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Stuart Peck is a freelance writer and video producer who specializes in outdoor, travel, corporate and commercial messaging and branding.  He has written for national magazines, video copy for healthcare and other corporate videos.  He also provides production support for commercials and TV shows.  

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REI reevaluates its return policy

REI revises return policy.  You can no longer return your 10 year old pair of underwear because you don't like the style.  

Ok, so we all have that old piece of gear which we've worn to death for the better part of five, 10, maybe 15+ years.  Maybe it's an old puffy down vest that served us well as a mid layer on many winter hikes.  Perhaps a stove, charred black on the burner from years of flames and use.  Maybe even a pair of tattered hiking boots with a missing shoe lace from when you had to strangle a bear with your bare hands because it tried to steal one of your kids.  Whatever the gear, It has seen better days and for whatever the reason REI, arguably the largest and most popular outdoor retailer in the world has taken it back.  That's because until recently REI's return policy has been return any merchandise, anytime, no questions asked.  However now the retailer is calling foul on the more than generous policy.    

Really?  You can take in a five year old pair of gaiters because you no longer like the style and some green vested kid behind the counter will give you store credit (which is worth its weight in gold to the avid gear junkie)?  Recently I popped into my local REI during one of their garage sales they do semi-frequently and watched the feeding frenzy.  This sale is member exclusive and offers patrons the chance to buy returned merchandise at deeply discounted prices.  What I saw reinforced why REI has changed its policy.  Boots from circa 1995 that looked like they had hiked around the world several times, jackets and shirts with stains (from your camping trip dinner... not from the factory) and underwear... yes... underwear.  Reading some of the tags with descriptions on why these items were returned was rather amusing.    

"Customer didn't like the color" 

 "Not the right style"

And my favorite...  

"Nothing wrong with the item" 

Now I understand that sometimes you get something home, pull it out of the box, try it on and think... this isn't what I had in mind.  That's when it goes back to the store, NOT FIVE YEARS LATER!  How do you buy a jacket in 2010 and in 2013 decide you don't like the color?  Sure that pair of whitey tightey technical underpants was in style... in 1995... what'd you expect 10 years later and who wants your decade old briefs anyway?  

Talking to one of the employees he said there have been several people upset by REI's decision to be more conservative about the policy change.  I for one think it's disappointing that some people would take advantage of this policy and ruin it for the masses.  This is a store which already strives to treat customers (and its members especially) pretty awesome with deals throughout the year.  Its new more "conservative" return policy is one year.  Compare that time limit to most stores which vary from 30 to 90 days. Why getting sweet gear at competitive prices isn't enough... I don't know.  I for one like to see how long I can keep my gear before it absolutely disintegrates.    

What are your thoughts?  Are you ok with REI's new return policy?   


It's 22 degrees and you want to sleep outside?

It was pretty much the same from everyone I told about my plans this past Friday, a confused look accompanied by “Why?”.  I asked my wife if she wanted to go.  “You go have fun... I’ll stay here” was her response.  I was planning to head out for a little overnight hike in the woods.  Nothing huge, just an eight mile loop in a nearby national forest.  That wasn’t the part everyone was getting hung up on, it was the idea I had about camping... in the woods... in winter... when it was just 22 degrees outside.  No I'm not homeless.  

If you’re an avid backpacker chances are you know where I’m coming from?  We have to face the fact that a lot of our friends don’t understand how we can take enjoyment from walking around for days, in the wilderness, with all our necessities on our back and in some cases, without taking a shower.  It just doesn’t seem natural or... maybe it’s a little too natural.  When Meg and I came back from our Grand Canyon trip last year we got the same reaction over and over again.  “You didn’t shower for five days?  I don’t understand how you can do that.”  Well it’s easy, you just don’t take a shower when you get up in the morning.  Instead you walk 10 to 12 miles with your house, bed and kitchen on your back to another secluded location where you camp.  Sound fun?  Yeah, it does to me too.  

We derive excitement and adventure from the places we go, the isolation we find and from the elements.  One of the things I enjoy most about a backpacking trip is a little rain or chilly temperatures.  It adds to the sense of adventure and survival.  When you’re backpacking, isn’t it true that we say hello to most everyone we pass?  Why is that?  Because they’re one of us... they understand what we’re doing and why we’re out there doing it.  And they find it refreshing to stop and talk to someone who shares their same interest.    

I hiked my loop and yes, it was cold that night.  Would I do it again... absolutely.  Will I get lots of confused looks and questions... probably.  It’s all just par for the course.