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REI to shut on Black Friday to have employees go outside (rei.com)
367 points by iamchmod on Oct 26, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 142 comments

For those who don't know, this fits really well into everything REI stands for. They are a Coop where you can join and as a shareholder a customer can make back a percentage of what they purchase. Both them, the products by vendors sold in their store and their competitors (LLBean, Patagonia) pride themselves on reuse by offering many loose warranties, these are often lifetime warranties.

As someone whose father worked retail for 30 years, and working several Black Fridays myself, I can't say I wasn't moved.

Are they really a co-op any more, or has the organization been co-opted by executives?

Members can vote for board members, but only after they have been approved by the "Nominating and Governance Committee". Executive pay is also not disclosed.

REI used to offer a lifetime guarantee on every product they sold. Sadly, this was abused by many people which I believe left no other option than to limit it. This used to make up for paying full retail for everything. Backcountry.com soon followed suite by reducing their warranty accordingly.

As a climber, I've noticed their selection in that department has dwindled quite dramatically over the years.

Maybe these things aren't practical in today's world. For me, they are slowly transitioning from an amazing store I would plug every chance I got, to just another retailer.

If you're ever in Canada, be sure to check out MEC. They still have a lifetime guarantee and their house brand is top-notch and of exceptional value.

I was told by an REI employee that a large motivator for the change in return policy was the 2008 financial crisis. She mentioned a lot of people were returning decades old equipment. I personally feel a year is more than fair, and I have absolutely no reason to demand more from them in that regard.

From my view, the lifetime guarantee meant that REI's incentives were aligned with mine: stock only the highest quality items and have an extremely knowledgable staff to access my needs and pair me with said products.

I've had a couple instances were a product failed well outside of 1 year. I could have warrantied through the manufacturer, but REI handled it for me and I had a replacement in 5 minutes. That outstanding service is no longer.

No piece of equipment will last forever, though, and that lifetime guarantee wasn't sustainable.

Sure, if I take care of my boots they last a while. Should I get my money back or have them resoled for free if the glue fails 2x or 3x after the manufacturer said it was guaranteed? Probably not. If the DWR on my rain jacket can't be refreshed, or a plastic connector on an extendable hiking stick fails after a thousand miles in the mountains?

A year feels like a big change from "forever". Maybe 2 or 3 would have made a better headline, but again you've got people that will have learned about the program (I've been a member since 2003 and never knew about the lifetime guarantee...) and will pick stuff up with the express purpose of beating it up then getting it replaced or returned. That's not good to me as a co-op member, either, because it puts pressure on the company to raise prices to cover the cost of returns and repairs.

> No piece of equipment will last forever, though, and that lifetime guarantee wasn't sustainable.

Not in theory, but it was sustainable if it was really just a mutual contract of quality transactions.

The majority of REI members wouldn't have returned a worn out pair of boots, I suspect. But then the economy crashed. :/

Yeah... unfortunately they should have / have to build their business around those sorts of situations.

There are some products where a return period of greater than 1 year makes sense: Seasonal equipment that you can't use regularly. You may buy a snowboard or similar equipment, use it once, and then put it away until next season.

If on the second use (greater than 12 months later) they break, it would be nice to be able to return the equipment for being defective.

MEC is undergoing the same sort of changes, and becoming more of a regular big box retailer. It's distancing itself from its traditional backcountry outdoors focus and embracing urban recreation, such as running, cycling and yoga.

There's a good recent article about it here:


Presumably the members (coperators) elect this governance board?

Beyond a certain size you have to have some element of representative democracy in a coop.

They are not the cheapest for camping equipment, etc... But on the other hand you get a generous warranty so that many times this ends up cheaper than buying from the places which essentially are "final sale" outfits.

So, in the long run, they can be cheaper and the staff are more knowledgeable than average (for retail) about the things they sell. That means they hire enthusiasts (hikers, campers, cyclists, etc., and not random JC student who do not care much about what they sell.

As an aside, one of the few stores that I miss from Europe in the US is Decathlon. They're a cut above the really low-end discount outdoor stuff places in the US - in some ways nearly on par with REI's store brand, but a bit cheaper. It's a great place to get cheap "pretty good" stuff for sports/activities you aren't that serious about. If you find you're really into something, you can always move on to more expensive, higher quality gear at a more specialized retailer.

Go to any campground in France and nearly 90% of the tents are Decathalon. Kind of like Walmart for sporting goods: reasonable quality a wide breadth (but narrow depth) of products and a great place to get gear for everyday-level outdoor activities. On Mont Blanc and the surrounding massif, you typically don't see as much Decathlon stuff however everywhere else, it's ubiquitous. I do like the store about as much as I like Target in the US. I buy some gear from REI on occasion, but it seems like the stores tend to lack the depth for serious gear purchases. For example, it was nearly impossible for me to find high altitude mountain boots. They suggested I order online and return them if they don't fit, however with mountain boots, your life (and toes) depend on a perfect fit, which often requires a knowledgable salesperson. That's where REI could (and used to) win, however their selection now just seems like a greatest hits collection of weekend warrior gear; not much I can do in an REI that can't more easily be done at a proper genre-specific shop.

If anyone is ever in Chanonix, the place to go is Snell Sports; three generations of the owner's family has ran the place and they literally have almost any piece of gear to take your from the Alps to K2. If you're a non EU resident you can even get the tax refunded. Snell is my model for what REI could have been. Instead REI is really just a Walmart for the Starbucks crowd. Admittedly, I do like REI and am a member, but it's really a shadow of what it could be.

Some of Decathlon stuff is excellent, especially their backpacks. When my Osprey day bag had worn through, I nearly bought another for ~£40 but then thought I'd try a £10 bag from Decathlon.

I absolutely can't fault the quality of it. As an added bonus, it seems to be waterproof even though this wasn't advertised.

Thank you for the recommendation, I'll give Decathlon a try. They have a store a few miles from me but I have never visited as their advertising brochures never appealed to me: nowhere do they mention the quality of their items, just very low prices that made me suspicious.

I'm a club member here in NYC. Their store is beautiful, a wonderland for someone interested in outdoor activities (I get those feelings in bookstores, craft and building stores, and electronics stores as well). I was really happy to see this. My Mom always feels awful for black friday workers so it's a bit ingrained in me to feel bad when people are working when they could (should) have the opportunity to be enjoying holidays with family and friends.

Good for them. I'm old enough so that I've been to enough Black Friday sales that I know nothing but shit is offered. I don't even leave the house on Black Friday simply because it's such a pain to go anywhere. I'd rather pay extra and avoid the lines, so good on REI for hopefully starting a trend that rolls back Black Friday a little.

Why stay in? The parks are empty! Personally, I go surfing.

You'd be surprised a lot of outdoor people go do things the day after thanksgiving because they have off. Last year I went trout fishing and it was unexpectedly crowded.

And also a lot of times they're with groups of family and friends they don't get to see every day or weekend.

In the united states more people travel further over the thanksgiving holiday than Christmas.

Last year we did Mt Whitney via the mountaineer's route. This year I'm doing Williamson and Tyndall.

As a non American.. it really confuses the heck out of me that Black Friday sales are starting on the preceding Thursday at like 6pm in some cases.

As an American, it confuses the heck out of me, too.

I sometimes think of the "retail ruining of Thanksgiving" as a pretty good argument against libertarianism. That is, if government mandated that stores can't open on Thanksgiving, pretty much EVERYONE benefits: stores don't really WANT to open early, they just want to open before their competitors. A mandated open time prevents the "race to the bottom... of Thanksgiving morning". Similarly, bargain hunters don't want to miss out on Thanksgiving either - they just want to get the best deals.

Merchants and consumers voluntarily doing something on or around a holiday you personally revere is definitely not an argument against libertarianism. Your "pretty much EVERYONE benefits" line is though, since libertarianism is very much concerned with individual rights over majority rule.

Keep in mind that some people not only like to stretch their dollar, but they don't have the luxury of shopping online, or when the malls are open. Not everyone works 9-5 on weekdays. Not everyone owns a computer, has broadband, or is computer savvy. And not everyone saves their "thanks" and family time for the last Thursday in November (some people actually bond during Black Friday shopping!). Majority opinion, thank God, is not how we run this country.

Keep in mind that stores employ people, and those employees don't often get a say in whether they work black friday or not (not if they want to stay very long at that store).

Ultimately, that's why I kind of finally got on board with the fact that most stores (and even restaurants) are closed on Sundays in France - especially since the rule on whether a store can be open on Sunday is that the owner of the store needs to be present during all business hours.

That law around the owner having to be present is a wonderful way of giving flexibility on opening hours, while making the person in power seriously consider the trade offs. I'm curious though, how does that work for chains such as Starbucks where I'm sure they don't mandate the CEO personally attend every branch.

Of course they get a say. No one is holding a gun to their head. Yeah, they might not stay at that store, but in a tight labor market, there's another workplace that would have a position that would fit their schedule or their life-work balance better.

But you need to trade your precious time and effort to get paid. Mandating that there should be no trade on the nth day of the week/month/year, days that were arbitrarily set by a bunch of dead white guys trying to appease their subjects or gods is just mind boggling to me. That should definitely not be a basis for a one-size-fits-all rule for people in vastly different circumstances who wish (often need) to trade or not trade.

How are they defining ownership? If someone takes out a mortgage on their store do they have to get the bank manager down there whenever they're open? Can a big firm nominate some putz to be the owner of record?

No on either, from my knowledge. Local towns also have stricter ownership laws and less franchises.

The point is that the two are economically equivalent.

I think it's an excellent argument FOR libertarianism. If something as minor as you being confused by stores not following your preconceptions about Black Friday (which is a completely artificial concept, and not invented by you either) is considered enough for government intervention and prohibiting people to shop when they want and store owners to open when they want - it definitely looks like an argument for not giving you (or anyone) a power to actually have such influence. The bar is just way too low. If people are unable to distinguish between their personal confusion and a serious problem that requires government to intervene, then limiting the access to government intervention as much as possible, at least until people are mature enough to distinguish between serious issues and their personal quirks, looks like a very prudent idea. The alternative would be a random hodgepodge of weird laws and bylaws, composed of somebody's personal quirks, by now long forgotten, which summarily is bad for everyone but not dismissed because everyone wants their chance to implement their own quirks. Which of course no country would want to happen to them... oh wait...

There are plenty of countries in the world that prevent stores from opening on specific days or times, and it's not exactly like these countries are backward cesspools of government oppression.

I went Black Friday shopping a few years ago when midnight was the earliest opening. We got some good deals, and it was fun, but I don't like that I'm partly to blame for making all those employees work on Thanksgiving.

We don't have nearly enough national holidays in the U.S., and I don't want to take this one away from anyone.

I really don't get some public holidays either. Here in Victoria, Australia, they introduced a new public holiday this year the day before a sporting event to celebrate that sporting event (the AFL grand final). It's official name is - I kid you not "Friday before the AFL Grand Final"

It is incredibly bizarre.

It's one of those things where the starting line just keeps moving forward. I remember several years ago when people were lamenting how the day after Halloween was when stores immediately started stocking Christmas supplies and decorations. Now Halloween isn't even the starting point.

I suspect that this somewhat has to do with the decline in retail dollars and the higher-ups are milking whatever they can get their hands on to keep sales going.

Back 15 years ago or so, when I was in college, a friend and I went by Best Buy and Circuit City to get really cheap spindles of CDs. The CDs were junky, but they didn't need to be great. Right after college, I worked Black Friday at Best Buy and we had some really junky DVD players for $35 or so. Hell, we got two full trucks the night before Thanksgiving at our small store and we had them stacked so high in the warehouse that the stacks eventually collapsed and we were just throwing them onto huge piles. They're packed pretty well, but I can't guarantee that we didn't break any of those junky players any worse than they already were.

However, a few years ago (2009), my wife and I went out late Thanksgiving night for a midnight Toys R Us opening… then Old Navy… then Walmart… then Kmart. It was certainly crazy, but we saved around $300. We got video games, Lego sets and toys. All of it was stuff we wanted, and none of it was junk.

Would I do it again? With the perspective of how it interrupts Thanksgiving for all those employees, I think probably not. I'd be part of the problem. But it definitely paid off at the time.

Sort of aside— you don't have to drop your turkey leg and rush out the door on Thanksgiving to get in line to get good deals. Ignore the doorbusters and drop by the stores anytime later in the day. There's lots of other good stuff that's legitimately on sale that's still there all day. Costco doesn't even open early on Black Friday, and their sales go through the weekend.

How much did you spend to save $300?

We were shopping for a December birthday and Christmas, so I'd guess somewhere around $600. In my $300 number, I'm also including a copy of Lego Rock Band for Xbox 360 that Old Navy was giving out for free just by being one of the first 100 or so people in the door and making a purchase, so that inflates it a bit.

That's actually an interesting story. Old Navy was #2 on our list of stores, I think a 3 a.m. opening. The line wasn't all that bad—everybody lined up along the front of the store. Around maybe 2:50, a bunch of people started showing up, waiting just in the parking lot in front of the store. As soon as they opened the doors, these people tried to rush the store and skip the line, pushing the people who had been waiting out of the way.

You'd better believe the people who had been waiting in the cold for a few hours were not happy about this. There's thousands of Black Friday fight videos on YouTube. They aren't caused by polite people suddenly turning into assholes at the thought of cheap junk. They're caused by assholes trying to cheat a pretty orderly system.

I don't have a Lego Rock Band or an Xbox 360 and I'm doing fine.

In the UK, ASDA did one last year and people were fighting over "Polaroid" TVs aka ASDA's own brand .__.

This is why online shopping is a goldmine.

With the workers safely hidden in the warehouses, we can ignore their plight and feel like we did the right thing for someone, at least.

My first thought was to figure out the strategy to improve earnings here. It wasn't until a few minutes later that it hit me, there isn't one (gasp).

And then it occurred to me that, isn't it weird that we live in a world where this is almost unthinkable? Running a business like it's just something you want to do? Just...weird.

I'm a card-carrying proud REI member, I support not only this but almost everything they stand for, and often times find myself happily paying more to shop there because I love the brand so much.

But... This is a fantastic PR play, which strategically could help earnings overall. Not saying a good PR play can't be mutually beneficial for employees and the company, but if they weren't trying to get attention for it, they could have just sent out a boring memo company-wide instead of setting up a big campaign (I still think a memo would get attention, but that's besides the point).

This isn't me being cynical, I think REI does some fantastic things as a company and for the greater good of preserving the outdoors as well as encouraging people to explore, but it could certainly be a brilliant part of their marketing strategy to grow business and customer loyalty.

One of the benefits of not being a publicly traded company.

My first reaction was that it seemed kind of cheesy, but it's a cool way to get some good PR. In the end it's a creative way to reinforce their image as a cool outdoorsy company and takes employees out of the line of fire for Black Friday. Wins all around I guess.

@existentialcoms has a pretty relevant tweet to this perspective six hours ago:

I don't know what the meaning of life is, but if it isn't "working hard so the shareholders can make more money", then we are in trouble.

Well, the "shareholders" here include employees and customers. From that perspective, some of the shareholders are gaining something from getting a paid day off (arguably even the customers are gaining from having happy retails workers to help them in-store).

It's possible that their stores are deserted on black fridays because everyone is at electronic stores/malls/etc (and it's late Nov, which might be a low point during the year anyway)... so they operate at a loss on that day and could save money by closing.

Same reason stores close at night.. not enough customers to justify running 24 hours.

REI's are in strip malls in Chicago. I think this is a corporate PR campaign and not the fact that they couldn't get customers.

At some point the Black Friday arms race becomes so insane the only move left is to quit. REI is too cool for this bullshit anyway.

Dear REI,

When I need something "outdoor-sy", I come to your store. The staff can always answer my questions, they do it wirh respect and passion. You are a little more expensive than ordering online, but I pay the extra money for the detailed service I always receive.

I applaud closing on Black Friday and having the employees go outside. I mean, you sell outdoor gear, this lets your employees get a no stress day to enjoy what they sell. This gesture and demonstration of your core beliefs will continue my dedication to shop at your locations.

Thank You,

A Customer.

“The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.”

-- Henry Ford

This can't apply generally though. For example, how many workers that manufacturer yachts are going to be able to afford them? What about cruise liners or oil tankers? What about (e.g.) dental supplies? Should all employees in the manufacture and distribution of those supplies be licensed dentists?

While I applaud the principle of the quote, the overall philosophy always remind me of Office Space:

Peter Gibbons: Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what you'd do if you had a million dollars and you didn't have to work. And invariably what you'd say was supposed to be your career. So, if you wanted to fix old cars then you're supposed to be an auto mechanic.

Samir: So what did you say?

Peter Gibbons: I never had an answer. I guess that's why I'm working at Initech.

Michael Bolton: No, you're working at Initech because that question is bullshit to begin with. If everyone listened to her, there'd be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars.

I bet it's possible to find the intended meaning in that quote even if there are some situations where it doesn't apply very well.

Maybe Black Friday is developing the GroupOn problem.

It's a great way to lose money on the worst customers that will never come back anyway.

They don't lose money on Black Friday. In fact, they make a tremendous amount of money. That's why it's "black" -- going from red (negative earnings) to black. This is because they sell the products at a low price, but they're still profiting.

Also, retailers gain loyalty from low prices, rather than lose it.

This. I think the perception is that the avatar of the typical Black Friday shopper is the people who wait 12 hours in line to get in a fight over TVs at WalMart. Truth is, most of the sales occur during the day on Friday from fairly normal people.

(I think this is similar to the idea that all iPhone users must be hipster iSheep)

The only reason they make money, is simply they are adding more days to the "retail calendar." Those loss leaders are still getting traffic through the door when there use to be none. Something is greater than zero.

The problem is that the loss leaders go on sale at some ridiculous hour (I'm not waking up to go shopping at 5am when there's a big crowd). Unless you're willing to get up very early for cheap stuff, the shelves will be picked clean.

Not true. Many retailers have their Black Friday deals online as well. The only difficult thing about getting the loss leaders is timing the purchase before the supply runs out.

This isn't true. Look at a sales graph for the US retail sector. There's a huge spike on Black Friday, and there's generally a big rise in activity through November and December.

When I was in retail I loved working Black Friday - the day went by fast, and you could usually snag overtime.

Me too. I feel like it's a rite of passage as an American teenager. I guess the people who have families of their own are the most affected, but Black Friday was at least exciting compared to every other day of the year.

Dear AppleStore, I dare you.

Apple doesn't even pretend that they care about anything other than money.

And REI has some history of caring for the employees and customers more than profits. Apple doesn't have this history, and would get ridiculed for having ulterior motives.

In case anyone at REI corporate is reading;

I applaud this move and will likely be getting a membership as a result.

What an excellent way to get and retain quality employees. Too bad REI can't suck all the good workers out of Walmart.

I'm sure both of them would come over with a decent offer :)

It would be funny if REI employees ended up going outside to camp at electronic and department stores as a result...

It'd be nice to see their employees sharing stories as a result.

p.s check out http://www.hipcamp.com

"if REI employees ended up going outside to camp at"

They're certainly well equipped for said camping.

Enjoy the outdoors.. in late November?

The old adage, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes" is especially relevant to REI staff and customers.

Some activities work better than others of course.


I mean, I guess it depends heavily on where you live. But I've lived in Sacramento, So Cal, and Utah.

For the first two November is actually quite a bit nicer than the hotter months July-September.

And while November isn't the prettiest month along the Wasatch Front in Utah, if the snow has started falling it's great for snow sports (including snowshoeing, if you're not a slide-down-it kindof person). And if the snow hasn't fallen (and/or if you want to drive a few hours south), there's plenty of hiking to be done.

Good point, at most elevations/latitudes there isn't enough snowpack to really ski or snowshoe comfortably till December, so you might end up having to settle for taking one last hike.

Oh yeah!! The trails were less crowded this weekend and my spiked shoes made easy work of the ice. Can't wait for enough snow for snow shoes... treking out hours before sunrise to catch the alpenglow on the mountains -- majestic!!

Sure, why not? Most people have the day off. It's a great time to get outside. Most locations aren't prone to snow just yet at that time of year.

The type of people who are into enjoying the outdoors and working at REI probably aren't the kind of people who mind the cold too much.

A few years back, I hiked a chunk of the Appalachian Trail during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Despite the high hovering around something like 30 degrees Fahrenheit, my friends and I had to take off our heavy coats and hike with T-shirts on to avoid sweating. When you're moving around in cold weather, sweat is one of the most dangerous things that can happen, and you warm up quickly and stay very warm when you're exerting yourself.

Look at athletes -- when they play outside during the winter, they tend to use the same equipment they would during warmer months while playing, and then bundle up when they're on the sidelines.

Some of the best boogie boarding I have ever done was at Seecliff Beach in Santa Cruz county the day after Thanksgiving.*

* I was wearing an O'Neill a wetsuit, which you can buy at REI.

Their headquarters is in the south side of the Seattle sprawl. All the natives are gonna be raring to get out on a grey fall day.

Me, I'll be huddling around my sunlamp wondering why I ever moved anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, but that's Seattle for you.

Thanksgiving is a prime time to stay in Joshua Tree. The weather there is usually really nice and often the entire park will fill up the day before Thanksgiving.

Even if you're not a climber, there's a ton of fantastic hiking and exploring to do there.

Of course. When you're dressed properly you can go out and enjoy yourself every day of the year.

I live in Canada and I like the rainy days of autumn and the cold days of winter. I feel like I have the trails almost to myself... and sometimes I do :)

I can't speak for the other stores, but at their 2 stores here in the Houston area, I'm sure there will be plenty to do :-)

If nothing else, they could go camp out at the Ren Fest that wraps up that weekend.

Yeah, it's pretty fantastic you should try it sometime.

Seems like a genuinely cool move and good business at the same time. Good for them.

Won't they all just go shopping?

Wow... tough crowd.

They're a co-op and can't afford to discount on Black Friday. Seems fairly straightforward.

REI has sales, clearances, warehouse sales, seasonal sales, discounts, "garage sales" (used/returned/rental gear), etc. all the time.

Actually they frequently have member sales with insane prices.

REI changed their return policy from effectively "forever" to one year. Sounds like perhaps that move gives them the freedom to pay all their employees for a day during their slow season.

One year still seems like an overwhelmingly liberal return policy. They're just trying to find the balance between being fair to customers, and being taken advantage of as a rental agency.

Heh. I was shocked at how bad consumers have it in NA - https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees...

Umm... that's different. REI is known to allow you to return a product for a refund even when nothing is wrong with it.

Your links infers to a law that gets you a refund if something is wrong with the product.

Right - but REI is unusual, right? I believe Costco has the same policy.

Probably considering how badly people were taking advantage of the policy. Returning 10 year old socks because they got a hole.

I say good for consumers calling them out on what obviously was a BS policy.

REI successfully fulfilled that policy for decades. It wasn't BS, and it's sad to see it go.

The math doesn't add up. Plain and simple. They likely had actuaries analyzing that policy on an ongoing basis to ensure it wasn't causing undue losses. You've got to admit it makes your product seem a lot more appealing if you "claim" you give your products a lifetime guarantee. Then customers get savvy and realize, hey if I just keep my receipt in a box, and make some extra copies for redundancy (digital?), for decades I can get a free replacement.

I equate a claim like that to how businesses treat "rebates". Most consumers will abandon or forget to redeem on the rebate process, and many will get some technical details of the process wrong so they'll not qualify for redemption of the rebate, etc. But it certainly is appealing when you see that if you buy something you'll get 50% back in a rebate if you jump through hoops and send them a letter in the mail.

After all how many people in the world keep receipts around for decades just in case they need to make a claim on the company's lifetime guarantee policy? And how many receipts will retain their black ink for that long? These days I get receipts that start losing their ink days or weeks after the original purchase.

It's a bogus claim. A facade, that businesses will keep claiming as long as "the house" is in the black.

In other words, "It's only a lifetime guarantee as long as only a few of you ever call us out on it".

EDIT: I mention "lifetime guarantee" here. It seems, for the purposes of this thread it's equivalent to "lifetime return" since it appears there was a no questions asked policy when customers would return products (even without receipt?)

A lifetime return policy is not the same as a lifetime guarantee. They return policy can change at any time. If someone really thought that 100 years from now they would have the same policy, they're idiots.

Not saying it's not ok for them to change it. But I am saying that if it was truly a sustainable model they wouldn't have a need to change it.

It may have been sustainable until the extreme couponer thing blew up on social media. Again, it worked fine for decades - something seems to have changed recently.

Personally, I'm a REI man, but L.L. Bean still has a 100% lifetime guarantee.


Not saying it's not ok, but the downvotes here I think symbolize the double-standard we seem to have when it comes to thriftiness.

Businesses are rewarded with praise when they're thrifty, firing employees in exchange for automation.

Consumers, on the other hand, are the devil incarnate when they decide to be thrifty.

Maybe there's a bit of hyperbole in that last statement, but hopefully you get the point.

Firing employees when things are automated isn't unethical. Returning worn out 15 year old shoes is.

To a point I see what you're saying, but think of it this way.

Remember the episode of "Curb your Enthusiasm" where Larry David makes an empty gesture to his friend "Let me know if there's anything I can do for you". And what do you know, his friend takes him up on it.

REI saying "Sure, if you bring back your worn out 15 year old shoes we'll replace them free of charge". Then people start taking them up on that offer, and what do you know. Come to find out, they really didn't mean what they said in the first place. It was an empty gesture they were hoping no one (or only a few people) would take them up on.

As far as automation, "it's not an ethical dilemma" so say us programmers until computers learn how to code well and walk, run effectively, etc.. Taken to its logical conclusion, it seems obvious to me that computers will soon (within a few decades?) be capable of doing almost all jobs we humans currently do. And if not as soon as I'm predicting, then eventually. But I am fully convinced that no matter the timeline, it will happen.

And how is this an "ethical dilemma"? Human beings in the modern world depend on the ability to find work to make money to survive. What happens when all work can be done by robots?

Then the argument becomes. "Yeah, but we'll just find new work to replace the old work". This AI revolution is different in the sense that technology is approaching the ability to do all things humans can do. So as soon as we find these "new things", what will keep robots from doing them? More cheaply and more effectively I might add. I will say that the more likely scenario is as soon as robots surpass human intelligence and agility there will be new jobs, but those won't be filled by humans, because humans just won't have the right skill set.

BTW, here's the scene I was talking about from Curb your Enthusiasm:


That change happened over two years ago, I doubt it has any relevancy to this choice.

Will their website not be taking orders as well? I love REI, but this is a pretty transparent marketing ploy.

Also relevant:


I have witnessed the folks on this site being nitty, but this is just a whole new level. Because a company gave all of their employees the day off, they have to either take their website down or be called hypocrites by some HN user...? How on earth is this a remotely sensible position to take?

Not terribly germane to this this OP but there are people who "close" their online stores at times.

One example is B&H Photo - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/ On the footer of their pages it says: "Please note that B&H does not process web orders from Friday evening to Saturday evening." I would assume that in the sect of Judaism the owners belong to letting your site take orders constitutes work.

Another example is my Girlfriend - she closes her Etsy shop when she goes on vacation because she'd rather not take orders and have customers wait for her to return for them to be fulfilled.

“assume” oh goodness you have no idea.

I live in the Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhood. A couple weeks ago, one of the gentlemen flagged me down on a Friday night. He needed me, a complete stranger, to come into his home at 11pm, go down to the basement, and push the "open" button on his dryer so his wife could retrieve clean towels for their (many) children.

Operating a machine of any kind, to the extent of pushing a button, constitutes work in their culture. There’s a whole wikipedia page about the ongoing controversy over whether it’s okay to use light switches during Shabbat or not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_on_Shabbat

(they thanked me with a slice of cake, which was nice)

Great anecdote! He just needs some sort of Rube Goldberg device to do it for him.

There's the whole Shabbat Technology industry - finding Kosher ways of using modern conveniences in accordance with the Sabbath laws.[1] For example, these folks make a bunch of devices: http://www.zomet.org.il/eng/

[1] I'm reminded of the non-electric tools the Amish adapt and use. http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/02/22/172626089/insid...

I work for two large ecommerce stores that only do things during EST business hours. The post office comes at around 4 PM and that's it for the night/weekend. I don't think any customer has ever had a problem with that, since the company is very Made-in-America/family values oriented.

WordPress.com's support ticket system used to have business hours. Very baffling.

You can't get upset every time someone is being obtuse on the Internet.

I'm not upset at all. I simply asked if this was a rational position...?

There's no pleasing some people. I'm reminded of:


As I recall they sold out of bullshit rather quickly. Obviously these are just two variations of public relations, and as they say, if you can get people talking about your brand, that's good publicity. I still think it's a great idea to give people the day off. It's a business, why would we demand they go out of their way to turn away (on-line) customers too?

Oh, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Am I the only one disturbed by the fact thats not all one mountain image that we are scaling down as we scroll? its just one photo after the next and the falling into the white void with CEO letter.


They will be taking orders but not be processing it till Saturday according to [1]. [1]http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/10/26/rei-closing-o...

So? It's in line with the brand, their employees aren't subjected to the terrors that come with Black Friday, and they still get sales. Everyone wins.

Well in a way, yes, it's a marketing ploy. In order to actually see it to fruition, they probably analyzed it from a marketing standpoint and found that this would buy them goodwill in their demographic. Corporations are cold soulless machines, and that's how they have to work.

But the people employed by the corporation are not soulless, and clearly some of them are at least not entirely cold, because I have little doubt that this idea was conceived in good will. I'm faithful that the individuals who came up with this, who pitched it to their bosses, did so with the goal of making a political statement, and treating their workers with respect as great side-effect.

I'm happy and hope it starts a trend, but REI doesn't seem like the kind of store that gets a ton of traffic on Black Friday. I'm sure they'll lose some business (hopefully offset by goodwill) but they don't seem like the typical retailer that really looks forward to Black Friday.

I'm curious why you would think that. REI stocks many things for outdoor recreation for the Winter season, including skis, snowboards, snowshoes, jacket of all varieties, wool socks, ice climbing gear/mountaineering gear in general... boots! - the list goes on.

The REI near me has a full-service bike shop and ski/snowboard tuning area. Then there's the people that need gear for taking off the winter going to South America.

Or, you're just stuck indoors, rockclimbing, which has it's own set of accessories, including rock shoes, harnesses, ropes, chalk, etc, etc, etc.

Yeah, REI does some business around this year, believe me.

"Doing business this time of year" is not the same as "has well-known huge annual sales events on one specific day during this time of year." Like the grandparent post, REI wasn't what came to mind when I thought of stores on Black Friday; instead I think Walmart, Best Buy, Sears, etc.

It's true, they do not have one huge annual sale. They have huge seasonal sales: Labor Day, 4th of July, Winter Holidays - I went in there a few weeks ago, and got a $20 gift card just because I spent $100. It's kind of nuts.

Then there's the annual dividend, which is around 10% of your total purchases back to you.

Glad they're taking the day off.

From what I remember, the local REI-located very close to Frys-never got insane levels of Black Friday traffic. Also several years ago went to a diff REI on Black Friday, wasn't overwhelmed.

REI is not a dicount retailer. So high volume at dirt cheap prices is not their business pLan, like say a Walmart.

Trust me they do. At my local store (relatively small compared to other cities) there are people lined up around the street.

Speaking of the website, it usually has a row of shopping categories along the top (Camp & Hike, Climb, Cycle, etc.), but if your browser window is less than 800 pixels or so wide, it all disappears into a hamburger menu. I thought I was on the wrong site. Sometimes less is just less.


You're going to have to plan ahead. If you can't plan ahead how are you going to finish a hike successfully?

With foresight, adventurers have ample time to prepare for their journey on this REI shutdown.

This is about being a good company who cares about their employees.

Also, you've set up a 'false dilemma' where you're assuming because the company wants to give their employees the busiest shopping day of the year off as a holiday, that they must also give them every Sunday off or else they're being disingenuous.. interpret it however you wish, but granted what I know of REI as a company this seems all in good faith and any marketing side effect however intentional does not discredit the action at all.

Well, there will be a marketing effect where retail managers who appreciate this sort of thing will be more inclined to work for REI. That puts pressure of 2018-era REI to have similar policies.


The assumption that the only chance to appeal to consumers for winter holiday shopping is the day immediately following Thanksgiving (..sales have been pushed back so far they actualy take place on Thanksgiving now), is more and more trivial. I buy products throughout the entire year, and knowing a company makes any effort to take care of their employees is a huge plus which I'll gladly remember come next summer when I go to try out new gear in their store.

As long as a company makes efforts like this I'll continue to go out of my way to buy from their stores rather than competitors who want to squeeze humanity out of their company for perceived business opportunities.

Every business wants publicity especially for good things. Why be torn over it. The employees at the corporate level were already enjoying the day off. So should the retail staffs. They can make it up other ways. I used to work at a company who depended on black Friday and cyber Monday, because their products just weren't that attractive on their own. rei customers aren't really the the type who are overhyped about sales anyway. They are more of the relaxed functional types.


> I'd be a lot more impressed if REI put up new signage in their stores beneath all "sale" signs that said, "Don't buy this because it's on sale. Think about whether you really need this item. You may have already have something that can be repurposed or repaired and completely obviate the need to buy this item at all."

But wouldn't they then be accused of the kind of reverse psychology PR they're already being accused of?

Surely any other people can prepare one day in advance or adjust their outdoor plans so that REI employees can all take the day off?

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