Yesterday I visited my local REI store for the first time in a long time, at least since 2015. As an REI member, I have a modest dividend credit to use up within the next six months. There’s a small camping stove I’ve had my eye on recently, and I know they carry it. I was hoping they might have a floor model so I could see just how small it is. They didn’t, but I did see this sign as I walked in the store:
Now, like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve been in REI, but it’s no secret they’ve been turning their back on outdoor enthusiasts for years, at least here in Arizona. You know, the folks who would possibly have a knife in their pocket or maybe a handgun tucked under their belt. As the years have gone by, the Paradise Valley store that had once been stuffed with high-quality outdoor gear is now mostly full of overpriced, low-quality clothing. Maybe the folks who buy that stuff don’t mind shopping in a defenseless victim zone.
Still, the store continues to carry a small amount of decent gear, which is why I was there in the first place. After seeing the sign, though, I started asking myself a bunch of questions:
- Since REI has recently been rebranding itself to emphasize its cooperative origins, how many members were consulted before deciding to turn the Paradise Valley store into a target-rich environment?
- Was there a specific security threat at this store that made management decide to post the sign? In other words, is REI telegraphing the store is unsafe despite its location adjacent to one of the most affluent towns in the country?
- Is this the only REI store where a gunbuster sign is posted? Are only Arizona stores posted? If so, what makes a concealed firearm more dangerous in this store or in Arizona than in other places?
- Since most peace officers carry some sort of weapon, and since Arizona laws don’t generally treat peace officers differently when a place is posted like this, is REI telling police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and Federal agents they’re not welcome?
- Since REI has a display case full of knives for sale, many of which would be considered weapons by reasonable people, if I buy such a knife from them, am I trespassing as I walk from the checkout counter to the front door? If I attempt to return a knife I bought there, will they press criminal charges?
- Since no one checked me on the way into the store, how does REI enforce this gun-free policy? Does it bother anyone at REI that the only people in the store with weapons are the ones who don’t respect signs?
As the questions kept piling up, I remembered something rather important. Since enough time has passed, I can request a check for my dividend. Instead of getting answers from them, I can just spend my REI dividend at Cabela’s. It turns out they carry the same stove, and it’s a lot more fun to shop there.
(P.S.: If any readers frequent REI stores outside Arizona, please comment on how stores are posted there.)