The REI return policy is the stuff of legend, especially pre-2013 when they had a lifetime guarantee on all the products they sold. But as with any return policy there are always caveats, pitfalls, and road bumps that you need to be aware before making a significant purchase. So before you buy that $545 tent or $3,200 kayak at REI, here’s everything you need to know about their current return policy.
How Many Return Days Does REI Allow?
365 days for REI Co-op Members and 90 days for non-members.
This only applies to products that were bought new.
REI calls this their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and it used to be a lifetime guarantee but got dialed back in recent years.
Can I Return Stuff That I Used for 364 Days?
But if the reason for the return has to do with normal “wear and tear” or damage caused by improper use, you CANNOT make the return.
Can You Return Without a Receipt?
Hold on to those receipts because it’s the easiest way to make a return on in-store purchases.
Without a receipt they can try to lookup your purchase using the credit card you used, but it’s not a guarantee.
Debit card and cash purchases are virtually impossible to lookup without a valid receipt.
For online purchases be sure to login to your account and print-out your receipt or online invoice.
Any Exceptions to the 365 Days?
Yes, there are two exceptions.
1. Outdoor Electronics – Things like “activity monitors, GPS-enabled devices, bike trainers, emergency-communication devices, and cameras” must be returned within 90 days of purchase.
2. Used Gear – Anything that you buy used from REI comes with a 30 day return policy.
Is There Anything I Can’t Return to REI?
Yes, you CANNOT return any REI Garage Sale Merchandise as it’s all final sale.
Garage Sale stuff is used and sold “as-is” and if you try to return something it will be mailed back to you.
Is There a Different Policy on REI-Branded Items?
No, it doesn’t matter if the product was made by REI or not, the same return policy applies.
What About Returning Worn Boots and Clothing?
Yes, you can absolutely return clothing and boots that you’ve worn but decided you didn’t like.
As long as the reason for the return is NOT due to normal wear and tear you’re good to go.
This policy is very generous and essentially lets you “test drive” stuff to see how it fits before you decide to keep it.
Does REI “Grandfather In” Certain Products Into the Lifetime Warranty?
As most avid REI customers know, their return policy used to be a Lifetime Warranty but was switched to 365 days back in 2013.
So the question arises when it involves products that were purchased before their policy switched to 365 days, are they eligible for the lifetime warranty?
The answer is a definitive MAYBE.
Meaning that if you’re willing to stand in the store and argue your case to the manager you may have some success.
But it’s safe to assume that your mileage will vary depending on how nice the manager on duty is that day.
Can I Have My Return Refused?
REI will monitor your returns and if they feel you’re abusing their lenient policy they reserve the right to deny your return.
This happens most frequently when a customer claims an item “didn’t satisfy their needs”, even when they’ve worn the shirt or boots for 6 months and the item appears clearly “worn out” from extensive use.
Can I Return Online Purchases In-Store?
Yes, just bring the item in for a refund or even exchange to any REI location.
Not only can you return online purchases in-store, but you can return any item by mail regardless of whether you bought it online, in-store, or via the phone.
Who Pays the Shipping Fess on Online Returns?
If you opt for the online return option, be aware that you’ll be charged a $5.99 return shipping fee when using the prepaid shipping label.
Are REI-Outlet Returns Handled the Same Way?
Since REI Outlet stores don’t exist anymore this question is mute.
The REI Outlet is now online only and is essentially a clearance department, but the savings are pretty darn good with deals ranging from 20% off all the way up to 75% off the original retail price.
REI Policy Hacks:
Become a Co-Op Member: For only $20 you become a lifetime member with REI and you’ll NEVER need to keep your receipt again.
This is because your purchases will be automatically tracked and you’ll even earn 10% back on all full-priced purchases.
Used Gear Bargains: When used items get returned, they go to their Used Gear Program and are sold at a major discount.
Take advantage of these deals! Many of the items are basically brand new and the savings goes up to 75% off the original price.
Don’t Abuse their Policy: According to this Reddit thread, an REI employee actually had a guy try to return a water filter that he had urinated in and claimed it didn’t remove the “flavor of his urine” from the water. Don’t be that guy.
Ask the Reader: Are you a fan of the return policy at REI? Let me know if I’m missing any pertinent policy tidbits.
By Kyle James