You Can’t Spell Hypocrite without REI

REI store

The Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Act, known throughout most of the hunting and shooting community as the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R), was created in 1937 by congress to reverse the damages of market hunting and ensure the longevity of wild places and wildlife for future generations. Details and amendments of the act are extensive but to summarize: a 10% excise tax is levied on all firearms, handgun accessories, ammunitions and archery equipment. The funds generated are dedicated, they do not go to the U.S. Treasury but to a trust managed by the Department of the Interior. The money must be used for conservation and is divvied-up to states using a formula of land mass and population. For most state wildlife agencies, Pittman-Robertson along with the funds generated by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses is the core of operating budgets. Since inception P-R has generated over $11 billion for the maintenance and management of wild places.

Hunters and anglers fund the outdoors at the state level for the enjoyment of all. Hikers, bikers, campers, kayakers, climbers, skiers—there are no equivalent license fees and no excise taxes on these pursuits. Why does this matter?

Last week a retailer of outdoor equipment, REI, suspended all purchases of Vista Outdoors goods. Vista is the parent company for many brands you might normally see in outdoor stores including Camp Chef, Giro, Bell, Camelbak and Blackburn. Vista is also well-known in the shooting sports industry for brands such as Federal Premium Ammunition and Savage Arms.

“REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month.” (read REI’s full statement) The apparent underlying logic is that Vista Outdoors should be policing customers and fighting crime should be part of gear maker’s business model.

Corporate social responsibility is becoming a more prominent feature in business. There can be tangible and true results from such initiatives. But maybe the goals of that social responsibility need to be more closely scrutinized. Attempting profit from promoting divisiveness seems counter to the spirit of positive social change.

REI sells outdoor gear, so let’s take a look at something directly in their wheelhouse. Since 1976 REI has donated $77 million to conservation. Last year they donated $9.3 million to the outdoors. Those may sound like big numbers until held up against annual sales of $2.56 billion. This means that REI donated just one-third of 1% of sales to support the wild places from which it garners mountains of money.

In 2017 alone Vista Outdoors’ brands generated $87 million for the Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Act—more money in a single year than REI donated in 42 years. Hunters and target shooters are paying a premium on products in support of the outdoors. REI is profiting from shooting sports’ investment, then pointing a scolding finger with the hand opposite the one clutching cash.

Until REI and other outdoor brands begin paying their fair share in support of wild places and wildlife from which they profit, consider purchasing directly from the brands that do support the outdoors. A great place to start is 2% for Conservation—www.fishandwildlife.org—which asks businesses to contribute 1% of their gross sales and 1% of their employees’ time. REI is $16.3 million short and would need to provide 252,000 hours of time to meet this basic level of outdoor stewardship that other hunting and fishing companies are leading.

If we held REI to the same standards hunters have been held to for decades, they should be donating $256 million annually. A sizable chunk of this could be accomplished by asking members of REI’s co-op to donate the dividends they receive annually to support wild places. That could account for $194 million and might offer more sturdy footing for preaching to shooting sports manufactures.



 

 

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118 comments

  1. Emily says:

    Interesting article. I think you need to do more research to where REI’s money DOES go. Back to the people who shop there, back to the customers who have become part of the co-op. Look at the numbers and see how much has been given back to the co-op members in dividends a year.

    • Brian Koch says:

      Not exactly sure what a customer rewards program has to do with funding the outdoors. But I assure you, we did the research, the link is included in the article. They paid members of their co-op $194 million, as stated in the final paragraph. It doesn’t change the fact they only gave 1/3 of 1% of sales to conservtion, abysmal by almost any standard.

      Page 2: https://www.rei.com/stewardship/report/2016.pdf

      • Scott says:

        @Brian Koch I would love to here what the bottom line contribution percentages actually are. I have the distinct feeling that if you look apples to apples you would see the amount REI contributed is greater than what hunting retailers did. Also you’re forgetting most public lands used by hikers and mountain bikers require passes to park at their trail heads. REI supports getting these folks outfitted and educated so they can feel confident in going out in these wild places. Also your argument that REI is insisting a gun retailer has to police it’s patrons is a dumb reading of the statement. REI is waiting for Vista to step up with a statement on what it’ is going to do moving forward. Meaning your product is directly linked to the killing of innocent Americans. I would think employees of that company would demand their leadership do something about the situation. I would expect the company to support having a real dialogue on how this country is going to move forward making everyone safer from gun violence. Not supporting their bulldogs at the NRA into stopping any real change. That’s the statement from REI. Time for a change!

        • Jovan says:

          Scott, how does the company directly contribute to the killing of Americans? So by your logic, if the murderer had been wearing REI shoes, REI would also be an accomplice? Blaming inanimate objects does not solve the problem of mental illness, systemic breakdowns, or discipline! I blame the person who committed the act! So should you!

        • Christina says:

          In 2015, the amount of money raised by the excise tax on firearms/ammunition/fishing tackle (the Federally Aid in Fish and Wildlife Restoration Fund) was over 1 Billion dollars, which was distributed to the states in 2016 for wildlife and habitat management. How ‘bout them apples?

        • JC says:

          Scott – What law would have prevented what happened in Parkland? We have an anger issue not a gun issue. We have people who do not understand how deal with feeling of anger and resentment so they lash out. We have shootings, we destroy our neighborhoods. And sometimes the perpetrator is just crazy and it’s tough to outlaw crazy. There is a background check system and if used correctly it catches most of those who shouldn’t buy a gun. If you are scared of guns don’t buy one.

          • Jb says:

            You’re correct, it’s tough to outlaw crazy. And yet politicians in the pockets of the NRA insist that’s our only recourse. Why is restricting access to the tools these killers use automatically off the table?

            It blows my mind that people just shrug and say well, nothing we can do because i really don’t want to give up my fun, fancy toy.

        • Bruce Joiner says:

          10,000 people are murdered by products produced by Ford, GMC, etc. by DWI. Is REI going to boycott vehicles also?

          • SB says:

            Vehicles are registered, operators must have a license and skills evaluated from time to time. DWI laws are not enforced (for repeat offenders -breathalyzer car starter) so they continue to drink and drive. Both has to happen – gun regulation (I know, it’s a bad commie phrase) and enforcement. We have to do better with both.

        • John J Brangaccio says:

          Cars, cell phones, fast food, cigarettes, amd alcohol each, individually, kill more
          American people annually than guns. Should manufacturers of these products all have to cease production?

          • SB says:

            Ummm….cars, cigarettes and alcohol are highly regulated. Manufacturers can produce all they want. Obviously, they will probably only produce what they know will sell. Who is saying they “have to cease production”?

        • Wes says:

          There are VERY FEW places on public land that require a fee to park or use the public space. Without looking it up I would say less than 5% of public land requires any fee to use.

        • Lawrence says:

          So is Ford’s, Cheverolet’s, Toyota’s, … etcetera. Dozens every day die in car accidents. And you don’t even have a right to a car. The NRA helps women every day defend themselves against violence. Why do you want to victimize women? What kind of sicko are you? Instead of hating women and being pro-rape, maybe you could start a dialogue about how to help them level the playing filed.

        • RonF says:

          Why is it that in all these debates no one on the left ever mentions on how many innocent people have had their lives SAVED through civilians who bear arms. Isn’t that incredibly dishonest?

          • Jesse says:

            Hey Ron, I am not expressing any opinion at all here. I am just curious. I have never really heard that angle and I don’t remember ever hearing of someones life being saved by armed civilians.

            Is there some data of that or even a place where that is recorded. I am guessing you must know of quite of few examples? Again this is not a loaded statement or question although it may sound that way its pure curiosity.

            Thanks,
            Jesse

          • Greg says:

            Jesse…just one example…how about the Civilian that used the AR15 to stop the shooting in the Texas Church? The media hardly ever reports on the good guys with a gun stopping the bad guys…it doesn’t fit their anti-gun agenda.

        • Gretz says:

          Really Effete Imbeciles can do without my money, if they’re willing to throw down the gauntlet on this.

          Hunter, kayak and canoe, climbing and camping. It’s one thing if REI choses not to carry firearms and related. When they’re demanding purity tests, they lose me.

          Enough patronizing virtue signalling. Piss Off, REI

        • Mikep says:

          Most public lands require cost to park at their trail heads???

          Wow, Scott. That right there shows you are a troll or a liar. If you had any experience about what you speak, you would know this to be false.

        • Steve says:

          Scott your logic or your lack thereof is astounding, using your logic if a drunk driver committed vehicular homicide while driving a Ford with Goodyear tires fueled by Exxon gasoline lubricated with Pennzoil after becoming intoxicated by drinking Jack and Coke all of those companies would be directly responsible for his actions.

        • John says:

          By this logic, General Motors and Ford kills more Americans than any company and we should stop using their products. Hunters camp. Insane people murder. The upsetting part of our story as a country is the misdirected anger politicians push in this regard. And we are all sheep.

        • Scott G says:

          You obviously don’t have a clue about the contribution that the NRA makes towards gun safety. They fully support the already in place restrictions that are not enforced at the federal level. If you want to place blame, put it where it belongs, on the government agencies that are not updating the registry for felons and the mentally impaired. You talk about getting the facts straight, then put down the kool aid and do the research on exactly what gun regulations does the NRA endorse.

        • Satmike says:

          “real Dialogue” is what the NRA and the Right want and have been trying to get. The left refuses to participate. They instead insist on gun bans and laws that lend nothing to prevention. The left demonizes inanimate objects the NRA and it’s members along with anyone else who wants open discussions. The left demonizes anyone who doesn’t share their opinions, how is that “open discussion”? The NRA has been pushing gun safety for decades. The NRA has been the largest advocate for background checks. Leftist policies kept that punk out of jail which lead to his killing spree.

        • Kevin says:

          Scott, they did their research. If you want to make a counter claim, do yours. Don’t give us your “feelings” without some numbers to back it up.

          Those public use fees don’t go far enough. How many guns and rounds of ammunition never leave suburbia? Yet they are taxed as if they do. To be equivalent you need to tax every bike, tent, and canoe, regardless of where they are used.

          The NRA spends a lot of time and money educating people on safe an proper use of firearms, as well as protecting 2nd amendment rights.

          The most common factors in some of the highly publicized killings have been mental instability and multiple failures of law enforcement before the crime. What should be done about that?

          I notice REI stills sells knives. Knives killed 5 times as many people than rifles (including AK’s and AR’s) (https://tinyurl.com/ptgq6l3). The hypocrisy.

        • David says:

          Is the same being done to Apple and Samsung? More innocent people die each year from cellphone related deaths than guns.

          Are changes there being called for?

          What about alcohol manufacturers?

          What about medical malpractice?

          Facts are, the event in Florida was from a crazy man, and loads of incompetence by the local FBI and county police.

        • Raymond Davis says:

          I think you are incorrect sir, I am both a member and a hunter/fisherman and my experience with REI is all of the quote outdoor training was less about the outdoors then it was sales. I obtained better training through Wildlife as far as conservation and ecology.

        • E. K. Carson says:

          Every single time a firearm is used in the commission of a crime, it was already illegal to do so. So the only people you can take guns from are legal gun owners.
          What we have to address is crime control, especially violent crimes control.
          Chicago makes it illegal for virtually anyone to possess a gun, yet in 2017, had 664 murders by firearm. DOD had 37 lives lost during this time. It is safer to be in a combat zone than to be in Chicago, by a factor of 18 to 1.
          Let’s do the same thing for cars & DUI. Or in medicine. You cannot control the misuse of anything, but you can make the people doing it responsible for their own actions. If you want to not exercise your right to defend your life, have at it. That doesn’t equate to me giving up my right to do so. And that is the where the buck stops, at our rights. I don’t trust government, it is like fire, a powerful servant but a terrible master.

        • Sean D Neves says:

          You just made up, out of whole cloth, your entire statement. You “suspect” that REI gives way more because of why? You want to believe it? I just cancelled my membership and bought three more guns. For every tear you cry I buy a bullet. Go ahead. Be progressive take our guns away. Try it.

        • Jimmy says:

          More people were killed with knives last year than guns, more people were killed with vehicles last year than guns. When are we going to ban these modes of killing??

        • Mike says:

          Right on! I’m so inspired that I’m
          Going to petition Costco to stop their car-buying service because cars were responsible for killing over 33,000 people annually and injuring 2.5 million. I think we should start with getting rid of all the big trucks and SUVs because the ordinary person doesn’t need those and their sheer size makes them deadly. I’m also going to petition to get rid of all fast sport cars because nobody needs to go that fast. I know there are speed limits and cops with radar detectors but this is common sense car control. Shame on you Costco for supporting the likes of Ford, Chevy and Dodge! We have to have common sense car reform.

          • SB says:

            Please tell me who is trying to take your gun. I haven’t heard of any round ups to take peoples’ guns. Some think regulation of firearms is common sense. Vehicles are registered, operators must have a license and skills evaluated from time to time. DWI laws are not enforced (for repeat offenders -breathalyzer car starter) so they continue to drink and drive. Both has to happen – gun regulation (I know, it’s a bad commie phrase) and enforcement. We have to do better with both.

        • F Casey says:

          You drive a domestic or import car, then your car is directly linked to the killing of innocent Americans. (Automobiles kill way more people than guns). Award for the stupidest thing I’ve read this week.

        • Jack says:

          here are some facts.

          There are 30,000 gun related death s per year by firearms, and this number is not disputed. The U.S. population is 324,059,091 as of June 22, 2016. Do the math: 0.00925% of the population dies from gun related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant! What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths, to put them in perspective as compared to other causes of death:
          65% of those deaths are by suicide, which would never be prevented by gun laws.
          15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and justified.
          17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons – better known as gun violence.
          3% are accidental discharge deaths.
          So technically, “gun violence” is not 30,000 annually, but drops to 5,100. Still too many? Now lets look at how those deaths spanned across the nation.
          480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago
          344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore
          333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit
          119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (a 54% increase over prior years)
          So basically, 25% of all gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause.
          This basically leaves 3,825 for the entire rest of the nation, or about 75 deaths per state. That is an average because some States have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169 and Alabama had 1.
          Now, who has the strictest gun laws by far? California, of course, but understand, it is not guns causing this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and states. So if all cities and states are not created equal, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.
          Are 5,100 deaths per year horrific? How about in comparison to other deaths? All death is sad and especially so when it is in the commission of a crime but that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault are all done by criminals. It is ludicrous to think that criminals will obey laws. That is why they are called criminals.
          But what about other deaths each year?
          40,000+ die from a drug overdose–THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THAT!
          36,000 people die per year from the flu, far exceeding the criminal gun deaths.
          34,000 people die per year in traffic fatalities(exceeding gun deaths even if you include suicide).
          Now it gets good:
          200,000+ people die each year (and growing) from preventable medical errors. You are safer walking in the worst areas of Chicago than you are when you are in a hospital!
          710,000 people die per year from heart disease. It’s time to stop the double cheeseburgers! So what is the point? If the liberal loons and the anti-gun movement focused their attention on heart disease, even a 10% decrease in cardiac deaths would save twice the number of lives annually of all gun-related deaths (including suicide, law enforcement, etc.). A 10% reduction in medical errors would be 66% of the total number of gun deaths or 4 times the number of criminal homicides ……………. Simple, easily preventable 10% reductions! So you have to ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, why the focus on guns? It’s pretty simple:
          Taking away guns gives control to governments. The founders of this nation knew that regardless of the form of government, those in power may become corrupt and seek to rule as the British did by trying to disarm the populace of the colonies. It is not difficult to understand that a disarmed populace is a controlled populace.
          Thus, the second amendment was proudly and boldly included in the U.S. Constitution. It must be preserved at all costs. So the next time someone tries to tell you that gun control is about saving lives, look at these facts and remember these words from Noah Webster: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed.”

        • Scott Johnson says:

          Really, what do you want VIsta to do? Have you asked Apple and Samsung what they are going to do since more kids die from texting than gun violence. What about Chevrolet, Ford, Budweiser, Corona, since more people die from Drunk Driving. Get a clue dude. . . I was a REI shopper, but not now. Trample my 2nd amendment rights, you gone. As far as the public land you are hiking and biking on, guess who funds it to keep them running, yep us the hunters. Dont believe me, do the research.

      • Laurie says:

        Although virtually impossible to accomplish, one would need to determine how much of the dividends returned the the REI Co-op members was in turn donated to the sorts of entities REI is not donating it to. Many REI members are active donators and volunteers in a wide variety of outdoor and conservation persuits.

      • John Robertson says:

        Brian, you’re comparing a voluntary contribution by REI to a tax collected and paid by Vista Outdoors. The latter is mandatory and comes out of their customers’ pockets, not Vista’s. An apples-to-apples comparison would be how much Vista Outdoors donates (voluntarily) to conservation.

        This kind of twisted article contributes nothing to the debate.

        • Brian Koch says:

          I’m citing contributions to funding the outdoors — whether that is an excise tax or a donation makes no difference to me. It doesn’t change the origination of the contribution.

          Vista’s contribution could have been left out of the article and it still wouldn’t change the fact that REI is only donating 1/3 of 1% of sales to the outdoors and profiting from the substantial investments made by hunters, shooters and anglers.

        • Brian Koch says:

          Good question Derek.

          In the outdoor world the broadly accepted level of basic conservation support is 1% of sales. If we want to discuss the collection mechanism and and funding source, I think that percent would certainly be up for debate.

          So for REI’s sales last year that would be $25.6 million.

          But if REI truly wanted to have a substantial impact, I think they should join 2% for Conservation — https://fishandwildlife.org — this would help engage their employees as well as supply funds.

    • Dave says:

      Great article. This company stance does not sit well with me. I’ve been a member for 40+ years, and I don’t think what REI has become is what Lloyd Anderson had in mind. Shiny catalogs in the mail, expansion for the sake of corporate profits. Co-op? Technically, but who cares, money back to members? 10% back when prices are 20-30% above what they should be is not a deal. I rarely buy anything there anymore that’s not on sale, and remember, those prices ending in 3 are not dividend eligible items! Money back to members is not the issue here. REI better be careful or they will start to wither away like so many brick-and-mortar. My Prime membership will get me through, and so many online retailers have good stock at good prices.

      • bud says:

        I joined in the mid-70s because I was a serious backpacker, doing multi-week trips. Good gear at reasonable prices. They went off the rails in the late 80s, when they got so large that serious money was generated, which attracted the sharks. Oh, they’re all beautiful people who wear shorts and sandals, and they mouth the platitudes, but make no mistake, they’re living well as parasites on what is a co-op in name only.

        From Wikipedia :
        Board candidates are selected by the REI Board Nomination and Governance Committee. In earlier years, board elections were competitive elections, with both board-nominated and self-nominated petition candidates. In recent years, REI eliminated the opportunity for petition candidates…

        How, a self-selecting board, which is the characteristic of all corrupt organizations.

    • Joe Zonie says:

      Even taking that into consideration, REI customers are paying far more for their products than if they bought from almost anywhere else, especially on the internet. Plus, they don’t necessarily carry the best stuff, only the things they want to carry. Example, if you are a serious biker, you don’t buy your bike at REI.

    • Dusty Meadows says:

      REI is not unlike most other retailers, the call themselves a co-op but because of their size their pay back is similar to a dividend and many,of us own the retailer we frequent in our 401ks and personal stock portfolios. It is totally correct that they fall short in their return to conservation dollars and man hours yet the trade the holier than thou attitude against firearm companies while enjoying the fruits of their labors

    • Mark says:

      Being an REI member myself, although I no longer will go in there. Their prices are typically higher then other stores (I’m not counting online) but if you do then a LOT higher. I get no better service at REI then I do at Bass Pro shops etc etc.

      So the little bit you “get back” well you typically OVERPAID so I guess it’s a wash then. They used to have a great return policy, meaning if something broke that should have easily lasted for year you could take it back. In fact I stopped really shopping there when they changed this policy, the higher prices I was paying to me was kinda an insurance policy is how I saw it. However the main reason that it ticked me off because if you bought something under the OLD rules they were saying nope the new rules are back dated and that is not how contractual law works. I signed up for a membership with these rules and now you changed it, that is fine but those new rules only apply to new purchases. (even Costco had to do it that way due to how the law works). I’m surprised no one ever stood up to REI on this matter.

      Back to giving back to members, YOU ARE JOKING RIGHT? Pay higher prices and you get back a check and you feel they are giving back…LOL that is funny as hell.

    • Robin says:

      The dividend dollars are only good for purchases at REI. So the “dividends” are nothing more than incentive to purchase more stuff from REI. A never ending cycle.

  2. CW says:

    You’re comparing money donated by a company to taxes levied on the sale of certain good and services. Not quite the same. REI pays their taxes. How much is Vista donating to the same causes?

    • Brian Koch says:

      I am showing the primary funding mechanism for wild places and wildlife — hunters, shooters and anglers. People need to know that. REI needs to know that.

      When a company chooses to weaponize social responsibility, their own record is fair game.

    • Travis says:

      Also realize that the PR excise tax is in addition to the regular corporate taxes. So Vista Outdoors is also paying those taxes, plus the 11% PR tax.

  3. Andrew says:

    Your article compares voluntary charitable donations to mandatory taxes paid by the two entities. Apples and oranges.

    How much did Vista voluntarily contribute to conservation?

    No dog in this fight- Hunter and reluctant REI shopper.

    • Brian Koch says:

      Andrew, whether apples or oranges, the only concern of this article is funding for wild places. But I get your point.

      The answer is more difficult to attain for multiple reasons. Vista is comprised of 50 companies, all with different conservation and charitable initiatives. I contacted Vista for comment. They are not publicly on the record as of yet with responses (anything you’ve seen with a response is likely quotes attained from Vista press releases on related topics from the past).

      Also, companies like Federal Premium have royalty agreements that benefit conservation organization such as Pheasants Forever and RMEF. But those agreements are tied to non-disclosures. They aren’t allowed to say the total conservation dollars raised when you buy a box of Prairie Storm.

      I’d certainly like Vista to come back with a total number. The question has been asked.

      Anyone who enjoys the outdoors and public lands has a dog in this fight, whether they realize it or not.

  4. Tom G says:

    I’m a gun owner, but from the annual report:

    “Shooting sports related products currently represent over half of our sales. We design, develop, manufacture, and source ammunition, long guns and related equipment products. Among these categories, we derive the largest portion of our sales from ammunition, which is a consumable, repeat purchase product.”

    If it’s a 10% tax, then it would be almost all government mandated contributions wouldn’t it?

    They should get credit for their business supporting our sports with the tax law, but comparing a forced donation to someone that doesn’t have to give anything and calling them out seems questionable.

    http://investors.vistaoutdoor.com/Cache/1001225176.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1001225176&iid=4564156

    • Brian Koch says:

      This isn’t a comparison of where funds originate. It is a discussion about REI profiting from the investment in the outdoors of hunters, shooters and anglers.

      • River Mud says:

        Yeah, but this article, as written, very much IS a comparison about where funds originate. Blasting one company for not donating, while comparing it to taxes that another company is required to turn over to the government, is really poor writing at best, and intentionally dishonest at worst. They are not the same. On that note, though, yeah, let’s discuss how P-R and other excises don’t apply (and should) to purchases of gear found at REI, etc. I’m strongly pro-2A and a lifelong hunter.

        • Brian Koch says:

          The comparison is the contribution level. The source of those contributions is detailed simply to help inform those unaware of the mechanism for funding wild places and wildlife.

          Whether a company’s profit or a collected excise tax, both come from customers’ pockets.

  5. Marshall says:

    This was written by someone who has no economic common sense. 1% of GROSS SALES for a retailer is actually huge.

    Net Gross Profit margins for a specialty retailer are like 5 percent if they are lucky.

    Must have been written by a Trumpette

      • River Mud says:

        1% is indeed a good, if minimal, standard. An accurate portrayal in this article would have been what % that Vista donates. Stating what $$$ Vista brands pay in excise taxes creates an apples to oranges comparison that I would think most readers here are savvy enough to discern.

    • Peter says:

      What’s with the name calling Marshall. That would be like someone asking if you’re a Killary supporter. It provides no merit to your argument other than make you look like a jerk and unless you’re going for that it may be better to not name call. But your right 1% of sales is a lot and taxation is not charity. My problem is the support of things I don’t agree with and the unethical “arm twisting” of other companies to agree with them.

    • Matt says:

      The article addressed this perfectly. Leftist comprehension issues? When you mark things up as much as REI does you could do what others do but instead they line their pockets. Regardless of the Vista situation, which is pathetic, anyone who shops at REI is wasting money. You can by the same goods elsewhere for much less. I don’t understand why REI exists and would never shop there.

  6. Paul says:

    Sad to say that I for one gave up my decades long membership in REI over this. Telling me which brands I should not use, based on their support or connection to the firearms industries is hypocritical at best. I’m donating the amount of my dividend to the the NRA, and waiting the full period of time I can get cash for my dividend so as not to spend one more penny in REI.

    • opus says:

      I’m with you Paul, 40 year REI member and I’m done and will encourage any hunter I know to be done with them. Among the things I won’t put up with are bullies and proggie virtue signaling. Bye. bye REI.

    • Rick Dale says:

      REI doesn’t sell guns and ammo, dude. You are missing the point.

      This (biased) writing points out how REI stopped working with a gun/ammo producer until the producer takes a stance on gun control.

      Reading and research will help the conversation. I don’t see how your threat to stop shopping does.

      • Brian Koch says:

        Rick, this is about weaponizing social responsibility, funding for the outdoors and how companies profit from it.

        There are no threats in the article. There are facts and suggestions.

        But there certainly is bias in the writing. It comes from the belief that those who enjoy the outdoors and those who profit from the outdoors should all have skin in the game. Discussion about funding for wild places and wildlife needs to take place in the public forum.

  7. Mark says:

    Pointing out a percent donated out of sales feels misleading. Sales numbers sound good but it isn’t discretionary income. If I sell a pizza for $10 but is cost me $10 to make then I don’t have any profit. I would be more interested in hearing what percent of profit is donated since that is what really matters. Also, beyond charitable donations where does the rest of the profit go? How much is put toward taking care of employees through wages, insurance, retirement, and other benefits. At the end of the day, how much profit is the company left holding and then what do they choose to do with it? Those are the questions I want to consider when weighing whether the amount of charitable donations is appropriate for a company. Looking at a percent of sales that doesn’t consider what is obviously a much larger picture feels misleading.

    Hunting and fishing has been a great support though and you did good job of highlighting that. It would be nice if these treasured outdoor spaces could be funded more generally by everyone rather than depending on use specific licensing or private business. In the end these spaces are a public resource which provide great opportunities for recreation.

    • Marshall says:

      Now you sound like an intelligent fella. You should have written this article, it probably would have been much more fair minded and informative. Going by gross sales is meaningless!

      Now we have a bunch of bone heads boycotting REI because they nave been convinced 1% is a mere pittance.

      • Matt says:

        Marshall,
        You are mistaken. My family and I have been REI co-op members for years but will not go there again.
        The mere “pittance” of 1/3 of 1% has nothing to do with why people, like me, have decided to stop shopping at REI.
        It is because we believe in our Constitution and the right to bear arms defined, not given, by the document. We see this right, and other liberties, under assault everywhere we turn. REI has stood up to be counted with the businesses, politicians and media that insist that they know better, that I am not competent to be responsible for myself and my family, and that more government control is the answer to all of our country’s ills. I hope you wake up, my friend, and realize that more government always means less liberty.
        I know, I’ve crossed a line that makes you think I’m a ‘crazy right-winger’, but I’m just a husband, Dad, and American who wants a better world for his kids and knows that less liberty cannot equal better. I wish you the best.

  8. Corey Preston says:

    I will be dropping my membership at REI until they clean up their act. And yes contributing my dividend to the NBA and the Rocky mt. Elk Foundation.

  9. Brian Teale says:

    I don’t think linking gun violence with outdoor contributions is a logical comparison…..however I would agree that the outdoor industry contributions to public lands and recreational lands is something that should be examined more closely!

  10. Joe says:

    Wow, a lot of these people are missing the point. Where would REI and outdoor recreation as a whole be without those funds? It’s called shitting where you eat and it’s generally frowned upon.

  11. Daniel Jessee says:

    70% of REI’s $2.56 billion goes back to communities, members and employees. The article completely ignored that widely available fact. By that measure, they’re donating an amount equal to 12% of their net profit. Not to mention that Vista has a PAC that has actively supported legislators who have opposed and decimated our public land. I think the author should rethink his definition of hypocrite. https://newsroom.rei.com/news/corporate/rei-co-op-gives-back-nearly-70-percent-profits-to-outdoor-community-after-year-record-revenues-in-2016.htm

    • Brian Koch says:

      A customer rewards program paying $194 million as stated in the final paragraph — 10% back on qualifying purchases after you pay $20 to be a “member” — has nothing to do with funding wild places.

      The links are in the article, but appreciate your link restating what we’ve said about record sales and profits.

      No matter what way you cut it, $9.3 million is just 1/3 of 1% donated to conservation.

      • Mark says:

        It is worth pointing out that the 10% is actually profit sharing due to the Co-op business structure (members can also vote on the board of directors). This is significantly different than points on a grocery card.

        Also, no matter how you cut it amount of sales does not equal amount of profit so that percentage statement is really open to interpretation.

        If a company is returning 70% of its profits through a combination of donations, dividends given to cooperative members, and trying to provide good pay and benefits to its employees then that sounds pretty good in my books. 30% of profits (not sales) to look at expanding in a business format that doesn’t allow for loans/debt, improving existing stores, product research and development, advertising, etc. is what’s left.

        My interpretation of everything I have read is that REI is supporting the outdoors both by donation directly to outdoor preservation as well as by enabling customers and employees to get outdoors.

        Of course this all adds up to me considering multiple factors in judging how a company performs in its spending choices. If the only thing that matters to someone is how much is donated to one cause then that is an entirely different matter.

        • Joe Zonie says:

          REI charges retail on virtually everything it sells. It is supposedly a co-op, but the dividend they give out is tiny. Where is that money going then? I don’t think they are a particularly efficient organization, but merely have a large base of loyal customers that keeps them in business. I do my research before buying something substantial and the final price I pay more than makes up for the puny dividend, and I get the best product for my actual needs, not the limited choices that REI might choose to stock. And if they don’t offer a product like Camelbak, they certainly are doing a disservice to their customers.

    • Sean D Neves says:

      You really need to learn how to read. Especially the articles that you post that supposedly prove your point: let’s do some math, pinko. 70% of 2.56b is almost $1.8b. I’m sure youeant the prfutargin but you gotta understand that number smatter. Math never was that important to socialists.

  12. RS says:

    I’m an REI member and have been since the ’70s. I’m also a member of Ducks Unlimited and I buy my state’s hunting and fishing licenses annually even thought I don’t hunt and rarely fish. The reason for the latter two is I support conservation. I’m not an NRA member.

    What troubles me about REI is no one is demanding it sell guns or ammunition. The products, like CamelBak, are high quality products which have nothing to do with firearms. Their “sin” is having a corporate parent which also has subsidiaries which sell firearms and accessories, a connection which is tenuous to the point of being completely specious.

    Why REI would punish its members and the employees of innocent companies like CamelBak to make a statement about something which doesn’t concern it is beyond my comprehension. I have expressed my displeasure in writing to REI and, after redeeming this year’s dividend of mid four figures, including $100 of CamelBak products, I will be doing my outdoor shopping elsewhere.

  13. Mike Perry says:

    A friend of mine had college buddies who became very well-paid REI executives, undoubtedly now retired. The company feigns interest in the environment and in wildernesses, but it won’t do so at the expense of executive compensation.

  14. minute-man says:

    Tell us ‘how’ we can AVOID spending a dime with REI.
    I for one, have never heard of them. Are they a wholesaler -or retail?
    Tell us more please

  15. Matt says:

    Brian – excellent article. The numbers in your article represent relevant actual markers of REI behaviors and beliefs — much more informative than marketing PR statements — actions inform better than words. It is important to know this.
    With regard to some comments — please understand that when a government employee gets paid and then this employee supports financially a church — it does not mean at all that the government is in business of supporting religion.

    • Brian Koch says:

      Thanks Matt. Appreciate your thoughts.

      It seems based on feedback that many are concerned about the comparison of a tax versus a donation. Truthfully, I could have left any mention of P-R and Vista’s contributions from this story and it would not change the underlying narrative.

      But I think it is important for people to understand funding for wild places and to be engaged in conversation about the current model which appears unsustainable.

  16. Fran McQ says:

    Please get out of the “me too”business and publicly rescind your action against Vista Outdoors.
    1) Many of your members are hunters, archers, and target shooters.
    2) Keeping and bearing arms is one of the Rights guaranteed by the Constitution
    3) Holding a manufacturer responsible for laws, much behavior of product consumers, is unreasonable. (Are you held responsible when a hiker wearing your boots, shirt, shorts, etc. damages a trail or campsite?)
    4) if we boycotted every company that had ties to anything with which we disagreed, there would be precious little bought and sold.

  17. Robert says:

    “Since 1976 REI has donated $77 million to conservation. Last year they donated $9.3 million to the outdoors. Those may sound like big numbers until held up against annual sales of $2.56 billion. This means that REI donated JUST ONE THIRD of 1% of sales to support the wild places from which it garners mountains of money.

    In 2017 alone Vista Outdoors’ brands generated $87 million for the Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Act—more money in a single year than REI donated in 42 years. Hunters and target shooters are paying a premium on products in support of the outdoors. REI is profiting from shooting sports’ investment, then pointing a scolding finger with the hand opposite the one clutching cash.”

    Bottom line? VISTA is doing one hell of a job in aiding the “Wildlife Restoration Act”, Guns and Ammo don’t kill people, People (not in their right mind) Kill People (and/or antagonistic finger pointing judgmental bullies), and hypocritical bleeding heart sanctimonious liberal REI Execs have absolutely no logical right to hurl judgment, advise or discriminate against VISTA, especially it’s subdivisions that have absolutely nothing to do with firearms. Those are unarguable facts, not opinions.

    I’ll positively do my shopping elsewhere. Thank You for the Article.

    btw, I found this link on Ted Nugent’s FB page. 😉

  18. Brian says:

    Vista is not donating they are collecting an excise tax mandated by the government. That isn’t really noble REI donates.

  19. Dennis says:

    REI is overpriced. Their “co-op” is just a rewards program where they give back a little bit (very little) of the amount they overcharge. Someone here said they support the outdoors by getting people properly outfitted. HA! They tell you what you need, you believe it and pay their prices. It’s all a business model to generate sales, they don’t give a rat’s ass about the outdoors.

    • Brian Koch says:

      As stated in previous comments, because it is comprised of 50 companies all with their own initiatives and because of non-disclosure royalty agreements with conservation organizations, the total number of Vista donation is harder to calculate. I’ve got my research team on it.

      But I assure you that Pittman-Robertson dollars are not irrelevant.

      • River Mud says:

        The real scandal in any of this is finding out whether companies like REI have lobbied for or against the idea of widening the excise tax net to include goods they sell. The companies (and nonprofits) who oppose it need to be publicized and if possible, boycotted. For instance, Patagonia, an unabashedly liberal company, has lobbied FOR the inclusion of climbing, hiking, kayaking gear in a federal excise tax for public land restoration and acquisition, though it might decrease their own sales. I wonder if REI can say the same – where do they land on this issue.

        • Brian Koch says:

          As an aside, we reached out to Patagonia for comment prior to releasing this article. REI happens to sell 680+ items of Patagonia gear. As you know 1% for the Plant – https://www.onepercentfortheplanet.org – was started by Patagonia. It is obviously a voluntary program.

          The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is the trade organization and lobby group that calls the shots. They are on the record multiple times in opposition to a “Backpack Tax.” Patagonia was the driving force behind getting the Outdoor Retailer show moved to Colorado this year because of Utah politicians’ view of public lands. Patagonia and OIA have very strong ties, so if Patagonia wants an excise tax on gear, we’d have one.

          Patagonia had no comment.

  20. Charley says:

    I love the “I’m a gun owner but…” Classic! Almost as bad as the “I grew up around guns but…” REI=biting the hand that feeds them. Never shopped there, never will. Plenty of other places that has all I need at a better price with better ethics. Great article btw.

  21. Phil says:

    I stopped supporting them quite a while ago, but the final straw, when I started voicing my anger at their policies about them was when they began removing vendors who support gun dealers and manufacturers, I have no problem if they don’t want to sell guns, but to actually protest a constitutional amendment by boycotting vendors that do nothing illegal or immoral, that is where I draw the line!

    • Marshall says:

      Yes, without REI, we could all lose our guns and Rugger and all the rest could all go bankrupt! Then how could we excersise our 2nd amendment ? REI should give up several of its constitutional rights in order to protect our 2nd amendment. Corporations are people too my friend.

  22. John says:

    SB, you asked who is trying to take your guns. Answer: Democrats are, read H.R. 5087. This would ban virtually all semi auto rifles and pistols. This is the end game. Liberals can lie and say it isnt but the legislation they are trying to pass says otherwise.

    • Marshall says:

      When they were 100 perecent in control, back when they passed Obamacare, did they take your guns?

      Democrats will never be able to regulate guns in any meaningful manner, only the Republican Party itself could get away with that and that sure as heck ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. In the meantime, you are just fear mongering……but hey, if it gets you off, whatever.

  23. Scott M. Smith says:

    Whether you agree or disagree with REI’s decision to not do business with Vista brands, the article is EXCEPTIONALLY misleading. Note the use of the words “generated” and “donated”…they try to make the nearly $10 million REI donated to conservation causes last year look like a pittance while bulking up the money Vista “generated”. The difference is that the money Vista “generated” was money collected as an excise tax on sales…they HAD to turn that money over. How much did Vista actually donate from profits? They don’t share that information as they attempt to shame REI’s donations.

    • Brian Koch says:

      1/3 of 1% is a pittance no matter what way you cut it.

      You might also like to consider that hunters and anglers were the driving force behind both the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell–Johnson Acts, taxing themselves in support of wild places and wildlife.

      And as explained in multiple previous comments and in the follow-up live broadcast video, regardless the origination of the contributions — excise taxes or donation — it all comes from customers’ pockets of companies profiting from the outdoors.

  24. Peter says:

    I’m sure the co-op money in dividends doesn’t go directly to conservation. If you do the math, the contribution is still very minimal by REI. I personally think a business has the right to run itself at it sees fit, but I disagree with the company’s stance on legislative policy and lack of contribution to conservation. If I need shoes I’ll go else where and pay about 30% less for the same product. I’m sure none of the 29.3% is going to conservation or anything I support so I’ll keep the funds or take them somewhere that supports legislative policy I agree with. Thank you for the website suggestions.

  25. Corporate Stooge says:

    Also realize how much money REI makes on the float. Their prices are extremely high and they sit on your money collecting interest before throwing you 10 percent back. Then we get all excited when we get our check in the mail like REI is actually doing us a favor. This is why the dividend is annual. If someone gave me millions of dollars to sit on all year I would gladly give all the money back (while keeping the interest accrued).

  26. Meredith says:

    Your article is premised on a false equivalency.

    A tax on the purchase of firearms is paid by the buyer. Firearm companies do not contribute to conservation through the scheme you describe here, their customers do. REI contributes directly to conservation, in addition to paying their share of taxes.

    Also contrary to what you claim, other users of the outdoors contribute in similar small increments through the purchase of permits to use wilderness areas, ski areas etc. for instance I live in Washington and every driver contributes a parks due when registering a vehicle, also one must purchase a parks pass to use state wilderness areas which contributes directly to conservation efforts.

    • Brian Koch says:

      There is no equivalency in the article. Though this is the first time we’ve ever heard of Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson called a “scheme.” That scheme contributed $1.1 billion to conservation last year alone.

      As said in multiple previous comments, as well as in the follow-up live video, regardless whether an excise tax or a voluntary donation these funds come from customers’ of companies profiting from the outdoors.

      Nowhere did I say that others do not contribute to the outdoors. I said they don’t contribute the way hunters, anglers and shooters do via both the purchase of licenses and a 10-11% excise tax on their gear.

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