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I just tried to exchange a black Under Armor shirt, which I received for Christmas from my parents (I'm 45) for the same shirt with some color in it. I went to the REI store in Pineville, NC where my parents purchased it. They would not exchange it because I did not have proof of purchase--my parents still have the receipt, but it's a bit of a hassle for me to get it.

The shirt still has the tags and is in perfect condition. It even had red writing on the tag that the clerk (manager?) said he recognized. But, he said he couldn't help me. I just wanted exactly the same shirt in some color--I wasn't even going to be picky about it.

The clerk/manager watched me walk in the door with the shirt in my hands and chose to assume that I had stolen it. One can quibble with the words, but that is the implication. So, think about it:

First, had I stolen it, would I walk back in just to ask for a different color, risking having been seen on camera, or by an employee?

Second, if the shirt was stolen, then the store had lost it--it was gone. Exchanging it would not cause more shrink, only a small inventory change.

Third, if there is any reason why I still buy from brick-and-mortar stores, it is because of the expectation of convenient customer service. Online stores always have a better selection, but it can be a slight, though often free, hassle to deal with shipping returns and exchanges. Here, the brick-and-mortar stores have a clear chance to exploit that advantage. This REI store seems unconcerned about the fact that it competes with an unending number of substitutes.

Fourth, I have several of these Under Armor shirts, all of which I have bought from Dick's Sporting Goods. I never thought of REI until my parents gave me the Christmas present of this shirt and an Arc'teryx shirt--another brand of which I am a big fan. I have purchased for my family and myself more than 10 coats and jackets of various styles and performance over the past year, not to mention shirts and shorts. I'm a big fan of performance gear, and my parents had made me aware of REI. I locked that into my brain, thinking "Hey, I've got an REI a few miles from here!" My experience today has made me wipe REI from my mind, and it was a very easy thing to do. I don't need them.

Don't hide behind the policy REI and tell me I should have had the receipt. Tell me how REI would have suffered if I had been granted an exchange today. Or, just save your breath and keep fooling yourself that you've somehow strengthened the armor-clad inventory protection agency that is REI. "We keep our shirts safe from all of those law-abiding citizens without so much as a speeding ticket who might consider buying one from us someday if we show some courtesy."

I want to laugh, but it's just disappointing, like the rest of the mediocre world around us. Don't stand out REI, just keep hiding behind that wall of security that is so popular these days.