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I worked at REI part-time (Less than a year)
Gear discount Work with some cool people into outdoorsy activity.
Memberships are everything. It doesn't matter to them how well you connect with customers or the amount of product you sell, you're only as good to them as the number of memberships you push onto people. No more, no less. Low wages. Working at REI is like working at Wall-mart or another "big-box" store. Pushy, paranoid managers treat you like a school kid, regardless of expertise or proficiency. Managers play favorites. They will gossip.
Advice to Management
My advice is directed more to people at the corporate level, including the CEO: you took everything that made REI great, marginalized it, and spit out a corporate facsimile that's remarkably antithetical to the original concept of REI. This is insulting and you owe all of your loyal customers and employees an apology. Also, don't treat everyone like they're stupid. They may be (intentionally) misinformed, but they're not dumb: if the majority of membership revenue was actually being used to foster environmental causes and education, you wouldn't instruct your managers to be that pushy about it. There's something curiously dishonest about membership sales at REI and I would encourage every customer and employee to be more inquisitive about what's actually going on. Don't accept the corporate propaganda - find the truth!!!