Thoughts on Backcountry.com

Lloyd Vogel

Hello there GGGers!

Over the past week, there has been a ton of conversation around the actions of Backcountry.com. While we work with several brands that use the term “Backcountry” in either their company name or in their product titles, to our knowledge, none of our companies have been affected or targeted by Backcountry.com’s legal actions. For that we (and they) are grateful.

In reaction to Backcountry.com’s legal actions against companies using the term “Backcountry,” there has been an overwhelming amount of reinvigorated enthusiasm for supporting small, specialty, and local outdoor shops. You know the types of shops I’m talking about: the places filled to the brim with gear, personality, and years of collective outdoor experience. These spaces are community centers, libraries of knowledge, and places that spark joy upon entry or reflection.

Much of this conversation has already been played out on message boards and comment sections across the internet, but I hope to add 2 quick points to the conversation. Full disclosure, given my role with GGG, obviously my perspective is riddled with bias.

  1. While this seemingly rejuvenated energy for shopping local is incredible, given our humble position in the online market, I find it important to note that while Backcountry.com is one of the largest online details of outdoor gear, their business practices shouldn’t be allowed to define the online retail space. Many online retailers play key roles in our outdoor ecosystem, and these shops hire real people, with real experience, who have real passion, and do really great and empowering things within our community. Being online doesn’t inherently make the people behind the company less human, less ethical, or less real! 

    While there are certainly online retailers with questionable business practices (we wouldn’t be having this conversation if there weren’t), there is nothing inherently evil or malicious about online shops. It’s not the medium, it’s the people and their practices, and just because a store is online, doesn’t mean it’s some giant soulless monstrosity. As online retail only becomes more prominent, hopefully, the exposure of Backcountry.com’s ethics only helps hold the medium more accountable to the outdoor community.
  1. Having followed the conversation around Backcountry.com closely, there seems to be a missing piece of the conversation which to me appears obvious. For me, it’s taking the conversation from the topic of “where you buy” to the topic of “what you buy.” While I don’t have an organized vendetta against big box brands (some make really great gear), buying Mountain Hardware or Marmot on Backcountry.com, REI or at your local brick and mortar shop still supports some relatively nameless and faceless multi-billion dollar company that most likely only cares tangentially about you as a customer or your business. Sure that might sound a bit melodramatic, but the reality is that they probably don’t care or even take note of your individual purchase (or your existence). By supporting small brands you are quite literally playing an active role in helping a small business owners aspirations and inventions come to life. Most of these brands can also be found exclusively on online platforms. 

Is a big company evil because it is big? Is a small brand inherently better because it’s small? Of course not, but if your desire is to spend your money as intentionally and purposefully as possible, spend those hard-earned dollars on small brands that align with your values.

While I’m by no means under the impression that either of these points are particularly revolutionary or even original (they are certainly iterations of things I’ve been soapboxing for years), I think both are important to ponder when framing and processing the conversation around Backcountry.com

In an attempt to avoid too much needless preaching to the choir, I’ll end this message with one final thought. As you have conversations with others about the controversy surrounding Backcountry.com, encourage your family and friends to not only question where they buy, but also question what they are buying. Yes, encourage them to shop at their local store, but if they are really looking to support the little guy, continue to direct them towards your favorite small, startup and cottage brands. It makes a difference. 

 

With constant appreciation,
 
Lloyd, CEO of Garage Grown Gear

10 comments

JM

JM

BTW, i read your post as implying they are not those things. If you meant otherwise, please clarify.

JM

JM

> Many online retailers play key roles in our outdoor ecosystem, and these shops hire real people, with real experience, who have real passion, and do really great and empowering things within our community.

This is such a naive take on backcountry (and I am a huge fan of GGG and buy from you). I’ve been buying from them and supporting them as a company since 2006 when I stopped buying at Moosejaw and started buying more from Backcountry instead. They fought hard for this role in the retail market. They supported and launched brands long before the boutique marketplaces were online. When I was in Utah I even went and visited their offices…their sales and cs folks were total gear nuts and exactly the kind of people i’d want to ask for advice. When it came to asking opinions about union vs ride bindings, the CS rep told me he rides ride SPI because the unions were too flexy. Saying that they aren’t real people w/real experience is the opposite of the truth. The reason they’ve kept my business for over a decade is because whenever I get on their support chat I know i’ll get a real person with real experience.

All that said, the legal action was a massively lame overstep and i hope they’ve learned a lesson. It’s their fault for choosing a generic name.

Hammer

Hammer

Based on some really lame customer service recently, I had already decided that I was done with backcountry.com. This only solidifies that I made the right decision. Screw ’em.

Matt

Matt

Who am I to take any moral high ground. When I need gear, I look for the Gear that suits my needs and is within my budget. I work hard for my money. Some of these big retail online and brick and mortar have some great sales and great deals and I am going to give them my business to get what I need at the cheapest price point . I am also going to give my business to China as some of the knock offs are cheap in price and high-quality. Of course I will support the cottage industry when there is a value. This is the new global economy.

Scott A Brotherton

Scott A Brotherton

I think the ‘bullying’ issue is legit in this case. And the ‘apology’ was sorely lacking. They need to make all the people they sued ‘whole’ for the unnecessary costs they caused. Also, many of the folks they sued were in businesses where there was no possible way for confusion…they were doing it, because they could. It is not at all like A-B selling Patagonia ‘beer’ w/a similar logo and trying to pass it off as ‘craft beer’. That was pretty much trying to to profit from someone elses logo, brand and customer base (& I’m no Patagonia fan). However, if A-B ever decides to make a beer, maybe I’ll give it a try (like that’s ever going to happen)…

Scott A Brotherton

Scott A Brotherton

I think the ‘bullying’ issue is legit in this case. And the ‘apology’ was sorely lacking. They need to make all the people they sued ‘whole’ for the unnecessary costs they caused. Also, many of the folks they sued were in businesses where there was no possible way for confusion…they were doing it, because they could. It is not at all like A-B selling Patagonia ‘beer’ w/a similar logo and trying to pass it off as ‘craft beer’. That was pretty much trying to to profit from someone elses logo, brand and customer base (& I’m no Patagonia fan). However, if A-B ever decides to make a beer, maybe I’ll give it a try (like that’s ever going to happen)…

DonP

DonP

Well, good points, but 2 of my own. 1) backcountry.com is using a word that describes the place we all want to get to. I think it’s disgraceful that the PTO has allowed them to trademark a rather common term. Given the SCOTUS previous decisions regarding trademarked words that have become part of the lexicon, I am confused about the PTO decision to allow this. The actions subsequent to this by backcountry.com is, in my opinion, reprehensible. 2) as for “giant” companies, I might point out that REI, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Columbia, etc. all started out as small companies that managed to gain a large following. IOW, the big companies were all once small companies, and that wasn’t all that long ago.

Buck Rogers

Buck Rogers

I feel that athletes, companies, and organizations who trademark a certain common term or phrase and then hammer those that have been using it are soulless. I’m not talking about something they created, but a common phrase.

I immediately cancelled my accounts with Backcountry. I’m not bitter, just disappointed, and they can re-earn my business and following. I worked in professional sports forW
23 years and completely understand mark/logo usage and restrictions and know more than I want to know about licensing and domains.

In the end, don’t be a dick. The world has too many dicks. Positive people make the world a happier place. I accept their CEO’s explanation and apology and sooner or later I’ll go back to their site and shop.

Just not today.

Mathew

Mathew

The big corporation might not care about your individual purchase. But do you care about the individuals that work at the big corporation? Or the people they support? The corporation may not be as soulless as you think.

Bill

Bill

It would be different if this were about a company with a unique name, but backcountry is a word that has been in common use well before the current company took it up. No company should be allowed to trademark common words. This happened with the word bushcraft. I have no problem with trademarking the goat symbol. That is a unique rendering that no one else should use.

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