REI opts out of Black Friday

Kudos to REI for opting out of Black Friday and doubling down on their core values.  For anyone that’s been an REI member and experienced the exceptional culture and practices of the 75+ year old retailer, this probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise as REI has always stood in a league of it’s own based on a retail experience that is nothing short of stellar; however, for the uninitiated the decision of a major national retailer which operates 140 retail stores, employing over 10,000 employees to shut down and pay their employees on one of the biggest shopping days of the year is curious at the very least.

How CAN they afford such a drastic move?  The answer lies at the core of REI’s culture which is a unique corporate structure called a Consumer Cooperative (not to be confused with a retailers cooperative) which means the company is actually owned and operated by it’s members.  In fact, REI is the largest Consumer Cooperative in the United States and one of the largest in the world.  Without this unique structure, it would not be feasible for REI to simply opt out of Black Friday.  Consumer Cooperatives are quite unique and complex but in short, while they sound great in theory they are extremely difficult to scale so it’s phenomenal that REI has been able to overcome many of the obstacles which typically prevent a consumer collective from becoming anything more then a local retail anomaly.  Even more fascinating is that REI continues to offer its members extraordinary benefits including one of the most liberal return policies in the industry, as well as a 10% dividend on all purchases, even as it continues to grow and build more massive stores around the country.  REI’s unique status as a Cooperative is what allows it to extend such progressive policies and how REI can make a bold move like opting out of Black Friday.

If REI were a publicly held corporation, or a private company beholden to investors it would be impossible for them to simply opt out of one of the largest shopping days of the year.  Instead of opting out of Black Friday they’d be inventing new tributes to conspicuous consumerism and scheming for ways to get consumers lined up outside their stores earlier then the competition.

The genius of this move is that because REI was the first major retailer to opt out of Black Friday they are receiving major press and will continue to receive press throughout the holiday season.  From a financial stand point, their decision should pay off handsomely as they will likely acquire new customers which they are very good at monetizing over the long term.  In addition, if they inspire some of their existing customers to opt out of Black Friday, they operate a very successful web presence at which will allow them to monetize these customers without opening their stores.

Retail Pundits have been calling for the death of brick and mortar retail for years.  In 2015, Brick and Mortar retail is not dead.  Apple is one of the largest online retailers in the world but they also operate more then 450 retail stores worldwide and companies like Bonobos, Warby Parker & BirchBox are all examples of consumer brands which started out selling exclusively online and after tremendous success have branched out into the physical retail space.  The reality is that uninspired retail is dead because consumers have simply too many options.  To remain relevant, retailers must inspire consumers  to earn their loyalty and to do this Retailers must project strong values and who reflect these values in everything they do.

Test post

Testing WordPress for iOS, the pic below is from Scare LA where we bumped into one of Vera’s patients. 

Billboard fail

Why does this amuse me?


With Carmogeddon looming less than 12 hours away I want to go over Waze, a navigation app that I think will prove much more disruptive than a 53 hour shutdown of the 405.

By disruptive I mean that this little startup has the potential to revolutionize one of the least favorite parts of many peoples day: their commute. By leveraging the power of crowdsourcing and social networking, Waze provides real time, turn-by-turn navigation based on current traffic conditions. In addition to traffic information Waze also collects and reports data on accidents, red light cameras, speed traps and other road hazards that may conspire against you on your trip across town. That’s right, this app not only aims to tell you when it is OK to hop on the 405 rather than La Cienega but will guide you through the process and give you a heads up about the cop hiding after the next overpass.

Needless to say, Garmin you should be more than a little worried. I’ve long questioned the need for my stand-alone Nuvi 660 when I have a fully capable, GPS enabled smart phone with me at all times. And their $33 street pilot app hasn’t exactly been well received. One of the only advantages of having a stand alone GPS I can think of at this point is preserving the battery life of your phone. GPS navigation is a real battery killer and who wants to get where they are going with a dead phone? Hopefully as the software evolves and battery technology improves this will be less of an issue.

Speaking of issues, one of the problems I have with Waze is the social gaming elements which actually encourage user interaction while driving. “Wazers” are encouraged to report traffic incidents they encounter en route and even earn points for updating map errors or entering street names. It’s true that the UI has been designed mostly for one-handed operation, but the distraction potential is pretty high and could be enough to cause an accident (oh the irony). To be fair Waze does offer voice recognition for some features and text entry is restricted while moving; however, simply entering “passenger” mode subverts this restriction. I think Waze needs to ramp up its passive data collection and offer a simplified user interface designed for drivers to report traffic incidents with 1 touch as opposed to the 3 or 4, which may be required now.

The truth is that this revolution isn’t going to happen overnight. Waze has already been around for several years and the software still feels somewhat like beta. But Carmogeddon looks to be the perfect use case for Waze and the app has received a tremendous amount of attention over the past few months. The good news is that as the user base grows and they are able to gather more data the navigation should improve.

Who knows, Carmogeddon may be hyped up like the Y2K bug but in any case there is definitely huge potential for Waze to blaze new trails in the realm of navigation.

Ode to Speakerphone

This just in: Cell phones cause cancer. The following is an excerpt from this article on

Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

Let’s be honest, this news shouldn’t be entirely surprising. If you’ve ever heard the bizarre litany of squawks, chirps and buzzing that your smartphone elicits from any speakers within a 5-10ft radius then you’ve probably wondered if your brains were being cooked as well. You may have also noticed the SAR information tucked away in the back of the instruction manual that came with your phone. If SAR seems confusing, its akin to the intensity level setting on your microwave…except you can’t change it, it’s set by the cell phone manufacturer.

The good news is that the further the phone is held away from the body the less radiation is absorbed. Hmmm…can you hear me now? So if you can’t ditch your cell phone don’t panic, the experts suggest getting an ear piece, or using speaker phone to increase the distance between you and your cellular mutating device.

Tour of California

Saturday I drove out to Mt. Baldy to watch the best dopers cyclists tackle the 10,000 ft monster climb on stage 7 of the Tour of California. It was my first time as a spectator at a pro bike race and I have to saw it was pretty cool despite the insanely low ratio of actual spectating to just sitting around waiting for the peloton.

The shot below is from one of the infamous switch backs towards the top.


Here’s a shot of Chris Horner tossing a bottle just before the last switchback.

Chris Horner

In a galaxy far far away…

My Left Eye
Not the first time I’ve had a pic of my optic nerve taken at an eye doctor, also not the first time I’ve requested a digital copy of the image; however, this is the first time my optometrist actually followed through and emailed me a copy of the image. Thank you Dr. Funnell.


According to the Wall Street Journal Verizon will be announcing the availability of the iPhone on the Verizon network next Tuesday January 11th aka 1/11/11. The print above is from Hugh MacCleod’s Gaping Void series and I love how he has captured the absurdity of our cultural obsession with a phone. That being said I am fully prepared to ditch my Black Berry and walk through walls or doing whatever it takes to get a Verizon iPhone.

Merry Christmas

I think my bike hates me…the strand is covered in an inch of sand. Beautiful day…

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