, dividends
Service – excellent especially return policy for members
Of course I also shop Amazon/Ebay/online but still do a good amount with REI especially for items where fit and comfort are important or need something now.
I just started shopping at REI recently. I don’t know if they changed policy about the membership 10% back. At their website it says:
Every March, active REI members receive a member refund in the form of an annual dividend notice. The refund is typically 10% back on your eligible REI purchases.*
Then read the fine print about the “eligible REI purchases”:
*Excludes sale/clearance items (prices ending in $._9 or $._3), items discounted 15% or more, gift cards, REI Adventures trips, REI Outdoor School classes and outings, sales tax, postage, mounting, engraving, labor, rental fees and membership fee.
So basically its membership is useless to me. I constantly look for sale items and clearance items. Anybody has different thought?
Only 12 months 100% return policy on NON-rei branded products. Yeah, that makes a HUUUUGE difference when paying full price with tax when compared to a large tax free order online.
Nardo, the return policy is on EVERYTHING you buy (except garage sale items. if you don’t know what the garage sale is, you are probably not a co-op member). Anyway, I don’t know where you got the non-REI branded products thing from. I know this because I work at REI. I have processed returns on everything from bikes to kayaks to jackets to shoes to tents to blah, blah, blah. Many are the REI brand. And orders online are not tax-free…when ordering from a company with a sales outlet within your state of residence, you pay sales tax. Not only can you see this on your packing slip, but I am also required to refund that sales tax when I process a return for an item that a customer purchased online, which I do. When not, you are required to pay sales tax (albeit at voluntary disclosure, which I assume you do not do) on your state tax returns every year.
REI only has a one year satisfaction guarantee at this point. This has been the case for years. Please correct your inaccurate post.
This shouldn’t be something held against REI. If you don’t recognize something that deserves to be covered by warranty in a year, then it isn’t a problem that should be covered by warranty. Warranty isn’t designed for wear and tear. Human nature made REI change their policy. It was different when it was a smaller-scale cooperative. Now that it’s a larger-scale capitalist retail organization under the guise of your local friendly neighborhood cooperative they have to cover their asses from all the scum out there that try to take advantage of them. Here’s a tip REI: stop trying to make anyone and everyone that enters the door join as a member, and you’ll have actually loyal members that don’t try to take advantage of you.
The article was posted in 2010 or earlier. The forever return policy was in effect then. It changed in 2013. I do agree that scumbags forced the change and that REI is far from what it used to be. I hate that, but am now more than willing to shop elsewhere. My local REI quit carrying USGS and Green Trails topo maps. But they have lots of cute socks.
i’m not going to shop at REI anymore after my recent experience with their 100% satisfaction guarantee and was told the hiking shoes that i bought in 2011 can’t be returned as it was normal wear and tear. I had to explain that i bought a pair 6 months prior and the side of the shoe where the leather joined at the sole blew out. I was told it was a defect and couldn’t be repaired so i got a new pair that had to be shipped from Texas to a shipping company just across the border ( they don’t ship to Canada) . Despite the bs with customer service and the store regarding shipping i was pretty happy with the end result.
Now shoe #2 was exactly the same issue – i was told it was too narrow – it’s a hiking shoe and leather!!! Would i buy the shoes if the didn’t fit???? I stood my ground and shot down the flow chart answers with my own knowledge and research and he finally relented and gave me an instore credit. I was also told of the new policy that i should have read on the back of my receipt – i told him my receipt from 5 years ago would state i could return it anytime no matter how long ago.
I was equally annoyed when the sales person in the shoe area also gave me a blanket statement that the shoes were too narrow with out even seeing the shoes or my feet. Got a pair that hopefully will last despite me pulling off the lacing loop on another pair in one tug!
I knew REI had lost it’s way when I saw a commemorative, limited edition ice axe for 350 dollars marketed in their mailer catalog. How is that in the spirit of value that co-ops are supposed to represent?
I also feel that their employees overvalue themselves in relation to other retail employees. They so often act smug and superior or condescending. REI is now more a cooperative of outdoor gear makers who cooperatively fix prices , attempt to determine trends and increasingly pollute outdoor culture with their “educational” marketing.
REI has also , since changing their return policy, begun dumping inferior products with defects on their members. I bought an REI quarter dome t2 plus that was a “special buy” and only sold online. Despite following storage recommendations the fly began to fall apart in ways that revealed it had been assembled incorrectly and “fixed” by gluing ties to the completed fly. I’ve seen many complaints about these tents and many complaints about REI’s response to them. I fully believe that REI was well aware of the tent defects and that is clear in how they were marketed.
I also hate the dividend program. The idea that holding my money for a year is somehow a benefit to me is absurd . REI prices are only good if you are comparing specific model/brand but if you compare categories and quality levels you’ll find they sell low value products.
REI is the most exploitive entity in the outdoor equipment industry but they are propaganda genius’s so they get away with it.
Question: Am planning on purchasing two pair of hiking boots at REI. Would it make any difference if I purchased membership at time of purchase or do it before hand?
In terms of receiving a dividend on the boots and other benefits, it won’t make a difference if you purchase membership at the time of the boots purchase or before hand. When you get to the checkout counter, just indicate that you’d like to become a member and they’ll process your application while you’re there and immediately apply your membership status to your boots.
On a side note, boots and shoes are one of the best things to shop for at REI, in my opinion. Why? Finding a pair of boots or shoes that fit properly involves a bit of trial and error. I’ve returned a couple pair of hiking shoes that felt great in the store, but after a few longer hikes it quickly became apparent that I needed a different fit or style due to crowded toes on downhill or slipping heel or whatever. Every time, REI has given me a full refund or exchange without any hassle, which easily has saved me a couple hundred dollars.
I somewhat disagree of the benefits their membership you stated in you article, there are always a catch you don’t tell you (though I recently joined the membership, just for supporting REI, not for their benefits). For people who are considering buy their membership here are some true: 1). dividend (cash back): it excludes all the sales items and once you use their coupon, you are not eligible for dividend. That makes the dividend benefit basically useless. 2). The so call “biggest sale of the year” means you can use their 20% coupon, but remember: you can only use it to buy their full priced item and you are not eligible for dividend, which make it not much of a sale anyway. 3). The “limited time Master card $100 off”: I joined membership as requisition to apply for the card, but got denied, which is very rare. I almost NEVER be denied for applying a credit card. 3). I bought lots of items from backcountry.com. Their price is comparable but you don’t have to pay tax in most of the states. Above are my experience.
You are conning yourself by thinking 20% discount on a $350 tent is saving you $70. You are still out of pocket $280. Now with that said you could probably buy the same tent online for less and have a manufacturer guarantee for 1 year. REI used to be good as the return policy was forever. Now the restriction is 1 year which means they really don’t offer much of an advantage to other retailers. The dividend is a “rewards” program where the prices are inflated on the original products and once you use the rewards you end up spending them back at REI. It’s actually a baiting scheme. REI used to be a very good deal and their own brand was significantly lower price than premium brands and just as durable. Now their goods are the same price or more . They have become a corporate entity like the rest who just want to make profit above customer happiness. It’s a shame to see a great company become just another corporate.