REI tightens up lenient return policy to 1 year

by: John Knicely Updated:

SEATTLE, Wash. - REI is known for its outdoor gear and its promise of 100 percent customer satisfaction.  Part of that promise included a return policy with no timeline and few questions asked.  But on Tuesday the retail company changed its legendary return policy to one year.

The Kent-based company’s full name is Recreational Equipment Inc., but grew to be known as “Return Everything Inc.,” because of its lenient policy.  A company spokesperson told KIRO 7 they have “a small growing number of customers who stretch the policy beyond its original intent.”

The stories can be found all over the Internet.  A woman who said she was a former REI employee told examiner.com that a man once returned a tent 12 years after he bought it.  Another person bragged online that they could wear out their boots and keep returning them for new ones, forever.

“I'm frankly shocked as a co-op member that they'd take back merchandise that you knew wasn't defective,” said Valerie Jusela at the Seattle REI store Tuesday.  “So I think it's a better plan.”

At the same store,  Linh Nguyen put the policy to the test with work boots he bought over the winter.  He showed KIRO 7 a slight tear in one of the boots and said he expected them to last longer. 

“It started to rip, you see that,” said Nguyen as he showed us the boots.  Sure enough REI gave them his money back even after months of use.  He says he would’ve understood if REI didn’t take them back and says he supports the new policy.

“I think I do respect their decision to do that,” said Nguyen.  “There's got to be limits.”

An REI corporate spokesperson couldn't tell KIRO 7 how much they expect this new policy to save them.  But she said losses from the old policy affected profitability enough they needed to change it.

All purchases before Tuesday are grandfathered into the old policy, and all products will still be covered 100% from defects beyond a year.

There are also changes to returns for REI-Outlet.  That policy is now 30 days.