Thank you for circling back with your experience. We are sorry there is continued confusion around how you would receive your return. Let me see if I can answer your questions:
To remain compliant with credit and debit card regulations, bankcard (credit/debit) returns should be applied to the same card that was used in the original purchase. While it falls outside a 'normal' operation and is an exception, a manager may be able to override a return to a credit/debit card that was not used for the original purchase in certain situations. As an example, if you made a purchase with a credit card and, in the time between your purchase and return, the credit card expired (or was lost) and you had a new one issued. Credit/debit cards with different numbers are considered different bankcards, even if they are linked to the same account.
As much as possible, we try to return purchases to their original method of purchase. Store credit is the tender option available to customers who purchased at item with a gift card or store credit. While store credit could be issued if a customer would prefer, a store will do its best to process a return (with a valid proof of purchase) to the original method of purchase (i.e. debit/credit card, cash, or PayPal). A check is normally only offered if the cash return amount is over $500.
Our refund options are as standardized across REI as they can be, while still allowing for the flexibility to accommodate all of the variables (such as cash on hand at a store) inherent in processing returns and giving managers the ability to exercise their judgement when necessary. You are correct that our normal procedures for the return of a gift with proof of purchase would be cash, check, or store credit.
Hopefully this helps, thanks!