Joe, I see your point about gear rarely used but what are you saying? I buy a gore-tex tent it sits in an super hot attic that ruins the material and it now leaks, should they take that back after a year? OR I buy a sleeping bag and use it a couple of times one summer and then take it out the next summer and the zipper breaks it was purely a defect. the NEW policy still covers that defective zipper. How does the new policy affect this kind of return/exchange?
So what example can you give me where you don't think this is fair? (I am trying to understand, not being an dick)
"REI’s guarantee doesn’t cover ordinary wear and tear or damage caused by improper use or accidents.
If your item has a manufacturing defect in its materials or workmanship, you can return it at any time."
You mean after the tent sits in their ultra hot warehouse for months on end? Are you saying they shouldn't take it back after a year? Because that seems like a case where they definitely should, "guaranteed to keep you dry," and all. If they don't, Gore-Tex offers its own guarantee.
Your examples are obscuring the obvious, however. I'm not necessarily talking about a situation where there is something fundamentally wrong with the product.
Example: I have a JetBoil stove that I bought a couple years ago. It's brand new, in the package, in a cool, shady garage. As far as I know, JetBoil stoves haven't been updated to the point that this model is obsolete. REI could probably sell it quickly for more than 50 percent off - it's a stove, not an outdated Android phone. Now, let's just say the stove won't light for my winter backpacking trips, ends up being too bulky for my pack, whatever. Before I could return it and buy a smaller/better/different stove. That was a big part of the attraction of shopping at REI. Now, I can't, and that attraction is gone.
A yearlong guarantee makes me feel okay if I'm using the item a lot right away, or want to abuse their policy, ride a snowboard for a season and return it next fall, but it doesn't make me feel that confident about more long-term (and expensive) purchases that see occasional use (tents, stoves, snowshoes, outerwear, highly sport specific footwear and clothing, etc.). In other words, it seems to leave the people that they claim caused problems unaffected while hurting more loyal customers.
I'm not saying that I have some unalienable right to try out every purchase ever indefinitely and return it whenever, as crg seems to be ranting about. In fact, I rarely buy gear from REI and have never returned anything. Some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties, so the point is moot for a lot of gear, anyway. But people acting like the change is of no significance to the industry, especially if and when others start following suit, are fooling themselves with short-sighted thinking. REI does this and is still successful, expect others, and there are a number of others, to follow. Then expect them to cut that time frame back even more - six months, 120 days, one month ... Suddenly an industry that was built on the concept of being 100 percent comfortable and happy in your purchase is as crappy as every other industry in that regard and takes crg's ridiculous tack that customers should basically be embarrassed to return things. Maybe they'll even start pushing "outdoor gear insurance" at the register.