Three and a half years ago when we were in West Des Moines, Iowa we stopped at an REI store for the first time. We had heard good things about their selection of outdoor gear and that was at the forefront of our minds at the time. This chance encounter was on the trek back home from a three week long road/camping trip with our two young daughters, then 7 and 10. We bought our youngest daughter a new windbreaker jacket, a bag for my husband’s business trips and his lunch pail we use daily and got talked into the REI lifetime membership for $20.
While we were there, in the store, we met a nice lady with her 4 year old Weimaraner. He was well behaved and on a leash, but a little too excited to get a clear picture of him with our girls. His owner (dog mom) said she brought him there often when they were out and about running errands and planning their next adventure.
My husband turned to me and said, “Well, it’s nice to know if we ever get a dog we can bring him to REI!” At the time the comment was absurd because he knew I was adamantly opposed to having a dog. Fast forward three years and we have had our own pooch, a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, a hypoallergenic breed, named Bailey (check him out on Instagram @milo.danderfluff) for a little over a year. We took him through training for all our benefit and he is very comfortable in retail spaces since his training took place inside our local Petco. BTW, Petco is awesome.
Since then we have tried to take him to stores which welcome well-behaved, leashed pets as often as possible. Our goal is to help him continue to properly socialize, with people and pets, and mellow with each experience. While we were in Columbus, Ohio after hiking the day before at Hocking Hills we decided to do a little shopping before heading home. We stopped at Easton Market & Easton Town Center which are giant outdoor complexes that include loads of big name retailers. It is a neat place to stop since there were several stores we do not
have access to in our area.
First we stopped at Sierra Trading Post, then Nordstrom Rack and we were planning on going to Saks Off 5th since they all allow well behaved dogs. Our girls were itching to go home, but I wanted to go to REI since the closest one to us is 117 miles away and the chances of going there any time soon were very unlikely. Based on our, and my brother’s, previous experiences with REI we didn’t think anything of having our well behaved pup with us when we entered the store. My husband was looking for some new hiking boots, and I had been eyeing a pair of Ecco Yucatan sandals from there for a while. We had wanted to buy Bailey a waterproof jacket and a better set of waterproof booties for this winter and we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try these items on him since we were right there.
That was the plan. . . until we were asked to leave.
As we worked our way through the store, and were callously ignored by the woman in the shoe department, we were stopped by whom I can only assume was the floor manager. She said that it’s REI’s corporate policy to not allow pets in the store unless they are trying something on the dog. Apparently, the owners are not allowed to go shopping for themselves at the same time. The back massager we were thinking of buying that I had in my hand I promptly put back on the shelf and said, “Ok, let’s go.” I had no desire to keep looking or to give my money to a store or corporation with such an asinine policy.
A customer service representative from REI responded to Rover.com this way –
“REI is a special place we want to celebrate with everyone. Our goal is to make REI an inclusive environment, where everyone will feel at ease shopping and working. Some of our locations are prohibited from allowing animals because of local and state health codes. We’ve also found that some customers are allergic to animals and/or are not comfortable around them.
Because of these and other factors, we’ve decided the best decision is to not allow animals that are pets into any of our REI retail store locations. If you’d like to try a hiking pack on your dog, one of our store staff members will be happy to help fit the animal outside of the store entrance. We apologize for any inconvenience and will do what we can to ensure you get the right gear for your pup.”
Corporations, obviously, are allowed to set their policies. We did not walk into the store purposely flouting REI’s corporate policy. We were ignorant of the rule and were made the fool. It didn’t feel good. We assumed because of our previous experience at other REI stores with other pet owners that things were not this way, but you know the saying about the word ASSUME, right?
My biggest problem is that the policy made the other employees act smug and judgmental toward us – not at all inclusive as the CSR’s comments mentioned above claims. It bothers me that no one stopped us to ask if we needed directions to the pet specific section or ask if Bailey was a service dog. Two seemingly kind employees said hello to him and one even pet him without saying a word. The policy explains why the woman in the shoe section was so rude to us, but it doesn’t excuse it. The irritatingly, self-satisfied looks on the faces of the dudes at the registers were totally unnecessary, we felt bad enough as it was being asked to leave. Your job is to serve the customer and enforce store policy, not shame people. The floor manager was very polite and apologetic. She did her job as unpleasant as it must have been. I don’t feel that anyone else we encountered in the store did the right thing.
|Percentage of the population allergic to dogs and cats||15% (abcnewsgo.com)|
|Percentage of people who have asthma, in the USA||7% of adults and 8% of children (aafa.org)|
|Percentage of people who have asthma and allergy to cats and/or dogs||30% of these are allergic to dogs and cats (abcnewsgo.com)|
|Percentage of the US population who own pets||68% (60.2 million households own dogs totaling approximately 90 million dogs)|
Washington Post article about pet ownership stats is interesting, but doesn’t negate the numbers.
They sell outdoor gear for dogs, but don’t let dogs in the store. Why would I make a point of going there when I can more easily and comfortably go to places like Bass Pro Shop, Urban Outfitters, Gander Outdoors, Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and other non-sports related stores which openly welcome dogs? It just makes me angry that they charge for their membership and then won’t allow us to use it happily. I know it was $20 three+ years ago, but it’s the principal of the thing. Plus, I don’t think we have ever made our money back on the membership. We are so far away from the stores, and because I refuse to pay for shipping (especially on returns) that we’ve not had the opportunity to get our money’s worth. Now we no longer have an incentive to search them out when we are nearby as we previously had. Feels like we paid $20 to get kicked in the gut. Who would have thought wanting to shop for your dog would end up in not wanting to be a customer anymore?