The idea of a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee is something that generates a lot of varying opinions depending on who you talk to about it. REI and Backcountry.com have been the two largest proponents of having a program like this to satisfy their customers. In a retail landscape that has drastically changed in the last five years this has moved them into a position of power over other shops that can’t offer this. It becomes a perceived value to the customer and potentially lures them in knowing that they can pretty much get away with murder. But does an abuse of the system start to happen?
REI as of June 4th announced that they were going to rescind this program.
We stand behind everything we sell. If you are not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund. Items must be returned within a year of purchase, except items purchased from REI-OUTLET which must be returned within 30 days of purchase.
REI’s guarantee doesn’t cover ordinary wear and tear or damage caused by improper use or accidents.
This is what it originally said:
We stand behind everything we sell. If at any time your REI purchase doesn’t meet your expectations, you can return it for a replacement or refund. What’s more, if you’re an REI member, you don’t even need a receipt—we’ll have a record of your purchase.
One can’t help but wonder if this Retail Rant by Dennis Nazari coupled with the video below caused the loss in profits that sparked this change in policy.
Now some people say that these policies are great for the industry? But yet no one has given a reasonable explanation of why these are great? Is it because you’re essentially renting a product for the season and then returning it because you’re not “satisfied”! What happened to the old saying Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware?
People also don’t look at the societal effect this has on buying habits. It’s essentially building a generation and potentially future generations that don’t have to be held accountable for their actions. Having worked warranty for years in a snowboard shop we would get the “I was just riding along” statement when clearly their version of riding along was going across a cheese grater, shooting the base with rock salt, and then throwing it edge first into a rock. Those were the people that needed to be told this is not a manufacturing defect this is “your fault” and no a warranty won’t cover it. That essentially disappears from the situation with a no questions asked satisfaction guarantee.
It reminds me of a time when I was working for a shop in Western New York. The owner had purchased a brand new Trail Blazer and in the first week he had it he hit a deer and totaled the front end. What did he do? He went back to the dealership to claim it was their fault, he wasn’t satisfied, it was a warranty issue, and they should fix it. How is that their fault? They laughed at him and said this was not covered under his warranty and it was his fault.
While that might be a bit extreme it’s still shows that their are people out there that would and will milk the system if they can. Which a 4% drop in profits at REI also shows that the belief that customers will remain honorable just might not be the case.
This is more than the usual argument of big vs core, core retail can be taken out of this equation and actually should. This should be looked at from the perspective of is this healthy for the industry? While giving people peace of mind is great, it’s a short term solution that won’t help the longevity. Companies need to realize giving a shop this power means they dictate what people will believe is acceptable for claiming a warranty.
One only has to look at the bleak future Dennis Nazari painted in his Retail Rant. I don’t feel the need to rehash his harsh outlook as it goes to the darkest depths of what might happen.
Is this change from REI part of a trend to better the industry and culture as a whole?