A Case of Caring Too Much

Every 3 months I look forward to replacing my running shoes.  I love checking out the new models and this past Sunday I went into the store with a particular type of shoe in mind.  I had done my research, read some reviews, and I knew the shoe would be stable, but also light enough for racing.  I tried it on, and within my first few strides on the treadmill I recognized it as a perfect fit.  I was just about to chirp, “I’ll wear these home!” when the running expert who was helping me said, “hmmm…those won’t work.” 

At this particular store they film your feet while you run, and then play it back for you in slow mo so they can see if the shoe is correcting or hindering your alignment.  While it’s true my ankles turned in a smidge , everything I’ve heard from past running coaches and my new bible, Born to Run, say the key is to wear a light shoe and your body will eventually self-correct and find the most efficient way to move (in truth they advise going barefoot, but I live in the city so…let’s be real).  Heavier shoes with tons of amped-up support and extra cushioning don’t allow your feet to get stronger on their own. 

The words, “Well, in Born to Run…” were barely out of my mouth when the young “expert” rolled his eyes and interrupted with “look at the picture…this shoe isn’t going to work for you,” casting a wary look at my legs… basically insinuating that if I chose the shoe in question, I may as well just take a crowbar to my knees now and be done with it. 

He presented me with an option “much better for my situation” (twice the weight and size of the prior model) and, as I trudged along on the treadmill feeling very much like a Clydesdale, he assured me these were the perfect pair. My mood can only be described as nonplussed… I imagine it’s how Cinderella would feel if she were presented with wooden clogs instead of glass slippers.  But, I didn’t feel like arguing, so I paid for the moon boots (I know, total drama queen) and went on my way. 

When I think back to what made it such a bummer of a sales experience, it comes down to him making three easily avoidable selling mistakes…

1) He talked to me as if I wasn’t a runner, even after my telling him how many miles I run a week AND namedropping at least 2 marathons.  While it’s true many runners don’t share the ‘au natural’ philosophy, it is valid and he should have at least acknowledged, if not respected, it.

2) He took my opinion out of the equation and used his expertise as a means to put me down, rather than educate me.   He made me feel silly and uninformed.  Now I’m no wallflower, I argued my way out of a stress fracture diagnosis just weeks before the NYC marathon, but this guy made me feel like I really didn’t know what I was talking about.  So, rather than arguing with him at the store, I backed down not wanting to be that customer. 

3) He knew I was leaving the store dissatisfied.  I had a frown reminiscent of Eeyore’s as I trudged out holding my new purchase (I’m known to practically pirouette down the street after buying running shoes or apparel).  You want your customer to feel excited about their purchase, not like they’re settling.   I felt like a dieter forced to pretend a bran muffin was a chocolate chip cookie.  He didn’t even say, “Hey, if you try them and really don’t like them, bring them back and we’ll find something else.”

I’m taking the Clodhoppers back tomorrow and getting my glass slippers.  I’m just mad I didn’t do it in the first place.

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July 24, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

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