Shopper Beware: The Walking Company Will Smother You into Buying Something

I hate sales people.  HATE them.  I get the irony that I formerly was a sales person, but I’m talking about pushy sales people trying to sell me something when the product is simple and straight forward.  I’m talking about buying something that I’ve bought a million times, where no explanation of the product is necessary…where I don’t need to be educated on all the product features and benefits.  Basically I hate any sales person at a mall or retail store that approaches me and does anything more than say, “Can I help you find something today?”

The other day I was looking for a new pair of running sneakers.  Simple.  Here’s my criteria for purchasing shoes (in this order): price, brand name, comfort, color.  No other factors come into play.

I happened to be at a mall where the only store that possibly had athletic shoes was The Walking Company.  I had never heard of this store before (though there seems to literally be thousands of them in the U.S.).  I walk in to find no less than five sales people staring at me, and when one of them asked if they could help me with something, I simply asked her to point me to the running sneakers.  Easy enough.  Point me in that direction and then get the fuck out of my way.

But instead I experienced one of those scenes out of a movie where a rich person is shopping at an upscale store in Beverly Hills—someone rolled out a red carpet, another person grabbed a comfortable chair for me to sit in, a third person directed me to the electronic foot scanning machine, and someone else ran to the back room to pour me a mimosa (actually that’s the only part I’m lying about).

Yes, an electronic foot scanning machine.  No matter that I told them I was just looking for a comfortable pair of New Balance or Asics shoes.  They urged me to start by getting the electronic scan so they could see exactly where my pressure points are and then fit me with the right kind of shoe.  When I went to take a picture of this machine with my foot results, I almost got kicked out of the store.  “No taking pictures,” a horrified employee shrieked!

Yes, because I’m sure this picture is going to be the downfall of your entire business:

Ugh, and there were so many more questions before they’d let me try on any shoes.

“What type of running do you do?”

“Do you run on trails, treadmill or the road?”

“If we throw in a free hand job, are you willing to pay the ridiculous prices that we charge for running sneakers?”

And of course, it wasn’t just $300 shoes they wanted me to buy.  The insoles for extra arch support will totally change my life, and they’re only an additional $70.  And have I thought about buying $15 socks that they recommend because they’re special for running?  And then there was a 10-minute demonstration of the insoles…how you can take certain pieces out to have more support in the front of your foot, or the back of your foot.

And you know how when you go to a shoe store and the person helping you try on shoes asks you to wiggle your toe and then tells you to walk around in the shoes?  That’s fine.  That’s not a pushy sales person in my mind.  But at The Walking Company, I had four people asking me if the shoes felt all right, if my toe was bumping up against the front of the shoe, if my heel was sliding out.

I guess I’ve gotten used to going to a Payless Shoes, picking my own items out and then walking around slightly uncomfortably for the rest of my life.  At least I get to avoid those pushy sales people.

So did I end up buying shoes from them?  You bet your ass I did.  It was the only way to get them to shut up.  But I stood my ground about not buying insoles and socks.  They weren’t gonna pressure me into the accessories.

Just beware.  If you ever accidentally walk into one of their stores, and you’re not in the mood for a full cavity search, just pretend like you walked into the wrong store (or that you don’t speak English), and quickly walk out.