REI, unfortunately, does not offer military discounts to individual service members and their families making purchases in stores or online. A customer service representative with REI did state that they “have a significant discount service in place for the military through government-based programs via our corporate sales channel.”
So even though customers can’t get a discount when purchasing recreationally, REI is still committed to supporting the military through programs that aren’t customer-facing.
Let’s take a look at the history of REI, how you can save money while shopping there, as well as other outdoor and adventure-type stores that might offer a military discount.
Recreational Equipment, Inc. is just that, a retail store that offers products as well as recreational outdoor services and experiences. REI was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1938. The story of how REI was founded is rooted in community and adventure. Two people named Lloyd and Mary Anderson wanted high-quality ice axes without paying premium prices from ski resorts. Mary could translate German catalogs from Austria and they ordered authentic adventure gear straight from the source for a fraction of the cost.
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With the help of a lawyer, who happened to be a friend of theirs, they joined forces with 21 other Seattle-area adventurers to officially form the REI co-op. Each of them paid $1 for a lifetime membership fee. They received a $30 no-interest loan from the Andersons founders, and the co-op began selling gear on a shelf at a local co-op grocery store.
The co-op’s mission was pinned to a bulletin board, and it read:
“Intent of the founders of this organization was to secure sufficient membership to make group buying possible; to distribute the goods with as little overheads expense as possible, using membership cooperation with the work as much as possible; to gradually build up a reserve for purchasing stock; to have the membership fee ($1.00) so that everyone interested will be financially able to join.
-November 30, 1938.”
Since the ice ax was the first thing they purchased, you might notice the ode to this beginning by the ice ax door handles outside REI stores. When REI began, it focused heavily on climbers, backpackers, and mountaineering expeditions, It then branched out to family camping, bicycling, kayaking, and other adventures when there was a shift in the board of directors in the 1980s.
REI is committed to the support of environmental initiatives, creating and planning training and vacations, as well as offering boutique-style gear and clothing (which is a shift from the early days of aiming to offer quality gear at a reduced price). In 2006, REI purchased “green power,” which was enough to offset 20% of its overall consumption of power. “REI has pledged to be a climate-neutral and zero waste to landfill company in 2020 by focusing on the five areas of its business: green buildings, product stewardship, proper paper usage, reducing waste and energy efficiency.”
How To Save While Shopping at REI
If you’ve ever shopped at REI, you know the costs can be quite expensive depending on what you’re after. The positive side of that is the gear is very high-quality, with 100% satisfaction guaranteed. To save money while shopping at REI, you can become a member (which costs a little bit initially, but if you are there often, it pays for itself). You can also save by price comparison shopping, waiting for sales, and comparing the quality of different brands as well (sometimes the quality is the same, so you can save by purchasing the lesser-known brand).
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Becoming a member costs $20 for a lifetime membership fee. If you’re strategic, you can usually find bonuses and offers that encourage you to sign up. Some include spending $100, purchasing a $20 membership card, and receiving a credit of $20 off your next purchase. If you’re there enough, and you needed something that cost more than $100 than the card basically paid for itself.
Some of the perks of becoming an REI member are special member offers, special pricing on classes, workshops, adventure trips, and services, as well as a 10% back dividend with qualifying purchases. That dividend feels like a treat when you check your balance and see that you have $20, $50, $100 back to spend on anything you like. For the REI dividend, it’s typically counted with full-priced REI gear purchased within that year. The dividend is valid for 2 years from the date it’s issued, and you can always credit it towards a future purchase, or they will give it back to you as cash in hand.
Saving money at an adventure store doesn’t have to be difficult. One way to find a good deal is to first shop around for the best prices. If the thing you want is at REI, wait until there is a sale, like their “garage sales” or other major sale days, and make your purchase then. For a few years there, REI opted out of Black Friday and paid team members for the day off. Instead, they created the #optoutside social media campaign that was extremely popular and encouraged people to get outdoors on that day versus spending money and shopping.
Another way to save money at REI is to download the Honey app. This handy little app is perfect if you do a lot of online shopping. Once you add your items to your shopping cart (try to line it up as a sale day too for extra savings), then you can use the Honey app that’s downloaded to your browser and it will apply all possible coupon codes on the internet to your order. This can sometimes result in fun and surprising savings!
Other Adventure Stores That Might Offer Military Discounts
It’s hard to know which stores offer military discounts at times, especially when many don’t advertise this directly on their websites. It’s always best to call ahead and ask or ask at the checkout where you’re more likely to find success with a store employee offering a discount even if it isn’t strictly specified for the military. Although REI doesn’t offer military discounts to individuals (they do to government-based programs through their corporate sales channel), they still support the military in ways that consumers don’t directly see.
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Some other brands that offer military discounts that are perfect additions to your adventures are:
- Some Dick’s Sporting Goods stores
- L.L. Bean
Outdoor gear can get expensive. It never hurts to ask if a business is willing to offer a military discount on different products. The best way to save money is often by watching for sales just like the rest of humanity. You can save more by purchasing used gear at REI’s garage sale, by scouring the internet and sites like Facebooks’s marketplace and Craigslist, where you can find really awesome gear for cheaper prices because you are purchasing directly from the seller.
REI is a business that was founded with a very clear mission: supporting adventure enthusiasts with high-quality gear at a fraction of the price. The cost aspect of it might have shifted over time, but the vibes of this business still remain the same. The people who work here and plan classes, workshops, and adventures, are often passionate about the outdoors. They care about the environment, as well as the people who will be enjoying the outdoors. You might not get a military discount when shopping here, but you can trust that you are supporting a business that supports the military through programs that you might not see.