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Utopian dreams crumble as REI kills unlimited return policy

REI's decision to revise their return policy after an increase in old items being returned is to Dave Ross another example of why utopianism doesn't work. (AP Photo/file)

“It’s happened again, another utopian business plan has succumbed to the harsh realities of human nature,” said Ross and Burbank host Dave Ross at the news REI decided to change its unlimited satisfaction guaranteed return policy.

The Kent-based retailer previously accepted returns from customers with no set time limit. But in an interview with The Seattle Times, Senior Vice President of Retail Tim Spangle said they’d seen a recent increase in the number of people returning items that had been purchased more than a year prior, and instated a revised policy to discourage people from “renting” equipment.

REI’s new return 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.

“I didn’t even realize they had this no limit on returns. Why didn’t they stop it sooner? You’re telling me this is the first time people took advantage of that just to basically rent stuff and return it after they’re done,” asked a surprised Ross. “This is why utopianism does not work. No good deed goes unpunished.”

Producer Bryan Buckalew admited he’s taken advantage of REI’s generous return policy, taking equipment out for a couple test runs and returning them if he wasn’t satisfied.

But he said that return policy also makes him a very loyal shopper. “I always bought stuff from REI for that specific reason because if I would use something and I didn’t like it or it didn’t work very well I would take it back,” said Buckalew. “Oftentimes, when I see something that I want, I will specifically not buy it at another store to go to REI instead.”

Co-host Luke Burbank said he too finds comfort in a retailer’s apparent interest in customer satisfaction, favoring those with a good return policy over others. In the end though, he infers it must not be working for REI’s bottom line.

“I guess in REI’s estimation it’s actually not making financial sense anymore.”

But Luke, Dave and Brian agree the new return policy is still very generous, even with the 1-year limit.

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