You Can't Always Get What You Want - Adventures in Online Shopping

Sneakers are a massive global product. You can find people obsessed with sneakers in places like London, New York, Moscow, Chicago, Los Angeles, Chicago and Tokyo. But the world of sneakers and the obsession with them goes far beyond your standard metropolis. People in small Midwestern towns in America, countries with GDPs smaller than that of the state of Texas, and remote locations within the Philippines, all tap in to the same obsession for sneakers.

The industry that meets the demands of the sneaker obsessed is huge business. Giants like Nike and adidas rake in annual profits in the billions despite having massive expenses through advertising, marketing, endorsements and the infrastructure of producing and shipping these products. It was estimated the Jordan Brand imprint of Nike earned Michael Jordan more money in 2014 than he took in via salary over the course of his entire career as a player in the NBA.

Given the current state of sneakers, small details can make all the difference and is how I ended up writing about my bad experience with Footaction earlier this month.

My original pair accompanied by the on-foot re-release.

My original pair accompanied by the on-foot re-release.

The adidas brand has, in my opinion, probably the second greatest sneaker silhouette of all time in the adidas Top Ten Hi. My first pair of sneakers, which my mother kept for me long after I outgrew them, are the adidas Top Ten Hi from their original early 1980s release. 30 years after that release, I purchased the same pair again, this time the retro version in a men’s size 13. Much like the Air Jordan 1, which I believe is the single greatest sneaker of all time, the Top Ten Hi comes in many different colors and if you are a sneaker head, the small variations can make all of the difference.

This week I had planned to purchase another variation of the Top Ten Hi, a black model with white accents and suede adidas Three Stripes and overlay. The variations are subtle, but there was further confusion because each retailer of the shoe only has a variation of the silhouette, the retailers are not uniform in their product offering. Because of this, you need to pick your preferred variation and then figure out which retailer has it.

Like most sneaker fans, I start with the obvious retailers. Footlocker (and its sister company, Eastbay), Finish Line, and adidas are the websites where I always begin my search. These sites combine to offer nearly every variation of any sneaker that you could be looking for, save for some of the more specific or exclusive designs that smaller retailers like Kith NYC and Packer Shoes carry. Of the normal sites that I check, only the official adidas website had the exact style that I was looking for in my size. I waited to make a purchase and a few days later, the shoe was sold out in my size. This is the risk of not being a buy-first, spend-irresponsibly consumer. When the well dries up for the sites which are your regular sneaker watering holes, you have to explore the fringes. Usually this would consist of retailers like Champs, Footaction (another Footlocker and Eastbay sister company it turns out), or the tricky world of buying from resellers who may be selling a fake product.

With some great luck, I found the shoe I was looking for right away via Footaction. I had missed my opportunity to pick up the shoes in my size on the other sites and didn’t want to miss again so I decided to locate a coupon and take advantage of the free shipping offered by Footaction. This would not only get me the shoe that I wanted, but would cost me less than 90% of the suggested retail price including shipping. That’s what I call a win.

The shoes were shipped very quickly and arrived two days later. This was my reaction:

Note: Actual box condition as received

Note: Actual box condition as received

As it would be later explained by Footaction, via direct message on Twitter, they were showing the shoe as available because one of their stores had it. It turned out to be a store in nearby Minneapolis which is why the shoes arrived so quickly. The massacre inside was an entirely different story. The employee at the Footaction store which had the shoe I ordered via the Footaction website sent the wrong variation of the shoe.

Note: This was the actual condition of the box when received

Note: This was the actual condition of the box when received

After a lengthy discussion with Footaction, in which they were very polite and apologetic, I finally pulled the bottom line fact from them: while they had sent out the wrong pair, they had sold the correct pair. The correct pair was the last one in their entire stock. Now it was gone, and there was no way that I would be receiving it. They did refund my money right away; sent me a shipping label for UPS to return the package, and also a $20 gift card. The gift card was nice gesture, but completely useless to me. Maybe someday I’ll stumble on something from that site again, though I don’t believe I’ll be back there too often.

Sometimes, you just have to smile and accept that things don’t work out, or consider this idea: You can’t always get what you want.

by Daniel Coughlin