One thing that’s always bugged me about going to buy a new pair of training shoes is the level of customer service you get from the sports outlets. Maybe I’m just going to the wrong stores, but in Britain I’m usually served by monkeys who are paid peanuts and have absolutely no desire to be helpful to the customer.
The other day I went into JJB Sports in the retail park nearby with the intention of buying a new pair of trainers. I want to use the new shoes for general wear and also to play tennis, plus whatever other running around I choose to do. Immediately upon entering the shop I’m confronted by a wall of what can only be described as fashion accessories. The shoes were so flimsy that there was no way I could justify spending upwards of ?50–?60 on a pair that would be coming apart after a few games of tennis (like the Nike’s I have at the moment). So that makes the choice of shoe that much more difficult – I don’t want a flimsy pair, nor do I want a particularly garish pair.
However, even if I could live with flimsy, avoiding garish is near impossible – it’s like they’re trying to fucking outdo each other in some warped vulgarity competition. My current Nike’s are bordering on garish, but I thought they seemed robust enough to cope with some running and tennis. I thought wrong, as they’re coming apart in less than six months.
After browsing the shoe shaped fashion disasters before me in JJB Sports, I finally narrowed my choice down to a white and blue pair of Nike Air Pegasus. They weren’t the most sturdy pair of shoes on offer, but they had a nice colour scheme and were on sale at ?49.99. I fetched a nearby sales “assistant” and asked if I could try a pair of size nines on.
Over a squealing and squelching walkie talkie he mumbled a vague description of the “blue and silver Nike’s” to the equally disinterested individual on the receiving end. In my mind alarm bells were ringing straight away, as not once did he mention the words Air or Pegasus, descriptive terms that I thought would help identify these shoes from all the others, being as they were the only Nike Air Pegasus shoes on the shelf.
Admittedly he did ask for help from another member of staff who was stacking boxes nearby, saying “You know Nike’s, don’t you?” to which the other boy shrugged in the negative without even a half hearted attempt to help his colleague. Par for the course, it seemed.
After “ordering” my shoes from the stock room the assistant who was attending to me told me to “go and wait by the guy with the blue shirt”, pointing in the general direction of the back of the shop. I couldn’t see anyone with a blue shirt, but since there appeared to be a sit down and try on area at the end of the wall of shoes I went there anyway. Sure enough, after five minutes of standing around someone emerged through a door and offered me a box of silver and blue trainers – the wrong silver and blue trainers, possibly because the pair I wanted were not silver and blue. This came as no great surprise, as I’m sure you can imagine.
With a sigh, I gave a more detailed description to the stock room guy and off he went back through the door to see what he could find. A few more minutes of standing around ensued before he returned with the news that they didn’t have them in a size nine. Unbelievable. The most popular size of shoe in the country and they don’t have any in stock.
The annoying thing is, I’m not actually a size nine. I’m a size nine and a little bit. But size tens are too big and in this country of shit customer service they never have size nine and a half, so I’m forced to try on pairs of size nines in the hope they’ve been made loosely. If I ever do find a pair of shoes that fits perfectly I’m inclined to buy two pairs, just so I can have some continuity of comfort for the next year or however long they last.
But no. In JJB Sports I had the choice of dressing like an NBA player on his day off or walking away without any shoes. I chose the latter and, in the knowledge that I’ll endure the same result at almost every sports store I could visit, it’s both frustrating and infuriating.
Unlike almost every other consumer item, I cant order shoes online because of the size issue. I need to be able to try a pair on to see how much they’ll pinch me. So, until I stumble across that perfect combination of customer service, and a robust shoe with a non-garish colour scheme in a suitable size I’ll have to make do with my previously ill judged decision.
Who would have thought that doing something as simple as buying a pair of training shoes would be so difficult?