What REI Workers Are Saying

As REI has brought in new management – people like apparel industry insider Jerry Stritzke, the new CEO – the company has begun to change for the worse. As the rest of this website makes clear, these changes have been harmful for workers in sweatshops overseas, but they have also been harmful for REI’s own employees.

For the first time in years, REI is no longer a top-20 rated company to work for, according to Fortune Magazine. The number of complaints from former REI employees found online are on the rise. Here are just a few examples of some of the abuses that REI’s own employees have experienced working for the company:

Anonymous former employee at Kent, WA:

“Store employees are treated like dirt unless you are a store manager-Headquarters is cut throat and downright viscous with everyone out for themselves. Upper management is disconnected, middle management is either incompetent old guard who are only there only due to how long they’ve been with the company, or were imported from somewhere else and they are not in touch with the culture and core values this company claims to uphold…Way behind the curve on technology, attempts to upgrade technology are stupidly expensive, drawn out and grossly mismanaged…Company espouses values while behaving in an entirely different manner. Store hours are cut to bare bones, HQ departments do not have enough staff to do the work, while “fat cat” “Executive Vice Presidents” are promoted and given larger and larger salaries…Cruelly executed layoffs, random dissolution of departments, decreased work life balance and an increasing disrespect for employees lower morale.

This is no warm fuzzy co-op, it is a cutthroat corporation (upper management brags about being the “800 pound gorilla” in the market) caring only about profit and executive bonuses.

Advice to Senior Management – Get back to the core values REI claims to hold; keep up with technology, treat employees with value and respect, stop laying off the worker bees to promote and give raises to more and more “Executive Vice Presidents”

Anonymous former employee at Castleton, IN:

“Management is horrible and very dishonest. If you don’t fit in to the so called REI crowd they will try everything in the book to get you to quit. I have worked over 20 years in my life and this is one of the worst jobs I have ever had. They are so focused on what REI has to offer and REI will be there for you.

Advice to Senior Management – Stop lying to your co-worker and be more honest. Also when problems come up we are not prefect we all make mistakes don’t confront us in front of customers. Smile more often and engage with your employer instead of sitting in your office all day long.”

Anonymous former REI IT employee at Kent, WA:

“They have turned into a profit chasing corporate assembly line at their HQ. Obsession with constantly expanding the profit margin at the expense of organizational stability. The IT department is run by clueless middle managers with no passion for or deep knowledge of IT. Cost cutting is king and jobs are outsourced to cheap workers in India. Onsite contract employees are treated poorly. Recent layoffs of employees that have been there for years so that their jobs can be outsourced, show that REI is focused on the numbers, not the people. Many of their best IT people have left or are leaving. Work life balance is a lie for the IT department.

Advice to Senior Management – Stop chasing endless growth and re-focus on building a really great company that can withstand the test of time. Money can’t buy loyalty.”

Anonymous Lead Sales employee at Kent, WA:

“REI is touting and then ignoring its own values.

The supervisors are some of the worst in the retail industry. They know that due to REI’s reputation, there’s always a huge stack of applicants who are willing to work. Rather than treat you fairly and with respect, as REI’s values dictate, it’s easier for them to hire new people. Plus, the huge percentage of retired folks and college kids who are both willing to work under intolerable conditions just to get the discount, make the job particularly awful for full-timers who actually need a job.

Worse by far is REI’s salary. REI includes its “benefits package” whenever discussions of salaries come up. They neglect to acknowledge that no amount of discounting product matters to those people who can’t afford to pay rent or buy food or gas. They actually include the amount you “save” on your discounted purchases in your total benefits package. Never mind the fact that you qualify for food stamps if you work full-time in their sales floor. When asked (as I have repeatedly), the CFO says REI has no intention of paying a living wage to its retail employees. This would be somewhat understandable if they were failing or something, but REI is opening 7-10 stores every year. Instead of opening new stores, REI could actually make an effort to pay its employees a reasonable wage, but they make a conscious choice not to.

If you’re female, or a male who cares about women, the sales floor is an awful place to be. Women make far less than men, though the company does not acknowledge this either. There are so few females that often at opening or opening huddles, I was the only one. This is bad enough, but then who do you turn to when the sexual harassment, which is rife, happens? REI’s policy is that someone has to do something offensive, you have to tell them to stop, and then they have to do it again for it to constitute harassment. Any long-term REI employee knows this and simply doesn’t do the same thing twice. I’ve never filed a complaint at any other job, and have fired 3 in 4 years of working at REI.

I’ve worked at 3 REI locations across the country, and I’ve found that the only differences are in the supervisors (some are incredibly incompetent and make your life miserable; others are wonderful and make it tolerable) and in the dichotomy between retail and HQ levels. HQ employees are treated VERY well, paid VERY well, and have great amenities like free massage, cafes, and time off when they want it. Sales floor employees, even store managers, have none of that.

Advice to Senior Management – They really need to make sure they are following their values. They have 7 wonderful values, and I’ve met with Sally Jewell to discuss how they’re not following them. She basically patted me on the head and said get out of here. As I said earlier, REI makes a conscious decision to grow the business before it fixes the problems within the business.

1. Respect means paying employees, ALL of them, a living wage.
2. Environmental impact means that REI should be a leader in the industry, not asking Nike for advice.
3. Work-life balance should apply to everyone, not just those at headquarters.
4. Diversity, one of REI’s major initiatives for 2008, should be actively focused on, not completely ignored in its marketing plans.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.”