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Big box or local outfitter?

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REI, EMS and Patagonia retail centers sure do have a lot offer. REI’s co-op membership even offers a sweet refund every year of a small percentage of your annual buy. Pretty solid.

But do the larger outdoor retailers leave service behind? How about knowledge of local destinations, trail access or climbing routes?

I think your level of service can vary, really. I’ve visited some small local shops only to feel like some sort of interloper. Now, I should note that sort of reception is more common in the surfing culture, especially when it comes to local breaks (there will forever be debate in the surfing world about the role of localism) but there can be an equally negative vibe in gear shops near highly coveted climbing locales.

For the most part, I’ve almost always had good service in an REI, for example, but have occasionally been challenged by a customer service rep or two about returning an item. Hey, it’s in your policy.

Anyway, what’s your take?

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