REI CEO Jerry Stritzke responded this week to complaints from a former employee that the company's emphasis on selling customer memberships punished workers who didn't sell enough.
In a reddit "Ask Me Anything" on Tuesday, Stritzke made himself available for questions following REI's recent announcement that its workers will have the day off on Black Friday. The company tweeted an invitation to commenters to participate in the conversation on reddit.
But the AMA took a turn after reddit user "annonemp," who claimed to be a former REI employee, criticized the company for focusing too heavily on whether its workers sold enough memberships. REI memberships cost $20 and give customers special benefits and discounts.
The commenter claimed REI slashed his or her hours for not selling enough memberships and didn't honor its offer to place the employee at a store in a different city:
I had my hours cut from 30 hours a week to less than 10 because I did not sell enough memberships. Additionally, I was not allowed to pick up shifts from people that didn’t want to work because I did not sell enough memberships. Similar things happened to some of my most authentically qualified co-workers as well. Finally, after moving across the country with the assurance of a transfer, I was told by the store in the new city that I did not sell enough memberships and therefore they did not have any room on the payroll for me. I was not even given the courtesy of an interview with the store to assess any of my other skills, just a brief email wishing me good luck. I lost my health insurance, a source of much needed income, and any potential co-worker friends in a new city where I knew no one.
"I fully understand the need to hold employees to a high standard, but why is the approach so unbalanced?" the commenter asked. Read the full comment here.
Stritzke replied to "annonemp" on Wednesday, saying the company "may have lost sight of the bigger picture."
The truth is that we should have been doing a better job sharing what makes the co-op special. We should have a "pull" model (people want to join because they believe in our mission and they love the experience), not a "push" model when it comes to the co-op. And the most important thing is that our employees in our stores know that their skill, deep outdoor knowledge and customer service are the things that matter above everything. To be clear, that is how our people should be measured. I feel like your story represents a measure of individual performance taken to an extreme and I am committed to understanding what happened. I appreciate you sharing your story and I assure you that we are looking into how we are using this measure. Good conversation.
REI did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exchange.