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post #1 of (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 09:18 AM Thread Starter
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Default Craigslist post about MEC

We are all somehow unhappy with direction our MEC is going (more or less) but this person is really pissed off.

http://vancouver.craigslist.ca/van/rnr/4763105667.html

I still go to MEC from time to time but I am not big spender. I have few friends there but we never discuss employment or condition of their employement We discuss gear and or some events.

They never look unhappy to me. What is your comment?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 09:32 AM
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Hmm.. Well, there's at least ONE disgruntled, presumeably fired employee no longer there..

I like to shop MEC online (the few times I am in Vancouver I go in for a peek, but it is a bewildering experience akin to Costco when I am hungry), and I appreciate the discount for SAR members.

Some good deals to be found on their gear swap page..
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Last edited by dougz; 11-30-2014 at 09:36 AM.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 01:34 PM
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My wife had a hard time finding women's mountaineering boots (REI has a much larger selection,) and my family (north Island, Saskatchewan, northern BC) basically has no access at all to MEC retail locations for their outdoor equipment needs.

Therefore, I haven't been incredibly happy with some of the recent expansion decisions. For example, they opened an urban boutique before providing a physical presence for large parts of the country that have a need for outdoor equipment.
http://mediaroom.mec.ca/2012/09/mont...que-in-canada/

They also now carry Blundstones. Blundstones are great and I own a pair. I didn't buy them at MEC and I don't need the co-op to stock them if they don't have enough floor space to carry a decent selection of women's mountaineering boots. I also worry about people joining MEC just to buy street shoes and taking advantage of the very generous product return policy.
http://www.mec.ca/product/5036-066/b...-boots-unisex/

I'm also of the opinion that the re-branding effort has destroyed a lot of value. The mountain was one of the most iconic and well recognized Canadian brands.

Unfortunately, the new rules for board elections make it much easier for the current board to influence the results of each election by giving them a very high level of authority to screen out some candidates and to recommend others.

A number of candidates were disqualified this year and won't be allowed to stand on the ballot next year - the decision making behind that process is questionable. If you know anyone who was disqualified then I'd like to chat. Give me a PM.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 02:12 PM
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Politics aside, I'm looking at this strictly as consumer. Decision not to carry certain brands was not smart from business perspective IMHO. I used to make 90% of outdoor purchases at MEC; now it's less than 50%. This year haven't spent a dime at MEC - split betwen REI and Atmosphere.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 07:25 PM
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The Edmonton store has long been nicknamed "Mountain Equipment Out of Stock" and despite adding a lot of footage, that persists as the space was added for bikes.

The main problem here has been the loss of outdoors-experienced staff. They have trimmed from 125 staffers to 60, losing most of their very part-time casual staff. They cost the coop in terms of payroll costs, but were super valuable as the store could usually have one or two of them around when people needed help with ski mountaineering or climbing gear.

Not to discount young people, but today the floor is mostly staffed by inexperienced people that are of no use in terms of technical gear.

Last Christmas season I worked at a local independent shop and we run run ragged with customers coming from the MEC disappointed in the lack of product knowledge and experience relating to the products. It's been a boon for the small shops. So, there is a silver lining to it...
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 11:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zeljkok View Post
Politics aside, I'm looking at this strictly as consumer. Decision not to carry certain brands was not smart from business perspective IMHO. I used to make 90% of outdoor purchases at MEC; now it's less than 50%. This year haven't spent a dime at MEC - split betwen REI and Atmosphere.
Things I've failed to find in stock at MEC over the past few years:

SnoSeal. (Lots of $10 small tubes of highly marketable inferior products, though.)

250 ml Nalgene bottles. (Weird collapsible $15 things though.)

A $3 to $5-ish really good water-proof pen, suitable to leave with a log book at a destination. (They had the $25 "space pen" in stock.)

Webbing fittings, a couple of different common types.

Athletic tape. Good old 2" white athletic tape. I guess with enough Goretex and money nobody gets blisters or mild sprains anymore.

There is a theme there, and it's purely rational profit-maximising strategy. I've little respect left for MEC. Drop the "Co-op" bit, you no longer serve the members.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 12:45 AM
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we used to like shopping for outdoor specialty and cool gear at MEC years ago, we rarely go there anymore and seek better items at private outlets or online instead, too bad.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 01:59 AM
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I worked for a period at the Langley MEC store prior to its opening and for several months after it opened. Here's what I had for a takeaway from that experience with regard to the Craigslist poster:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Craigslist Poster
Work at Mountain Equipment Coop at your own peril.

The self importance of this company is off the charts.
Useless out-of-touch management.
True. There is an enormous amount of hubris as you go up the management ladder.


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Hypocrisy by management: they encourage employees to ride their bicycles or take transit to work while the upper managers drive their big Mercedes and BMWs to the office.
I didn't see this. Not at all -- not to say that it doesn't happen but I didn't see it. While some of the upper managers do drive nice cars, many also have nice bikes that they ride as well. In fact when the Langley store was coming together (before it opened) several upper management managers rode their bikes out to Langley from the Vancouver head office -- and back -- on several different days. As an avid cycle-commuter I was impressed.


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They can't decide are they a for profit business, non profit, social organization.
They have decided this -- they are a profit oriented business that is far, far away from the grass-roots co-op that most of us have known for many, many years.


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Bullying, harassment, and intimidation by middle managers and verbally abusive managers!!!
Saw this first hand and spoke up about it and against it -- that didn't go very well. When referring to 'middle managers' I'm referring to a specific store manager and the lower level corporate managers at head office -- and it needs to be said that all the lower level store managers (i.e., assistant managers) were not in this category -- they are treated only marginally better than front line sales staff.


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Do not question anything management does; they ask for feedback but never act on it.
Pretty much true with very few exceptions. Way more truth than not.


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Most employees unfriendly, self absorbed douche-bags.
Didn't see this at all, either at the Langley store or at the Vancouver store. From my experience the front line sales staff at Langley (and Vancouver) are some really nice genuine and decent people.


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Expensive 'benefits': MEC pay only half of BC MSP premiums, employees pay the other half. Employees cannot opt out of any their benefits (STD or LTD) which employee must pay for every pay period.
Can't speak to this directly but I do know that a lot of games are played with part time people to keep them as part time so that benefits of full time employment don't happen. Saw this lots. Lots of promise and dangling carrots for full time positions but pitiful few positions came available. Part time people had their 'probationary contracts' renewed -- even if they were working full time hours (myself included).


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Employees are treated like children; working there is like being in high school.
Saw this a lot -- probably a bit hyper-sensitive to it as I'm a 'mature' person.


Quote:
Lots of make-work projects on the go to keep their too many employees busy.
Saw a bit of this but didn't look at it as a negative -- they were keeping people working. I saw more cases of being understaffed during busy periods but in all fairness keeping employees working/busy is a tough juggling act.


Quote:
Most of what they do is useless but they think it's all very important. All they really do is sell outdoors clothing and sporting goods, but they think they are God's gift to Vancouver and are doing this city a huge service.
This is definitely apparent as you move up the corporate ladder. As mentioned, there's no shortage of hubris.


Quote:
Very distrustful organization.
Hmmm... don't know about this one but there definitely is a reluctance to allow people to think for themselves and have their own opinions. I was there while the re-branding was going on and it was pitiful how you were treated if you had anything negative to say about any of it. Shocking actually.


Quote:
When you start there, they take your photo and tell you to complete a personal profile which is then posted on a new hires board supposedly so others can "get to know you" (as if it's anybody's business) but in reality they want your picture in your HR file so they can give it to the police if there is any problem. I'm surprised they don't take employee fingerprints too.
I think this is a lot of bull. I didn't see this at all. It seems to me that the writer had some insecurities or perhaps got caught doing something he/she shouldn't have been doing.


Quote:
If you are a left-wing communist granola munching cyclist who likes to work at doing nothing while being abused and screwed over then you may fit in there, but otherwise stay away from MEC!
Left wing leanings will definitely get you closer to the opportunity of front line employment -- perhaps even moreso at higher levels so long as you're also able to worship corporate profits.


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PS: Their crap stuff is marked up over 100% and is mostly made in China in sweatshops by child labour.
I think this is crap as well. If there's one thing that the current MEC does do well is they have high standards and controls to avoid sweat shop labour.

Product with high markups is very real however -- especially on trendy and fashionable urban clothing -- how do you think they were able to afford that astronomically priced re-branding fiasco, the new flashy headquarters, and huge salaries and bonuses for upper management?

In all, as far as retail jobs go, MEC is a lot better than most and they do have some good employee benefits -- it's definitely not the worst place to work in retail. But the friendly, helpful, think for yourself culture that existed for many, many years is gone.

One thing that bothered me a great deal (because it was a load of BS) was that employees in Langley get paid a dollar an hour less than those in Vancouver and North Van -- when I asked about this I was told it was because it's cheaper to live in Langley. Right, sure it is.

I left primarily because of the BS that trickled down from head office and the corporate demand to abide by MECthink.

Hail the almighty dollar and the bottom line.

Last edited by WestCoastPaddler; 12-01-2014 at 05:26 AM.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 02:08 PM
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Was at the Calgary store on the weekend. Clothing and gloves - looks like good selection until you try and find your size. Sure I can order online I suppose, and then return it no doubt. Staff knowledge of gear - two staffers having a little visit, perfect, I'll split my odds, they went to the website and looked at the description there - I can do that myself thanks. Lots of brightly colored shoes though, and the checkout girl was friendly!

Lastly - they don't carry basic bandanas. Seriously.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 02:39 PM
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MEC still has such a positive brand image that such criticism, warranted or not, isn't going to get much traction. And even if it did, nothing will change because the members have been tricked into approving procedures for electing directors that make change all but impossible. People exposing MEC's underbelly will remain voices in the wilderness. I admire this person's efforts, but despite some success, I have far more futile experience trying keep MEC democratic and focused on the earlier goals.

MEC critics need to be extremely careful to be accurate in their accusations. I'd be surprised if anything at MEC is marked up 100%. When I was on the board, markups on everything were close to the average of 30-34%. You can easily determine the average markup from the financial statements. All you need is gross sales, and total expenses or cost of goods. If some items are marked up above the average, other items are being subsidized by them. I'd venture a guess that MEC's bicycles benefit from being subsidized, since there's no way bicycle stores mark up bikes by 30-34%.

The Internet gives us access to a global product selection and bypasses middlemen like MEC, so I get better value without shopping at MEC. In addition, you can get quality used gear online, which pays those disposing of it, makes it cheaper to buy, and reduces the amount of stuff manufactured and thrown away.

Meet you at DYE-II?
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 04:20 PM
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Steve, your numbers and your understanding of retail markups are incorrect.

There definitely are many items in retail that are 100% markup -- in fact, there's a term for it -- it's called keystone pricing. Not all retail items will be keystone but quite a few are. Typically, clothing is above keystone (note MEC's increase in clothing over the past few years). Your numbers are also off on bicycle markups. 35-40% markup is the norm in most shops -- depending upon the specific bike, it can be closer to 50% (and when you think about it, that's not a lot of markup). Bicycle accessory markup is also well beyond the 30-34% that you mention -- much of it being up to 80% or even keystone. I suspect that most retail outdoor gear prices also fall into this range.

How do I know this? Because I have spent a few years in retail (specifically bicycles) and was involved in purchasing. My daughter worked in the clothing industry -- I was completely surprised at the huge markups in retail textile goods (guess which industry the current CEO of MEC arrived from).

Lower markups were probably the case when you were on the board -- when the co-op was run as a genuine co-op and prices were determined to give to members a fair deal rather than to focus on maximizing profits. But with the new MEC model of profit driven marketing, those numbers you quote, I would suggest are much higher now.

At any rate, the Craigslist Poster was not only complaining about profit margins -- seems to me that the crux of the posting was about employment conditions (some of which is true but most of the claims are exaggerated or completely false, imho).

I agree with you that speaking up about MEC's shortcomings is not going to do much but some do take note to what's being said.

Last edited by WestCoastPaddler; 12-01-2014 at 04:54 PM.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WestCoastPaddler View Post
Steve, your numbers and your understanding of retail markups are incorrect.

There definitely are many items in retail that are 100% markup -- in fact, there's a term for it -- it's called keystone pricing. Not all retail items will be keystone but quite a few are. Typically, clothing is above keystone (note MEC's increase in clothing over the past few years). Your numbers are also off on bicycle markups. 35-40% markup is the norm in most shops -- depending upon the specific bike, it can be closer to 50% (and when you think about it, that's not a lot of markup). Bicycle accessory markup is also well beyond the 30-34% that you mention -- much of it being up to 80% or even keystone. I suspect that most retail outdoor gear prices also fall into this range.

How do I know this? Because I have spent a few years in retail (specifically bicycles) and was involved in purchasing. My daughter worked in the clothing industry -- I was completely surprised at the huge markups in retail textile goods (guess which industry the current CEO of MEC arrived from).

Lower markups were probably the case when you were on the board -- when the co-op was run as a genuine co-op and prices were determined to give to members a fair deal rather than to focus on maximizing profits. But with the new MEC model of profit driven marketing, those numbers you quote, I would suggest are much higher now.

At any rate, the Craigslist Poster was not only complaining about profit margins -- seems to me that the crux of the posting was about employment conditions (some of which is true but most of the claims are exaggerated or completely false, imho).

I agree with you that speaking up about MEC's shortcomings is not going to do much but some do take note to what's being said.
There are some products retailed at cost or even less. The idea is to make money on financing, service, parts etc.

I realize much retail, especially in clothing, has a 100% markup. I was addressing MEC only. The last MEC annual overall markup numbers I looked at were for 2012 and 2013. They were in the range of 30-32%, very similar to when I was on the board. And there were times when I was paying attention when they reached 34%. You should do your homework before posting that I'm mistaken.

I'll be having lunch soon with someone who has and continues to run bicycle stores here and in Victoria, so I'll try to ask him about the markups on new bicycles.

Meet you at DYE-II?
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 05:33 PM
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How silly of me to think that you could possibly be incorrect about anything.

I'll respectfully bow out of this aspect of the discussion now that you're here. Sigh.

Last edited by WestCoastPaddler; 12-02-2014 at 12:24 AM.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 07:04 PM
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This is such BS. Then if they're saving money with cheaper labour and cheaper rent, the product should be cheaper to purchase in Langley - no? I heard this line 10 years ago when I was looking for work out in the Valley. We pay cheaper cause it's cheaper to live. Logical , except for the fact that the product we pay for from the Valley isn't any cheaper, lol.

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Originally Posted by WestCoastPaddler View Post

One thing that bothered me a great deal (because it was a load of BS) was that employees in Langley get paid a dollar an hour less than those in Vancouver and North Van -- when I asked about this I was told it was because it's cheaper to live in Langley. Right, sure it is.

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post #15 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2014, 07:46 PM
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We used to shop at MEC exclusively for three reasons:

- staff knowledge
- quality gear and selection
- the rock solid guarantee

Now when I go there I regularly seem to know more than the staff, and I'm by no means knowledgeable. Even when I know nothing on a topic I find I can't trust what they say and so don't even bother to ask anymore. Some of the gear is still good, but much of it - especially the clothing - seems to have moved away from functional and towards style. The guarantee is still a draw though (I very rarely use it, but I like the security of knowing if I was sold garbage I have a recourse). We're now starting to shop at liveouthere.com and they're really good to deal with and have a growing selection of gear (mostly clothing, which is where MEC is really starting to stumble).

On a related topic: What are good places to shop for outdoor gear other than MEC?
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