I love online shopping and by that I don't mean I love shopping. It's actually quite the opposite. Because I dislike shopping so much, I love online shopping. It's easier and way more convenient. No driving, no parking, no lines, no humans involved. Just a computer, lots of clicks and I am done. Two days Amazon Prime shipping and free returns is just icing on the cake. But then again, when you need help, when you actually need to talk to someone who understands about the products they sell and can help you making a better, more informed decision on what to buy, there's REI. The store in Berkeley is awesome but it gets crowded. When I want to buy something at REI, I usually get there right before the door opens at 10am on a weekday. I walk straight into the department I am interested without taking any detours. That's what I did to buy my Camino backpack. It took two trips, lots of trials and two excellent REI members to get the right pack for this trip. First member I met was a nice lady. While trying packs we got talking about upcoming trips. I told her about the Camino and she said that's a trip she wants to do in the future because now she's preparing to go on a 5 month hike through the Pacific Crest Trail with her husband who is retiring soon. How cool is that?! They are hiking and caring all their gear, which seems like an impossible task to me who has never done anything remotely as challenging. I told her about and my crazy cheap ticket. She wrote the site down on a little notebook. So I told her about the free screening of the documentary Six Ways to Santiago on March 31st - she also wrote it down. Maybe I'll see her at the screening. Second member I met at REI was a younger guy. Who's also going on to hike the Pacific Crest with a third REI member sometime soon. Must be a job requirement :-). He finalized the backpack sale that the other lady had started. They both agreed on the same pack and by then my back had agreed to it as well. But his help didn't stop there. On a third visit to REI, going on my third hour at the store, with a different REI member from the shoes department, the younger guy I met earlier walks by and greets me. I tell him about my frustrating experience trying to find the right shoes to walk the Camino. He goes inside the storage area, comes out with two pairs of light trail shoes and I am sold on both after three minutes. He helped me chose the best one and that's it. I just wish he had said hi two and a half hours before that. Backpack and shoes ready to go!! P.S. I bought my shoes on April 3rd, which was not a wise decision, but I feel comfortable about the light trail shoes that I took home that day.


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