REI, Ann Coulter, and one voice among millions

I count myself among the lucky who avoid the political venom of people like Ann Coulter. When the web burst into flames last week over Coulter’s use of the R word after the Presidential debate Tuesday night, (which wasn’t the first time she had used it), I couldn’t ignore the flash point.

As I began to put this post together, I decided to see who supports Coulter by advertising on her web site. I was aghast to see that Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) a co-op selling outdoor gear and clothing, which also promotes environmental stewardship, had not one, but two ads on Coulter’s site. I have been a member of REI since 1984.

REI ads on Ann Coulter’s web site

As readers of this blog may know, I am also a member of another co-op, Washington Electric Membership Co-op (WEMC), which had 15,268 metered accounts last year. Member engagement is not encouraged by the Board of Directors or senior staff at WEMC.  Co-op members, who are also the owners of WEMC, are barred from attending monthly board meetings, and we must fill out request forms for information. This continues to suit the needs of the Directors and Senior Staff just fine.

I like, no love, REI. The customer service is wonderful. The products are great. The staff is well-trained and helpful. They stand behind the products they sell. I love getting my yearly dividend check each year. I have given memberships to my daughters, my mother, and a friend as gifts.  Earlier this week Santa, via the Postal Service, delivered three Christmas gifts to my house, along with something for the elves.

But hate speech trumps that warm and fuzzy feeling when the dividend email arrives along with the 20 percent member discount in the spring.

Just 13 hours after a short phone call with Megan Behrbaum, REI’s Public Affairs manager, and a follow-up email with the screen shot of Coulter’s web site, I got a response. It included this,

“In addition to removing the ad, we are working with our internal teams to double-check that we have the proper parameters in place to ensure that a similar issue does not arise in the future.  These parameters will ensure that we are not purchasing any political websites moving forward.

REI is deeply committed to providing an inclusive workplace and shopping experience to our employees, members and customers. Per your request, this commitment is communicated on our website on the following pages and

We sincerely apologize for the oversight and please know that we addressed the issue as quickly as possible.”

In 13 hours time, a co-op serving 4.7M active members via online and phone orders, operating 127 stores in 31 states, with 2011 revenues of $1.8B, heard the concerns of one member, and changed the guidelines for its advertising.

One voice among 4.7 Million.

Say no to hate speech and those who use it. Speak up and say it is wrong.

I could do no less.


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