Recreational Equipment Inc., which previously had no time limits on returns, made the change after noticing an increase in customers taking back old merchandise. Starting this week, REI will try to discourage customers from “renting” equipment for as long as they like by ending its policy of no time limits on returns. Customers will be allowed to take back store items for one year after purchase. The deadline for returning outlet merchandise bought on REI.com will be 30 days.
REI made the change after noticing a sharp uptick in returns of merchandise more than a year old, said senior vice president of retail Tim Spangler.
“We’ve always taken back products more than a year old, but to see that growing disproportionately caused us to ask some questions,” said senior vice president of retail Tim Spangler in an interview 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. “It’s something we have to put some clarification around.”
REI’s sales rose less than expected last year to $1.9 billion, a 7 percent increase, while its profit dropped 4 percent to $29 million. The company laid off an undisclosed number of employees in March, citing changing business needs.
To reduce unscrupulous returners, REI also has stopped accepting returns without question and is more insistent that there be proof of purchase. Some REI stores had been known to give store credit, if not money-back refunds, to customers without a receipt, leading to the retailer’s other nickname, “Return Everything Inc.” Already, about 90 percent of returns are made within a year, and REI will continue to take back defective products regardless of their age, he said.
“For 90 percent of our customers, this isn’t going to impact them. And for the other 10 percent, a good chunk are still going to be protected by this,” said Spangler.
“If you buy that tent, and the seam blows out after two or three years, and you feel that it’s defective, I want you to bring it back and we’re going to take care of you,” he said. “We’re always going to stand behind our products not to be defective.”
REI will send out 3 million emails and talk to customers at checkout about the changes over the next few weeks, said the company.