One of the very best things about being an adult male is the extent to which one can streamline the awful process of buying shoes. Same shop, same style, same size as before. A cursory check for fitment. In and out, less than five minutes, less than seventeen quid. Job done, and no repeats for a year.
But children have this annoying trait of making their feet bigger. And because their feet are growing, and they’re forming their gait, it’s important to make sure they get the right shoes. I understand this. I also understand the need for them to get new shoes quite often. But…
Why does the shoe shop have a ticketing system? Why are the staff just standing around? Why aren’t they serving people? Why aren’t these questions covering the worst part of it?
So, we’ve secured an assistant. It’s her job to get the right shoes onto my children, and we will pay her for this (and pay her handsomely at that). In order to help select the right shoes, she will use a measuring device on my child’s feet. This will return a hieroglyph along the lines of “11G” which represents – roughly – the length and width of the child’s foot. Now the trouble starts.
The boy has been pointed at the Sale rack, and been invited to select a preference. He’s chosen a shoe. Much sucking of teeth from ShoeLady.
“I’m not sure we’ve that shoe in his size”
“Well, he’s holding one, he’s got it from the right part of the rack, it’s an 11G, I can see from here”.
“Ah, but that’s a ShoeCompany shoe, and their sizes are a bit small. He’ll need a 13F”.
“???”. Presumably ShoeCompany had a say in the setting of the measurement standard, and even if not, why can they not follow it? Why do their shoes not conform to the sizing?
“Oh yes, ShoeCompany sizes are a bit small. We might have some MakerOfShoes in his size, but they’re not in the sale.”
Of course they’re not. Of course, the shoes that fit him will be at full price, and he won’t like them, meaning we have to fight with him every time he’s to put his shoes on for the next two months.
But I’m still reeling about the size thing. Can you imagine the same thing in other industries? “Yes, I know that the burger didn’t fill you up, but BurgerMan quarter-pounders are a little smaller than the measurement says”. If I went to a petrol station and found that their particular idea of a litre was only really 900ml by the international measure, I’d be pretty hacked off. Especially when they said I couldn’t buy the standard petrol and had to take the more expensive brew.
So, twenty minutes in, he’s got some shoes on. We’ve convinced him to like them. They’re two sizes off what the measure said they should be. And they’re not in the sale. So, how much are they?
I’m sorry, I must have misheard. What did ShoeLady say? Fifty pounds? Is she taking the fucking piss?
Wife is less than fully impressed by this reaction. Apparently, a child’s shoe one third the size of my shoe, with a life span of one sixth the lifespan of my shoe, is going to cost three times what my shoes cost. And I think this is wrong because I’m embarrassing to be around at times like this.
Another alternative is offered, but these shoes “will last a couple of weeks”, and cost £35. That would be my annual shoe bill, per week. I think not.
So, he’s got some shoes on. We’ve convinced him to like them. They’re two sizes off what the measure said they should be. And they’re not in the sale, so they’re going to cost fifty pounds. We can go to the checkout now, and then we’re done, yes?
ShoeLady is not, apparently, sufficiently qualified to be able to fit a child’s shoe herself. She must now source a “supervisor” to “check the fitting.” The ShoeSupervisorLady comes over, having concluded her conversation with another equally idle-looking staff member. Now, this can go one of two ways. If we’re lucky, ShoeSupervisorLady will agree that ShoeLady has done a good job of fitting the shoes, and has successfully navigated the random shoe size lottery. ShoeSupervisorLady’s contribution to the process will thus be little more than a collosal waste of time, and we can go to the checkout, pay, and leave. If we’re unlucky, ShoeSupervisorLady will say that a different size is needed, and then we’re back to square one, because the new size isn’t in stock in that style.
Why doesn’t the shoe shop adequately train its staff? I can understand the need for a second opinion in medical treatment, but this is fitting shoes for christ’s sake! I can’t see how it adds value to the process for the consumer. The value is only for the shop, which can presumably employ a load of baseline-intelligence triage staff whose job is to upsell away from the sale range, then discharge its duty of care by rolling out the big (trained) gun on the floor in the form of ShoeSupervisorLady. And of course there’s only one ShoeSupervisorLady, so they keep the wage bill down.
Thing is, they’re still charging me fifty quid for the shoes. When I pay £16.50 for my shoes, I kind of understand the fact that the ShoeLady can barely be bothered to take her eyes off her SMS feed, but for fifty quid, can I not have a trained ShoeLady?
Everything about the process appears contrived specifically to get my goat. But I’ll never buy a pair of shoes for myself in this shop. And, hopefully, I was sufficiently “embarrassing” that next time, my wife will leave me at home. Had she done that last time, she’d have had a happy husband and a pile of ironed clothes…