As an REI vendor since 1994 or so, I do know that the old purchasing agents have been replaced by IBM-Sterling, which does the whole buy/sell thing electronically. However, there have been many, many problems with the software and its operation. For example, about two weeks ago the automated invoicing system broke down for a few days. Now, whether or not REI farmed out their purchasing department in order to be able to fire their purchasing agents is unknown to me at this time. Another good question is whether or not the Sterling system was set up to leverage the small vendors out of the REI family? Sometimes if you're paranoid enough, you begin to detect evil intentions where there is merely technical dysfunction. All I know is that since 1994 there's never been any problems for me doing business with REI, not until this new software ordering and invoicing system was implemented a little over a year ago. These changes certainly do indicate the emergence of a less folksy, more corporate REI.