Here is a link to what I was talking about earlier: Return Policy
Listen folks know me. Paddling has been my life for a bit now. Because of that I used to get some deals every now and then and it felt good to feel like I was saving money on the things I love and often needed in a hurry. REI gives me the chance to save 10% on everything else with their membership program. And, if you plan ahead they also have regular sales and you can stock-up on what you need. REI is still a good company and serves the greater good.
REI is good to me, because they have things I need when I need them, like listed above you can use products and find out if there defective. (Really if it doesn't happen on the first few trips... IT'S YOU) Real problems are covered in the policy above. Orginal company deals will be ownered and if is a problem with construction it will be covered.
REI's shift is just a reflection of the times. It became the norm to return things when they wore out. And, that was never the original purpose of the REI policy in the beginning.
LL Bean became who the were because when they launched as mail order company they listed their orginal Duck Boot (Rubber Buttom and Leather Upper). The glue they used on that first batch was bad and almost all of the first 100 pairs fell apart. Needless to say they would be no more if they would not have supported their products, and that they did. LL Bean replaced every pair and so built the legend and the company.
Other outdoor companies followed the LL Bean model as a way to build customer loyality and respect.
In fact the qualities most highly sought after in a retailer are... 1) Be an expert in what you sell. 2) Stand behind what you sold. 3) Provide availability of product. REI still does that for me in all the things I'm not an expert in. I'll continue to buy there and other places. I would encourage you to do the same.