On Thursday, May 21, Nike did something shocking by making access to their previously access code or invite only iOS exclusive app open to the iOS public. While it is clear that making an app exclusive drives up the demand like nothing else can, not even Nike was prepared for what would happen next.
On Saturday, May 23, 2015, Nike released their latest in a never ending series of “retro” sneaker drops from the famous Michael Jordan series of signature shoes. This release was for the Air Jordan 11 Low in a black/true red-white colorway. To many sneakerheads and hypebeasts, this famous colorway is better known as the “Bred” 11.
The release of the Bred 11 low is a first for this particular model, a slight modification of the most famous and popular of all Air Jordan shoes. Nike’s never ending marketing genius pumped the release up to an even greater level, dubbing this the Michael Jordan PE of his own famous signature shoe. PE, which stands for player exclusive, is a shoe that may, or may not, ever see a formal release and is created specifically for a particular player. Ray Allen, an all-time great shooter in the NBA, has a vast collection of PEs made for him of the many Air Jordan signature shoes he wore during his NBA career.
There is something about the Air Jordan 11 Bred that brings out people like no other shoe can. People who stopped buying or collecting shoes a decade ago come out of the woodwork. This week, while making the rounds to my local shoe stores, I noticed a group of high school-aged teenage boys and they seemed to not know much about sneakers in general. These teenagers were understandably rowdy, that is what happens you generally put boys of any age together. But they weren’t being rowdy just because, you know, it felt right, bro. One of the store employees informed us that this group of high school kids was there in anticipation of the upcoming Air Jordan release. These were kids that we have never seen at a release before, signaling that they aren’t “regulars” in the retro world – in a town that only has one or two release locations where you tend to recognize anyone else who shows up.
That is what you are dealing with when it comes to the Air Jordan 11 Bred. It is the single Air Jordan shoe that most transcends all of popular culture.
If you are still following along, you can see a perfect picture of why Nike decided to make their move now. The SNKRS app is was amazing. I downloaded the app as soon as it was announced and made my first purchase on it back in March. It was the closest thing to matching the automated buying programs, or bots, that many sneakerheads use to game the system. These bots preload all of your information to help you load a shoe into your online cart and check out faster than humanly possible. This gives you a tremendous advantage over the regular guy, like me, who doesn’t want to pay for a service that assists you in paying for something else.
I have never before failed to acquire a shoe that Nike released when I was using the SNKRS app. That changed on Saturday.
So let’s go back and trace what happened when Nike decided to release the SNKRS app to the general iOS-capable population on the same weekend that they are releasing their most popular Air Jordan sneaker.
First Circle: Preparation
The first thing you should have done is download that app. After that, you should have received an access code. Then you enter your shipping and billing information, shoe size, payment information and determine which Nike shoe products you wish to receive notifications about and how frequently you want to receive those notifications.
Second Circle: Anticipation
When you have set up the app and know when the shoe that you desire will release the early stages of insanity set in. You may find yourself closing and opening the SNKRS app over and over to see if Nike accidentally put your desired shoe up for sale early. Every sneaker-themed website in the galaxy will run at least 30 pieces about the shoe and successfully canvas all media with massive, essentially free marketing. When you receive the 15-minute notification, the time is nigh.
Third Circle: The Frenzy
When the moment hit, in this specific instance, it was the first test of the SNKRS app to withstand the flooding masses who wanted to devour the product that shone brightly from just beyond their fingertips. The release goes live and the grey-scaled “Notify Me” box with the check mark next to it turns into “$170.” This is the first signal you will receive which notifies you that it is now okay to do your part to fund the Nike war machine. Greasy and sweaty, pawing at the dollar amount box like a bear searching for oysters in a river bed. But today, there is a glitch.
While scarcity is always an issue with a Nike retro release of a Jordan sneaker, that problem had been offset by the limited access to the SNKRS app. This is the first test of the system, and now we encounter our first major problem.
Fourth Circle: The Reboot
After assaulting the screen with a variety of digits, all of the pushing pays off. Except that it doesn’t pay off. There is an issue with the attempt to purchase. Moments linger for what feels like hours. The app isn’t pre-loading my shoe size like it has in the past. I repeatedly tap the dash next to the “Buy” wording. Each time that I pulled up the size chart in those few moments, my request for size 13 was met with the same indifferent scorn of Drake trying to sneak into the Miami Heat locker room post championship. In a world filled with “bots” and thousands of other users, each second that you lose trying to secure your place in line feels ominous and heavy. For that moment you are at the end of a road trip, in 100-percent humid soaked Florida, but still wearing your jacket, you are almost drinking the air as your brain stretches to understand why the demand to buy, BUY, BUY! is not being met. You have no choice; you must reboot the app and hope that it comes back working.
Fifth Circle: Limbo
After the reboot, life returns to normal and you are rewarded by the appearance of all things working as they should and have in the past. Nike decided it was best to make the jump from limited, code activation only ability to purchase through the app and just open it all the way up. I definitely want a candid interview with the high-level Nike employee who thought that was a good idea. Aware that the app has to be struggling with the massive numbers of users attempting to purchase the same shoe, delays are expected.
Five minutes pass. This is the maximum amount of time that I have ever waited for a pair of sneakers to be successfully acquired via the app.
Ten minutes pass. The air begins to thicken in your lungs again, you feel like you are back in humid Hell Florida. But everything functions normally.
Fifteen minutes. You are now in a type of limbo, you have no reason to believe that the shoe will be successfully purchased, but you know that you have to simply wait it out. The hope that you will be flexin’ hard on the Instagram the following week is beginning to look dim.
Twenty minutes. Really, this is just impressive that anyone under the age of 55 can have their iPhone open for a full 20 minutes to a single page and resist the urge to go tweet, take a selfie, or send a sext. Congratulations, you’ve won nothing.
Twenty-one minutes. The app gives me a notification, “Connection Lost,” and kicks me out of line. Then a notification box pops up which informs me that the sizes I was attempting to purchase is out of stock.
Sixth Circle: Anger
Why did the SNKRS app just fail!? It has never failed before. Could it be that there is an issue with Nike? Was it a bad idea to launch a full opening to the public of an app that was previously exclusive to a small number of individuals? Why is it my fault that Nike lost connection? Why did I opt for a taco omelet for breakfast and why don’t they serve quiche?
So many questions and no answers. Another hallmark that you are dealing with Nike. Refusing to believe that they are sold out and filled with a righteous anger that Nike is attempting to thwart your God-given right to purchase ridiculously expensive sneakers, you reopen the SNKRS app and see that your size is, in fact, not sold out. You attempt to purchase again.
Limbo resumes. You wait another 5 minutes, then 10. You receive another out of stock notification. This process repeats, your anger escalates.
Seventh Circle: Lust
The SNKRS app begins to question the very fabric of your being. Or it is hitting on you. The glitches in the app continue to appear. The app now offers you the opportunity to select your size, but the runner at the top reads, “Women’s Sizes.” The confusion sets in as I cannot decide if SNKRS is simply using its own interface as a Tinder or if I have been experiencing my own gender confusion. I cannot add my size, which I have been repeatedly told is “Out of Stock” but still available. More blurring of lines, terms that I considered mutually exclusive have now become interchangeable. SNKRS, what have you done?
Eighth Circle: Resignation
The great fear for me is not the loss of the Air Jordan 11 Low Bred on this day. No, it is what the colossal meltdown of the SNKRS app means for me on future release dates. Whatever may be wrong with SNKRS, I am not going to be walking away from the app with my pair secured on this day. In a futile swipe, like a Pacquiao jab seeking connection with Mayweather in the final round, I close the app and opt to pull up the Nike website. I attempt to add the shoe to my cart as the screen alerts me that it is now waiting for my turn in line. Today, SNKRS has failed me. I give up, but hope that my good fortune will return for the next release.
After my resignation, I did the only honorable thing that an adult man can do on a Saturday morning spent question for a pair of sneakers. I take a nap.
100 minutes pass before I have the heart to return to my computer and close out my browsers. When I resume sitting in my fancy metal folding chair from Wal-Mart, I pull up the Nike page to find that the sneakers have been successfully added to my cart. I have no idea when this happened or for how long the dialogue box has been waiting for me to receive the joyous news.
Four minutes later, I have successfully completed the purchase of a new pair of Air Jordan sneakers. The heavens open to me and I bask in their radiance and warmth. The same worth cannot be shared by Nike, who set loose the ghost in the machine that terrorized all sneakerheads on a very dark Saturday in May. Hopefully, they take notice and improve the product that they offer to their eager public before their next big release, which is just seven days after the first debacle transpired. Should be fun…
by Daniel Coughlin