REI is a wonderful company that sells equipment for outdoor activity. They announced the other day that on Black Friday, THE biggest day for retailers the day after Thanksgiving -- they are closing all 143 of their stores for the day and telling their employees to have the day off and enjoy the outdoors.
They even announce it on a special page of their website, set up to make things extremely clear, including a countdown --
At the bottom of this above-webpage, the company explains, "REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That's why this Black Friday, we're closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside."
I've long had a special affinity for REI. I don't shop there a lot, but I discovered them over 30 years ago, maybe closer to 40 years, when they were a very small chain with only half-a-dozen or so branches on the West Coast. It's officially a co-op, and they even give rebates at the end of the year on your purchases, as co-ops are wont to do. The thing is, I didn't realize how early I had become a member of REI until I went into their new Santa Monica branch a couple years ago. (Until then, their nearest store was far away, which is why I didn't get there often. Though they also, of course have an online presence these days. But not in the early days.)
Anyway, I went up to the checkout, and the guy at the register did a stunned double-take, worthy of Laurel & Hardy. Is something wrong, I asked? "No," he replied, "I've just never seen a membership number this small."
My number is around 740000, so I never thought it was that small. "Oh, no," he explained, "we're now in the tens of millions."
By the way, the reason I was in the store that day was another reason I love REI. I'd bought a jacket there years earlier that I loved, probably 15-20 years ago. Yes, it's well-worn, but just great in every way. The zipper had a little problem a few years earlier, and my tailor wanted to charge me $25 to fix it. I thought that was ridiculous, so I just used a paper clip, and it worked perfectly. But after some time, I remembered that REI has a lifetime warranty on their own products, and since the new store was now so close, I went in to...well, hey, just ask. And yes, it was still under warranty, I gave them the jacket and a few weeks later it was fixed. No charge.
REI put out a statement explaining their Black Friday action in a little more details. They wrote, "For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth."
In fact, they splash this statement across their website's home page. Just so it's really, really clear.
When a large business (actually, any business, but a large business has SO many more hoops to leap through) does something like this, you have to figure that the company has a good reason. They certainly seem to.
I'm guessing that they think they could have a PR benefit from this one-day closure. And they probably also figure that people who want to shop at REI will be fine waiting one whole day.
Just another reason I've long-liked REI.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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