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REI - good or bad?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Is REI a 'good' business? Or just another big-box retailer destroying local ski shops under the guise of a Co-op?

While their prices and selection AND RETURN POLICY are very good...sometimes I think Target employees might know more about crampons, bindings or Gore-Tex XCR.

I'm getting a little tired of them.
post #2 of 28
I consider REI a "medium box" retailer. : They must be doing something right, they've been around for about 70 years. Of course, over the years they've gone the route of other "outfitters" like EMS, Cabela's, and LL Bean by expanding beyond their original core products to bring in more customers.

My personal experiences with their retail stores in Seattle, Portland, and Boston have all been positive. The employees I've dealt with have all had great customer-oriented attitudes. As for product knowledge, I can't comment because I usually don't ask many questions. I try to do my research prior to hitting the stores.
post #3 of 28
REI is a great company, always rated as one of the best to work for and one of the highest in customer loyalty. Their return policy is criminally forgiving.

I went to college in Seattle and remember shopping at the original REI on Capital Hill (now closed). The history of REI is a big part of mountaineering/skiing culture in the PNW. Eddie Bauer was one of the charter members.

Their employees *should* do the sports/activities that they represent. That's the idea. But, I wouldn't buy crampons form the REI in Madison, WI, but I would from the one in Seattle, if you know what I mean.

But, yes, they have expanded in a big way. Yet, I still feel it is a great place to buy hiking/climbing/camping gear. Their skiing selection is not so great. But if they have what you want, why not get it there?
post #4 of 28
My first backpack was purchased at REI at their E.Pike store in Seattle in the mid 60's.. At that time it was their only one. I believe it was a Trapper John. It was fitted to me by Jim Whittaker.The first American to summit Mt Everest.
I think he was knowledgeable enough to fit a pack on a Boy Scout for his first hike.
The stores have grown and not all the employees can possibly be as knowledgeable as Jim was but everytime I go there and need good information there is a saleperson available that has a high level of understanding of what I am looking at or for. They will put the best person in front of you if the one you talk to isn't as well versed as another might be.
I have been a member since the early 70's and go there often for my outdoor needs. I would recommend them to anyone.
post #5 of 28
REI only sells skis as a side note. They are first and foremost an outdoors enthusiast's store. Your premise is like saying Safeway is out to destroy the local deli, because they offer custom sandwiches for sale.
post #6 of 28

rei-COOP

I paid $5 for a membership to receive a dividend on a $75 cross country ski set, mail order, and still occaisionaly have fun on them when the snow strikes close to home.
It's a little while and membership # had to be brought back to life for some purchases this century. But they were happy to do it.
I feel that they might have expanded although they haven't become a conglomerate they followed a unique business model and aren't selling their brand anywhere else and I might to gravitate to something of their label since it has maybe their stamp of approval on it. Otherwise be normal and find the right price and spread your business to others, as you see fit. v.varmit
post #7 of 28
REI stores are as good as the people at the many locations, and the equipment provided for retail sale. The local REI in Folsom, CA has an exceptional tech staff. They have mounted downhill and AT bindings for me, have well trained individuals and templates for most bindings.

Locally, the sales people have good knowledge of the equipment they sell and can help you make good choices. They are skiers, bikers, hikers and know what they are talking about. To their credit, they tried to recruit me for part time sales, but i make a better living elsewhere. IMO the REI prices are not the lowest you can find, but they have an excellent return policy and customer support. You can buy online and have it delivered to the store with no shipping costs. The equipment they carry tends to be mainstream, and i have not seen skis or boots there that i am interested in buying. Sierra Ski, Snowboard and Patio has nothing to worry about. OTOH, Sundance Ski and Sports in 'Folsom has turned out the lights. I appreciate the choice and like having REI within 5 miles from home. That said, my purchases have been minimal over the past year.
post #8 of 28
I often shop REI, but it's not quite the same as it used to be years ago. I can use my fathers membeship number since it has the same mailing address as mine, so I usually do. His number is 427...
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisc View Post
sometimes I think Target employees might know more about crampons, bindings or Gore-Tex XCR.

I'm getting a little tired of them.
well I don't go to REI to research what I want. I go there looking for something once I allready know exactly what I want.

I mean, do you really do all your research at any store? You think the person trying to sell you the gear is going to be the best source for unbiased info?
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterK View Post
... but it's not quite the same as it used to be years ago.
You sir speak truth. I remember a trip to REI as a teen (Janzten Beach Store was a trek from SW PDX) would raise the stoke meter. Then they put in the Tualatin store which was 5 min from home. I went hiking with some employees, hung out in the parking lot after oogling gear for hours....but it just seems more like vanilla ice cream to me these days. As a skier I'm sorely dissapointed in the lack of ski selection. They may have drifted from thier core customer but I wonder too if the core customer has also drifted from being "core"?
post #11 of 28
Part of the problem when you get that big, the talent pool gets thinned out.
post #12 of 28

Not really a ski shop...

REI seems to tailor their stores to the area. My local REI in Conshohocken (near Philadelphia) has alternated between carrying and not carrying alpine and real telemark skis. They have always had a selection of XC and "lite" telemark gear. I am not sure there is enough demand for ski, telemark and snowboard gear for them to make it worth their while. On the other hand, I can recall renting good telemark gear from the REI in Salt Lake City when I was out there.

However, I see the same faces there year after year, and have had very good experiences getting hiking boots fitted there, so I would say that they have have not degenerated to a "big box" store. They compete just about head-on with EMS.

If nothing else, the garage sales set them apart from other retailers.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan from Pa View Post
REI seems to tailor their stores to the area. My local REI in Conshohocken (near Philadelphia) has alternated between carrying and not carrying alpine and real telemark skis.
Stan, I was just in there yesterday, I heard a bit of the "overview" that a new trainee was given...scary.
post #14 of 28
the local REI in the burgh has been pretty damn good with customer service IMO. But then again I have alittle more knowledge than average yahoo in pittsburgh about this stuff.
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post
REI stores are as good as the people at the many locations, and the equipment provided for retail sale. The local REI in Folsom, CA has an exceptional tech staff. They have mounted downhill and AT bindings for me, have well trained individuals and templates for most bindings.
I concur with that about the Folsom REI. Always had good work done on my skis that i've taken there. That being said, I have an unmounted pair of Lotus 138's coming in December (warranty issue) and I'm doubtful i'll have one of their guys freehand the mount. We'll see...apparently there's a guy there named Doug who can possibly do it, but I have to talk with him first.


Quote:
OTOH, Sundance Ski and Sports in 'Folsom has turned out the lights. I appreciate the choice and like having REI within 5 miles from home.
I'm not surprised Sundance closed. and I don't think its a result of REI opening (not that you're saying that), but i was in there once, was thoroughly unimpressed, and walked out saying to myself "there's no way they'll stick around."
post #16 of 28
Quote:
I mean, do you really do all your research at any store? You think the person trying to sell you the gear is going to be the best source for unbiased info?
Yes at the REI stores I've been in. The employees are more help-oriented than sales-oriented. Of course, they get many sales from folks who appreciate the help.

Agreed, not the lowest prices. A few stores have lower prices, better selection, AND equally knowledgeable help.


Ken
post #17 of 28
REI is slowly becoming nothing more than a clothing store. Even the REI employees will tell you that. Most of the Berkeley store seems to be dedicated to $200 and up clothing.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastbay View Post
REI is slowly becoming nothing more than a clothing store. Even the REI employees will tell you that. Most of the Berkeley store seems to be dedicated to $200 and up clothing.
It's true that they used to have little in the way of clothing (I've been a member since 1967) but it really must depend on the local market. The small store here in Bellingham has mostly gear with maybe 40% or less of the floor space dedicated to clothing. Thier flagship Seattle store is different, though.

As an aside, I really appreciate that the new Seattle store still smells of creosote when you enter, just like the old one. It makes me feel more at home.
post #19 of 28
The stores do differ from place to place. Of the REI stores I've been to, the ones in the PNW are head and shoulders above the rest both in terms of gear in stock and the experience and knowledge base of the employees.

That said, I wouldn't go to REI for skis, unless I wanted some basic tele gear or some basic XC touring stuff. For higher end tele, AT, or XC stuff, I would look elsewhere.

But, REI, as a climbing, camping, hiking, backpacking, and outdoor gadget store, it is still second to none.
post #20 of 28

Santa Monica Store?

Seems like most of the customers in the newest Los Angeles are posers buying their fleeces for fit, not function.

It's nice to look "outdoorsy" when you have a Sunday off from the big firm.

I don't have experience either way with REI here, since I'm a price-based shopper. I've saved so much money from www.steepandcheap.com and www.sierratradingpost.com over the years over REI and REI outlet that it's not even funny.

The other local small competitor (one store, medium size) is Adventure 16, and their employees for the most part are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and passionate about gear. I buy things I need fit help with (hiking boots, for example), there.
post #21 of 28
I agree the NW Core stores are better (Seattle, etc)....but now every Exurb has the REI-BedBath-Target-Barnes&Noble mall off I-80/I-95/I-whatever interchange. I feel these stores diminish the brand. And the experience too.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by LAXtoDartmouth View Post
Seems like most of the customers in the newest Los Angeles are posers buying their fleeces for fit, not function.
Yeah dumb posers.... who the hell buys a piece of clothing cause it fits, anyway?
post #23 of 28
Yeah ME 2 KIMMYT-----------I REALLY LIKE HIP HOP ski style clothes tongue in cheek

I just adore the flapping sound when you rip down a slope
post #24 of 28
thought that that only happens to chronics that forgot to do something after visiting the head or slopeside wind checks.: pipe down, I tell myself, this is awful. and it probably should be directed to some other sub-message board for the lack of integrity. v.varmit .,+=^/\. not soon enough.
post #25 of 28
I wouldn't exactly call their prices very good. There are other internet stores that are much cheaper.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by wasatchskier View Post
I wouldn't exactly call their prices very good. There are other internet stores that are much cheaper.
REI Outlet offers some hot deals sometimes. I have seen some items that only S&C has beat in price.
post #27 of 28
I like stopping in the store occasionally to see if they have any bargains -- when the stuff goes on sale, it can be pretty deeply discounted. Some prices I have seen/taken advantage of: Marmot Ultimate glove, $105; Marmot Randonee glove, $70; Volkl motion g20-20 skis with integrated bindings, $300 (orinally $750), Scott Worldcup poles, $20 -- all new, and many other deals over the years.
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SNPete View Post
REI only sells skis as a side note. They are first and foremost an outdoors enthusiast's store. Your premise is like saying Safeway is out to destroy the local deli, because they offer custom sandwiches for sale.
Damn Safeway, and their anti-local-deli agenda!!! :
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