Jul 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm #1319358
I just returned from the closest REI to my home. I have been a member for about 40 years, and have returned something only one time before, when it had failed. Today, I brought in three items that I considered to have manufacturing defects above normal wear and tear, but was rejected on all three items.
First, a pair of REI branded hiking shorts, which I have had for about 2 years, but which had the zipper break after about a year. A nylon zipper with a metal pull. The metal pull had cracked in half, leaving the zipper useless. The pants had very little wear and were in very nice condition. I was told this was normal wear and tear and not covered. Fine
Second, a pair of REI branded multi section carbon fiber hiking poles made by Komperdell. I have had these for seven years. Recently, I noticed they would not tighten at one joint. The twist-lock locking mechanism had come un-bonded from the carbon fiber pole. I was told this was normal wear and tear and was not an acceptable return. The manager who I ended up arguing with told me with a slight smirk that if they were his, he would just epoxy it back together. Didn't matter that I tried to explain how difficult it is to bond plastic and carbon fiber
Thirdly, I have a pair of REI branded binoculars. I bought these about 20 years ago but they have almost never been used and are in excellent condition except the rubberized coating on the body of the binoculars has recently started to "melt". It is a black sticky goo now, very sticky and comes off on my hands when holding them. It also picks up anything that touches it and is tearing up the foam on the inside of the case. Sorry, normal wear and tear, to be expected.
Now, I realize they have tightened up their return policy, especially when it comes to being merely dissatisfied with a product. But when I buy something with a lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship, I expect that to mean for the lifetime of the product, for as long as I own it. None of these items were misused, or worn out, they just failed under normal use. As far as I can tell, REI doesn't warranty anything for life anymore, even though their policy still states "If your item has a manufacturing defect in its materials or workmanship, you can return it at any time." Any problem you may have after a while will always be defined as normal wear and tear. As all of these items are REI branded, I don't have the option of dealing with the manufacturer.
I don't buy much from these people anymore, maybe some socks or a shirt, a head lamp and such. But I believe I will be buying even less in the future, unless I have no other options.Jul 28, 2014 at 3:58 pm #2122992
…Jul 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm #2122993
@philip-akLocale: Kodiak Alaska
I returned a set of hiking poles where the locking mechanism actually ate through the shaft of the pole to the point where the pole section snapped. I bought them a few months BEFORE the new return policy went into effect, but returned them over a year after the purchase date (say, 14 months) when the new return policy was in effect. They took them back no problem.
I figure things bought before the new 1-year return policy should be grandfathered in with the lifetime guarantee since that return policy was part of the purchase agreement between the merchant and the buyer at the time of the sale. Does that apply to 20-year-old binoculars? Well, it should.
I have no idea if there is a firm set of rules handed down from on high at REI on how to handle this stuff. I assume there is, or there should be. You can try popping the binocs in the mail to REI mailorder and see if you get a different result there. That's where my poles went.
Good luck.Jul 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm #2122994
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"If your item has a manufacturing defect in its materials or workmanship, you can return it at any time."
Absolutely. Except that doesn't mean that REI is going to do anything about it.
–B.G.–Jul 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm #2122996
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
It is my understanding from talking with REI employees that anything bought before the policy change to 1 year no questions asked returns will be covered under the old rules… I think the people you talked to were misinformed. You should talk to the manager… If that doesn't do it, then call REI corporate.
BillyJul 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm #2122997
I recently encountered a manager at the Arcadia REI store who insisted that the warranty on defects in materials or workmanship was only good for one year. I showed him the policy on the website and he insisted that "at any time" actually meant "at any time within one year." Absolutely ridiculous.
I called corporate just afterwards and they confirmed that they do still have a lifetime warranty on defects and offered to send me a prepaid label so I could return my item to them. So that's nice, but it's ridiculous that a manager at their store doesn't even know the policy, nor was he open to correction by a plain-text reading of their webpage.Jul 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm #2123004
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I have also heard that anything bought before the 1 year rule change is covered under the old unlimited warranty. You should be able to get them returned one way or the other. It sounds like your local REI has bad management. Call the REI corporate/headquarters/whatever and ask about this.
When you bought the items, you had a guarantee at purchase and they owe you a refund.Jul 28, 2014 at 4:54 pm #2123007
I am venting of course, but also would love to hear what others have to say, their experiences, and also feel that this is my only way of poking REI in the eye.
If you think I am out of line, I would like to hear about it.(not being snotty here, promise I won't be bitter)Jul 28, 2014 at 5:01 pm #2123011
The pants definitely should be replaced based on your description. The trekking poles may be a borderline case, but I would expect them to replace them.
The binoculars are a stretch. Rubberized finishes get like that after 20 years, it's completely normal and not really a "defect" to my mind. For what it's worth, try wiping them down thoroughly with some rubbing alcohol. Sometimes that removes the petroleum-based film that's developed on the surface.Jul 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm #2123046
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
"I am venting of course, but also would love to hear what others have to say…"
Pants: You have a case.
Poles: You have some nerve.
Optics: You can sleep nights?Jul 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm #2123052
My opinion and interpretation of the REI policy:
Shorts – I'm with the store on this one but I see your point.
Poles – I'm 50/50 on this one. I know the abuse I put my poles through so for me, I'd probably be happy they've put up with my shenanigans for so long. Your experience may vary but with the beating poles take in general, I can see an argument being made that your usage damaged the poles. Of course if I were to see them, I may argue it your way. Dunno.
Binos – I'm with you on this one. Absent you dumping a bottle of Deet on them or dropping them down a flight of stairs, binos, IMO, should be a lifetime investment. I've paid more at REI over the years because of their return policy. They've reaped the benefit from the policy over the years and have opened stores when competitors closed their doors so in my mind they should stand behind the plain text of their policy from when they sold them to you.
It sounds like their manager is a bad apple. Contact corporate HQ and I expect you'll get a different response.Jul 28, 2014 at 7:53 pm #2123058
"but it's ridiculous that a manager at their store doesn't even know the policy, nor was he open to correction by a plain-text reading of their webpage."
In a corporation the size of REI, somewhere there is a spreadsheet that ranks the stores on a variety of factors, including returns as a percent of gross sales. And the managers know it.
(Yep, I'm only speculating. And a cynic.)Jul 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm #2123070
Everyone makes valid points. As far as the poles go, my feeling is that of all the places where they may fail due to my use/misuse, failure at the area where they bonded the two pieces together is not one that should be blamed on me. Nothing cracked, or was bent or busted. The spot where the locking mechanism bonds inside the top of the carbon fiber pole section is not one that takes much stress, other than the forces used to tighten the twist lock. I call that a manufacturing or design flaw, but not everyone sees it that way. And when I bought them, I felt they promised me they would replace them in cases such as that.Jul 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm #2123071
@klagsLocale: Northeast US
…And the winner is Todd for the best post I've read in weeks! Agreed, wholeheartedly.
Although… what the REI corporate policy says should be honored. Somewhere it will say online in plain writing, and corporate will know to correct managers on the details – even if you do have to call them out on your own. No company is perfect!Jul 28, 2014 at 9:24 pm #2123077
In my opinion, returning the poles and binoculars tells me more about you than it does about REI and their return policy.Jul 28, 2014 at 10:04 pm #2123085
Well, thank you very much, wiiawiwb wiiawiwb. I am not generally a confrontational, demanding, person and I wasn't today. But, they did come with a lifetime warranty. I believe if I had asked about the possibility of these problems occurring to these products when I purchased them, I would have been assured by REI that their lifetime warranty would cover such issues, but maybe I am wrong. I just went in and inquired about it, but did not rant and rave to them at their refusal to honor the warranty.
None of my items were abused. In fact, while they all have some years to them, they are all in very nice, low milage condition. Anyway, I see there is a bit of a split decision regarding the matter here on the forum.Jul 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm #2123089
Don't take any of this personally. Each and every time the REI return policy comes up, the thread quickly devolves into a silly shame fest where the mere act of returning an item becomes an unforgivable sin requiring the offender to wear a yoke of shame until another witch is burned at the stake for burying toilet paper or whatever.
Some of this is pent up ire all of us have from perusing shoes worn to the midsole at REI yard sales and worse. Your claims seem reasonable in comparison to the actual items I've seen REI take back.Jul 28, 2014 at 10:46 pm #2123092
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I don't see any of your attempted returns as being unreasonable, seeing as how they were all bought before the policy change. I'm fine with your strategy. Individually, I'd rank them:
binocs: solid (they didn't know it would go to goo in 20 years, but neither did you (the member) and it was during the "lifetime guarantee" period,
CF poles: iffier.
OTEPOH: Your tactics, however, weren't the best. To bring in three items, of very disparate vintages, at one time, were I the manager, would strike me as odd. I might wonder, "Three REI-branded items, used to very used, . . . did this guy pick these up at thrift stores or garage sales?" or, "Dude needs to make rent or bail and is trying to raise cash however he can.", etc.
Now, I'll do the same thing at Home Depot – save up return items from multiple purchases until I have a pile of them – but I do have receipts for everything and it was all within 6 months of purchase.
HD has black&white policies about how long it has been, and if you have the receipt as to wether you can get a refund or not, replacement or not. And it isn't a human interpreting the policy, the computer system does so after your receipt and/or the item's UPC has been scanned. It seems that REI is relying on their local personnel too much to make judgement calls. And in your case, they weren't even up on REI policy.
What if you take ONE item at a time into a different REI when you're next passing by one? I suspect you'd be more successful.Jul 28, 2014 at 11:57 pm #2123102
…Jul 29, 2014 at 4:29 am #2123111
Toccs….I never said, nor implied, you went in and ranted and raved but for some reason you're defending that action.
There is a difference between normal wear and tear and product defect but to the unreasonable, there is no such thing as normal wear and tear. Everything only exists in the domain of a defect.
Give me my damn money back. So what that your product broke down after years and years and years of systematic use. I bought this tent from your store that I've lived in for the last twelve years and, darn it, the zipper broke. Give me a new tent and make it snappy!
While these are all bits of exaggeration they happen everyday to retailers who genuinely try to satisfy customers. In my opinion, if anyone has to ask themselves whether it is the right moral thing to do to bring an item back for warranty has already answered their own question.Jul 29, 2014 at 5:14 am #2123114
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
If an item has provided a reasonable lifespan, I'd be loathe to return it. If it failed almost out of the box or off the showroom floor a return is in order.
Complicating this is a lifetime guarantee. Osprey backed theirs up with a repair to some wheeled luggage I got for winter, adding some recent design to it. However, another company decided not to honor a warranty after being bought out – so not buying that companies wares anymore and sold the pack as "not in working order" on eBay likely to some tinkerer.
Brings up another point on the business philosophy angle, …that is eBay and gear swap are available (probably not for decades old damaged items but you never know*). While being tougher on returns helps the bottom line, if that gear ends up on gear swap or eBay, it will lower the top-line with a loss of data on why the customer was dissatisfied without feedback given to the manufacturer. Using a item for decades is likely irrelevant but knowing there's a (for example) sizing issue may let the manufacturer change labels or the design itself.
*if anyone goes this route, make sure you are offering complete set as per the description – I kind of hate consigning something to the landfill and if damaged (but clean), offer it up auction style to see if someone can make a go of it. On gear swap, I only sell close to "new"Jul 29, 2014 at 7:18 am #2123135
What was impressive is that they had my complete purchase history in their system at least as far back as 1990, although I never got to see the screen. I don't know why they bothered looking, though, as they knew they weren't going to exchange anything as soon as we started talking. I also had been unaware of their new policy, which was how they explained why they wouldn't do anything for me. Not that these issues wouldn't be covered under the old policy, but that they now had a new policy. Perhaps the crux of the biscuit here is how lightly used these items were. As I have said, I have been a member of REI for about 40 years, and had only returned one other item. That was a set of the same type of carbon fiber poles. I had them for about 2 years or less when they failed in the same way. When I brought them back that time, they were replaced without question. These poles, while older, had less miles on them, probably only 100 miles or so. The pants I only wore twice before the zipper broke, and they look just about new. The binoculars, well, they are old but they spent most of their lives in a drawer or a closet.
Anyway, I may try and put in a new zipper on the pants, although I have plenty of others. These have been sitting on a shelf for 1 1/2 years as I kept telling myself I need to take them back. I may try and re-bond the broken pole, though I am hesitant to use it on my upcoming trip. I will be out for 4 weeks, above tree line a lot of the time and the poles are used to hold up my tarp; it would be inconvenient if the repair failed. I have plenty of other poles. I have tried removing the goo on the binoculars with naphtha, lacquer thinner and acetone, but none of those solvents seem to want to touch it. They are pretty much unusable in their current state, or at least very unpleasant. I almost never use these things so they really won't be missed. I will keep trying to find something that will clean off the mess.
On the other hand, it does seem like it is going to nice a nice day today, albeit a little warm.Jul 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm #2123478
The poles and binoculars just don't seem right to me. 20 years????
While I understand the vebiage on the warranty says "any time" a reasonable person would not interpret that to be 20 years later.Jul 30, 2014 at 1:58 pm #2123486
Binos don't seem like something that should spontaneously dissolve even after 50 years but ybmv….Jul 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm #2123547
Where the binoculars were stored may be the cause of the rubber coating failing. Garage? Too hot.
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