It sounds like sports-equipment company REI actually enjoys providing good customer service—their official Return policy seems pretty lenient, and it turns out they stand by that,at least for Tom’s family:
Last week, my dad was headed off to the dump with his old (4-5 years) cross country skies. They had become delaminated as a result of plain wear and tear (and storing them in the hot attic probably didn’t help). My brother had to pick up a jacket for summer camp, so my dad figured he’s see if REI would take them back to dispose of (saving him 20 bucks that the dump would have cost). Not only did REI take them back, but they gave him a full refund. Kudos to REI for honoring an abnormally long warranty that we didn’t even know existed.
Tom’s story isn’t unique. We found others online that mention a similar no-questions-asked (other than, “Is this used?”) return/exchange policy. This forum thread on the backpackinglight website suggests you should try going into a store or calling rather than using the contact form on the website—here’s a typical entry: “I never had any luck thru email with a pack I had, but when I called them, they jumped on it. Let me use the defective pack until the new one came in, and sent me a return label.”