If you love the outdoors, then the odds are that you also have a little bit of a soft spot for outdoor gear. There’s just so much amazing stuff. And it all looks so pretty. Not to mention how functional, and practical it is. Every item seems like it would make your world in the outdoors 100 times better. And perhaps it would, if it wasn’t for the guilt of having yet more stuff to fill an already overflowing gear stash. More stuff that is probably un-ethically made. More stuff whose manufacturing will have undoubtedly had a negative impact on the environment in one way or another. Sigh. And there it goes, right back to where it belongs on the store shelf.
But by not buying anything at all, we’re not really solving the problem, but potentially creating other problems and issues. So what is the solution? Well if you’re looking for an easy way to justify buying a few bits of new gear here and there, then REI might be the answer you are seeking.
REI: an outdoor co-operative
If you’ve never shopped at REI then you are in for a serious treat. Walking into one of their stores is like stepping onto an untouched mountain of fresh powder. Heaven! They stock a ton of reputable outdoor brands and have a really excellent selection of own-brand gear and clothing too.
But what really puts REI up there with the likes of Patagonia is their commitment to sustainability and promoting environmental stewardship. They dedicate some of their annual profit to protecting and restoring the environment, as well as towards the encouragement of involvement in responsible outdoor recreation. Check out their 2015 stewardship report to get the full story.
REI co-operative membership
Becoming a lifetime member of REI costs $20. But aside from giving you an environmentally conscious place to buy your outdoor gear, what does being a member of REI actually mean? REI membership benefits include:
- 10% member dividend
- REI MasterCard application opportunity
- Members only discounts, coupons and offers
- Special pricing on services, classes and REI Adventures
- Stewardship opportunities
- Exclusive products and events
The main benefit of your REI membership is the annual members dividend that is issued to members every March. Being a member of the REI co-op means that you have a share in the company. So each year REI dishes out the these shares with its members by issuing dividends.
The dividend is a refund of about 10% of what you have spent in year prior to it being issued, and you have to be an active member to receive the dividend notice – made a purchase of at least $10 per year.
But be warned, if you buy anything with a gift card, purchase discounted items, spend in the REI Garage, use REI Services or deal out the cash on REI Adventures, then this spending doesn’t count towards your dividend refund. It’s all in the small print!
What can I do with my REI dividend?
Receiving REI dividends isn’t just a scheme to get you spending more cash at REI. Although that is an option! You can receive your annual dividend in the following ways:
- By buying an REI product in store or online. The dividend amount that you are owed by REI will be deducted from the the total cost of your purchase.
- In cash. Take your dividend notice to a store between July 1st and Jan 3rd of the following year, and request your remaining balance be given to you in cold, hard cash (assuming they have enough in the till to hand out!)
- As a cheque. Request it at any time before it expires, but don’t expect to receive it before July 1st or after Jan 3rd of the following year. You can fill in an online form to make the request.
- Or, you can donate it to the REI Foundation.
Does REI price match?
The short answer is no, there is no such thing as an REI price match scheme. Unfortunately the full history of REIs pricing policies since the co-op started in 1938, are a little hard to come by. Whether or not REI price match policies have existed in the past is anybody’s guess. If you know, then please enlighten us! But in recent years there has been no REI price match policy, even for members of the co-op.
Instead, REI stand by their “100% satisfaction guaranteed” policy which gives buyers the opportunity to send items back, get them replaced or have a refund at the original price.
The policy only applies to items with manufacturing faults and defects and not to the general wear and tear that normal use of an item will cause.
So if you’ve thrashed your outdoor gear beyond repair and are ready to get investing in some lovely new stuff, then check out what REI has on offer.