REI announced that effective yesterday, June 4, it is overhauling its return policy, which previously allowed customers to return any item for any reason for an unlimited time. The new policy allows customers to return items purchased in store within one year of purchase. Additionally, the store will limit returns of items purchased at REI.com/outlet to 30 days.
The policy also will no longer cover items damaged by the user in the course of normal use – putting REI, which had a “no questions asked policy” that led to the store’s nickname of “Return Everything Inc.,” in line with standard return policies across other action and outdoor retailers.
The update comes on the tail of a less than stellar year for Recrecational Equipment Inc., which is based in Kent, Washington, in 2013. While sales were up 7% to $1.9 billion, profits dropped 4 percent to $29 million. During its analysis, the retailer noticed a sharp rise in the return of merchandise that had been sold more than a year ago.
"We've always taken back products more than a year old, but to see that growing disproportionately caused us to ask some questions," Spangler said in an interview last week at REI's Tacoma store with the Seattle Times.
"What we found is that small group of folks who are probably extending the policy beyond its intent, is getting bigger. And It's not a sustainable thing long-term if we want to maintain this fantastic policy," he said in the interview. "It's something we have to put some clarification around."
The policy also raised the ire of retailers as it made it nearly impossible to compete with REI amongst customers familiar with the policy and willing to take advantage of it and use it essentially as a free loaner program for gear, or to buy a single item and trade it in for a new model season after season. Some competitors were going so far as promoting REI’s return policy to boost returns.
Before the change, the policy read:
We stand behind everything we sell. If at any time your REI purchase doesn't meet your expectations, you can return it for a replacement or refund. What's more, if you're an REI member, you don't even need a receipt—we'll have a record of your purchase.
While REI still backs its return policy with the mantra “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed,” the new policy reads:
We stand behind everything we sell. If you are not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund. Items must be returned within a year of purchase, except items purchased from REI-OUTLET which must be returned within 30 days of purchase.
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. See our limited warranty.