It's not necessarily the quality of product in big chain stores, they generally have a decent range of product. The issue is the lack of quality salespeople to help you find the correct gear. The vast majority of "shop kids" working at REI, Any Mountain, Sports Chalet/Authority are clueless and the main reason to avoid stores like that in favor of smaller shops that pride themselves on customer service and being knowledgable.
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"I'm only here for the apres"