I've had various things from REI that I've beaten to an inch of their life, and I never really thought about returning them. I can only remember returning one thing, a pair of shoes that felt fine indoors but after one brief hike I realized weren't going to work, so I brought them back. REI took them back, no questions asked.
I did have an experience yesterday with Patagonia gear. I have a ~15-year old rain jacket from them, but the liner is disintegrating. Patagonia asks (on their website) to not throw out used-up gear but to repair / recycle / etc. So I brought it into the Patagonia store to see what my options were. They told me to "take another one off the rack" and apologized for:
- Having made a defective product that lasted "only 15 years"
- Having changed the color slightly, as the new one isn't an exact match of the old one.
Patagonia has a customer-for-life in me. They might have lost a little $$$ in that particular transaction, but I'm sure they'll make it up in the future. Treat your customers right and they'll keep coming back.