Also, as of June 1, 2013, REI changed its policy for honoring discount coupons and matching sale prices on previously-purchased merchandise.

Before, if REI issued, say, a coupon for a 20% discount on one, full-priced item, they would honor that discount on any full-priced item you purchased within a 30-day period prior to the coupon’s issue date. It was the same if an item your purchased went on sale. You just walked in, showed your membership card, told them you bought such-and-such item and you wanted your discount or you wanted the sale price and, if it was purchased within that 30-day period, they punched a button it was a done deal.

Works the same way but now they will only honor the discount coupon or sale price on items purchased during a 14-day period prior to the coupon’s issue date or date the sale started. That’s only half as good as it was before.

These two changes — merchandise return policy and discount / sale price  (honoring) policy — seriously waters down the value of an REI membership and seems to indicate REI is having some pretty serious financial difficulties. I realize they have to do what they have to do to stay in business, cut losses, and improve profits, so I don’t necessarily fault them for that. However, the very high prices they charge for what they sell was supposed to cover any losses that resulted from returns, discounts, sales and dividends, but I haven’t seen any evidence of lower prices since those two policy changes took effect. This practice is endemic in the world of retail, it’s called “downsizing,” which means, rather than hit the customer with a price increase, a business quietly starts giving their customers less but keeps their prices the same. And, as is typical with downsizing, it happens suddenly, without warning, and the vast majority of customers aren’t even aware that a change took place. So that’s what REI has done to its members — they’ve downsized us.

When I was in the store today, I saw what I figured was evidence of REI’s financial strains in the way of less floor personnel. The store was crawling with people, as it usually is on a Saturday, and I needed some information on one of the packs. I waited around, and walked around, the area for a good ten minutes looking for anyone wearing a green vest, but found no one, and saw no one wearing a green vest helping other customers in or near the pack area. So I walked over to another department and asked them to page someone to the pack area, which they did. I then walked back to the packs and waited another ten minutes and still, no one with a green vest appeared. I finally gave up and left. I have never had that experience in an REI store until today.