Z: I went to Foot Locker this week to get a new pair of shoes.
She: But your old pair wasn’t completely ratty and disgusting yet.
Z: They almost had a hole in the bottom, and a shoelace was broken. It was time.
She: OK, so you went on your semi-annual pilgrimage for new shoes.
Z: I wear the K-Swiss Classic, and have for at least 10 years.
She: You’re so adventurous.
Z: I keep getting them because they make me look dead sexy.
She: That, and your orthotics fit into them.
Z: Which is dead sexy. Nothing says dead sexy like orthotics.
Z: So I walk into Foot Locker, where I’ve been buying my shoes for the last 10 years. I go straight up to the guy in the referee shirt, I point to my shoes, and I say I want these in a 10½.
She: You have very small feet for such a tall guy.
Z: You know what they say: small feet, small shoes.
She: Uh, sure.
Z: The fake referee guy goes into the back to get my shoes, and then returns to say they don’t have any in stock, but that he can order them for me.
She: That makes sense.
Z: But here’s where it all breaks down: he says there will be a $3 charge to order them.
She: For a pair of shoes that they’ve carried for the last 10 years; shoes that they don’t have in stock?
Z: Uh, huh. He wants to charge me $3 to order them.
She: That’s ridiculous.
Z: Exactly. Why did I go to Foot Locker? Because they always have my shoe. They’re the ones who failed to have my size in stock, so they need to order it — and charge me $3 so that I can drive back to get it later?
She: I don’t think this is going to end well for Foot Locker.
Z: I say no to the charge. No, thank you. I tell him that he can order it for me, or I can go home and order it for myself online.
She: $3 is not very much, but I have a feeling this particular $3 is going to cost them big time.
Z: The ref makes a second, even bigger mistake. His reply is, “It will just cost you more for shipping online.”
Z: Granted, he’s a youngish guy who doesn’t know better, and the company has clearly created a hugely moronic policy.
She: They’re kind of screwing their own salespeople.
Z: I go home, and I go straight to the K-Swiss Web site. They’re having a 5 percent-off sale if I bundle it with socks, and free shipping.
She: Mad hunter gatherer skills.
Z: And the shoes arrived on our doorstep the next day: cheaper, faster and right to my door.
She: There’s so much talk about online retail killing stores, but it seems like the stores are killing themselves.
Z: Exactly. What do you think the odds are that I ever go in to another Foot Locker?
She: I’m guessing you go on Saturday, when Koss needs new shoes.
Z: OK, now you’re ruining the whole righteous consumer thing for me.
She: You’re right. Foot Locker’s off the list, permanently. I’m just saying. I love buying online, but I still like the bricks and mortar. I hate to see them screw up like that. They can’t beat the online stores on price, so really customer service is all they’ve got.
Z: If that’s the case, Foot Locker’s smelling kind of stinky. You know. Because of the foot thing.
She: It’s so much more competitive now; I can’t believe that stores get away with stuff like that.
Z: Shouldn’t online retailers make the stores step up their game?
She: You would think. Remember when we were kids and people delivered milk to your door?
Z: Sure, grandma.
She: Now whenever I get even reasonably good customer service I’m pleasantly surprised, the bar is so low.
Z: You did seem awfully excited when our waitress brought us menus and water.
She: I know. And I did a little happy dance when I called the insurance company and not only got someone on the phone in less than five minutes, I got someone on the phone who spoke English.
Z: Wow, your bar really is low.
She: I do have some standards. I promise you I won’t go back to Foot Locker.
Z: Yes, dear.