So, thoughts on the demise of Mountain Equipment Co-op?

JohnAbercrombie

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"Performance backcountry gear"....well, let's watch.

I have noticed that some products don't appear on the website any more, and most of those missing products are what I think of as 'high quality'.
I was checking online prices for Western Mountaineering sleeping bags a few weeks ago - MEC used to carry (or at least list for special order) WM bags. They are gone from the MEC site now. Are companies dumping MEC or is MEC 'dumbing down' their selections?

I'm a fogey and an old crank, I suppose, but I think the entire 'rebranding' industry is BS.
 
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AM

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Yes, I agree. Which is why I find it appropriate that the whole MEC rebranding experiment failed so catastrophically. These little changes are an admission that they ruined their own brand.

It’s interesting to note as well that they are hyping up the expertise of their retail staff. That was a traditional strength of the old co-op that definitely waned in the last 10 or so years. Let’s see if they can attract and retain really knowledgable people, as they used to.

Hey, I’m happy shopping at the smaller shops. But if Mountain Equipment Company can can find some of the old energy by calling back core customers (and reaching out to a younger core — lots of young people are getting into backcountry activities), then I’m willing to give them a chance.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

cougarmeat

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I don't know what is going on with MEC, but down here, I've seen the "evolution" of REI since it first started. I understand a small or niche market often means fewer employees and prosperity. But when you look at the salaries of the REI executives, the term "Co-op" hardly seems to apply. I recall one of the products they sold claimed: "... Highest quality down ...". Only when you read the garment label did you see, "... 600 fill duck down ... " Maybe marketing people put no value on establishing trust.
 

CPS

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Are companies dumping MEC or is MEC 'dumbing down' their selections?
I've heard rumours that a bunch of suppliers pulled the plug on MEC due to not being paid. I'm not convinced that's all that is to blame. But when demand is as high as it has been for outdoor equipment over the last year or so, I'm sure suppliers are much more eager to supply retailers with shorter payment arrangements.
 

kayakwriter

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If you recall, the rebranding of MEC in its latter years was a sign from many members that co-op was forgetting its roots.
I was a writer in MEC's Communications And Marketing Department when the rebrand (or "rebland") to the square took place. The project had been outsourced to an outside agency (a bad sign in itself, we thought). When it was presented to the C & M department, most of us old Co-op hands were privately aghast. But MEC's internal culture had already shifted to the point that to express concern, let alone dissent, regarding the plans our Glorious Leader and the Board had laid for The Great Leap Forward was not just to paint a target on your back, but to hand them a loaded rifle and invite them to take as many shots as they liked.

Personally, I don't expect to ever purchase anything from MEC again, and this re-rebrand won't change that. As a former member, I'm a creditor who's lost out on the value of my original ownership share and on the value of my Patronage Dividend shares. As a former long-term employee, I had been entitled to a lifetime employee discount when shopping there, but the new ownership turned off the tap on that.

If I were a supplier there might be an element of cutting off my nose to spite my face in refusing to do further business with them: it would make more sense to not take it personally, cut my losses and evaluate whether there was profit to be made in doing business with the new MEC.

But I'm not a supplier, I'm a (former) customer. I wouldn't make money doing business with MEC; they would. There's nothing they sell that I can't buy the identical or equivalent to elsewhere, without having to give money to a business that stiffed me. For comparison, if I'd given a business a deposit on a special order item, and they'd subsequently gone bankrupt, they might be legally allowed to neither return my deposit nor supply the goods. But if they made the choice to do that, you can bet I'd be making the choice not to buy from the reincarnated business. Similarly, I'm sure MEC is on strong legal ground to choose to keep my share values and deny me my discount, but I see no reason to give them any more of my money.

None of the above reflects in any way on the quality of the products, advice and/or service the new MEC offers; if they meet your particular needs, there's no reason you shouldn't buy from them if you like.
 
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Gary Jacek

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In September I spent a few days paddling and glamping with one of the founders of MEC. He designed the original mountain logo. And he along with other founders, was less than happy watching the “professional” board as it borrowed and grew the Coop into insolvency. All the while fending off earlier board members efforts to gain control and right the ship.

Many of those older board members are wealthy in their own right, (read…very successful business managers) and could have purchased MEC outright. But since MEC was sold off in secret, they had no opportunity to do so. And the courts upheld the secret selloff.

I wonder if the “professional” board members are still employed as board members elsewhere. And if so, what is in store for those ventures.
 

kayakwriter

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One of the essential Principles of a co-op, as defined by The International Cooperative Alliance is "Democratic Member Control:
Cooperatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner
."

It's difficult to imagine a more profoundly anti-democratic situation than the incumbents on a board getting to determine who is and isn't allowed to be a candidate in upcoming elections. It's exactly the kind of thing authoritarian regimes like mainland China do. "Can't let the hoi polloi have too much choice; they might not understand what's good for them and vote for the "wrong" people..."
 

kayakwriter

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How about selling the coop without any member input?
Yeah, don't get me started. It makes you wonder whether there could be a civil court action against the individual members of the board. Would there be a case for theft by conversion or whatever the proper term would be? (The members having been the owners and all.)

I can only assume that either there are details that I, as a layperson, don't understand that made it legal or that, at least so far, anyone looking at a class action suit has decided the game wouldn't be worth the candle. It would have been entirely normal for the BOD to have liability insurance that would pay for their personal legal defenses in such a situation. So it might be one of those cases where the lawyers on both sides would make out like bandits and the individual plaintiffs (I.E. the former members) would each get a coupon good for two dollars and seventy five cents off their next purchase at the new MEC. (Minimum required purchase: $100. Cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Not valid on days of the week ending with a "Y", yadda, yadda, yadda.)

More seriously, per the wikipedia page on Mountain Equipment Co-op, "1077 Holdings Co-operative remains active to deal with the remaining claims by creditors and will be wound up at some point in the future." So I wonder if any legal action has to wait until the last gun is fired for 1077 Holdings Co-operative, because only then would plaintiffs be able to quantify their losses? (This is just me, totes not a lawyer, not even an internet lawyer, spitballin' and speculatin'.)
 
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