Wall of Shame

Wall of Shame: Mountain Equipment Co-op

Ouch. This is a Wall of Shame post that’s hard for me to write.

Canadian co-op retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has long been one of my favourite stores. Basically the Canadian equivalent to REI, MEC has been my go-to place for years to buy hiking, camping, skiing, cycling and travel gear of all sorts. They have a socially responsible corporate policy, fair prices, good quality merchandise, and great customer service. And for years, they also had a pretty decent petites section, stocking everything from outerwear to long underwear in short-friendly sizes.

Which is why this sucks so much: MEC has apparently decided to phase out its petites section entirely. Which means that I will no longer have any place to buy any gear in sizes that fit.

I should note that, since MEC is a co-op, every member technically a part owner. As such, I felt the urge to write to their customer service department to complain.

Here was the reply I got, from someone named Kristi:

Thank you for contacting MEC about petite sizing.

MEC clothing sizes continue to be a source of frustration for some MEC members. In part, that is the reality of having over 4 million members and the full range of size curves that number encompasses. Yet it is also a function of the physical constraints we face, both in warehousing clothing inventory and in merchandising clothing in our stores. We simply cannot accommodate additional sizes in every style, especially as the demand for such products is relatively low. Nonetheless, MEC product managers will continue to identify opportunities for providing members with more sizing options when and where doing so is feasible and your feedback has been passed on to our buying and design department.

So basically, a store with enormous warehouses and thousands of square feet of floor space couldn’t find the space to stock petite clothing. Yeah, right.

My response to them:

Thank you for the reply. However, I find it very disappointing, because 100% of your clothes are now dedicated to taller women and 0% to shorter women, when in fact, we make up *half* of all women in North America. I am tired of companies claiming that they simply don’t have space to sell to us.

I was looking for base layers for skiing. Unfortunately these aren’t things that you can simply shorten, because they are made in technical fabrics. And a too-long base layer pant bunches up in a ski boot and makes it impossible to wear to ski. I was also looking for winter outerwear. And earlier this year I was looking for cycling gear.

You used to have a nice size range in petites. I think you need to reconsider your policy, because you’re alienating your petite customers and essentially making it impossible for us to engage in sports, since we can’t find technical clothing and gear anywhere to fit. By claiming to want to serve the “widest possible size range”, you’ve essentially chosen to favour only average-height women to the exclusion of all others.

Extremely frustrating response from a company I used to admire.

To MEC’s credit, I did actually get a response to this. However, disappointingly, they basically directed me towards their US competition:

Thank you for your reply. I do apologize if my initial response came across as more of an excuse than an explanation.

It is not our intention to exclude certain members and I truly am sorry to hear that you were unable to find clothing that fits in our stores. As with similar requests, your request for petite sizes was passed onto our Buying and Design department after we received your initial email.

Have you tried Eddie Bauer or LL Bean? As much as I would like to recommend items from MEC, we are currently not offering what you need and they tend to carry more petite sizing. I hope that you are able to find some suitable clothing to allow you to get outside.

I should note that neither Eddie Bauer nor LL Bean is available in Canada. With all the complaining that Canadian retailers do about not being able to compete with their US counterparts, maybe they should consider that they’ve brought it on themselves.

Welcome to the Wall of Shame, MEC. I sincerely hope you change your mind on this one.

2 thoughts on “Wall of Shame: Mountain Equipment Co-op

  1. Totally. I used to buy MEC petite jackets for years.
    What solution did you find?
    I find Eddie Bauer is now focused on fashion rather than practicality.
    And not Canadian.
    I am so frustrated finding well made practical petite size 12 outdoor gear.

    1. Sad news that MEC has now been sold to a US investment group and will no longer be the member-owned co-op that we all knew and loved. I guess it’s the final nail in its coffin, alas.

      I don’t have any great solutions for petite-friendly outerwear or activewear, unfortunately. LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Lands End all have some petite items — my packable primaloft travel jacket is from LL Bean, for instance — but the fit and quality can be hit-or-miss. Also, none of them are available locally. With COVID limiting my ability to ship to the border, it’s become even more challenging to buy items from US retailers.

      And no, I’ve yet to find *any* petite merino base layers, anywhere.

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