What It’s Okay to Do In A Shoe Store

Twice a week I’ll get someone in the store who’s hilariously apologetic about the simplest things, this list is truly inspired by and dedicated to the women that I told to try a different shoe on each foot and she said “Can I? I didn’t know if that was okay”

So yeah, it’s okay to put a different shoe on each foot; It’s okay – even encouraged – to bring your insoles or orthopedics and take the stock insoles out; you can take the insoles out and stand on them like ski boots; you can keep trying on the same pair between every other pair if you feel like it’s the one to beat…

And you can come in with no intention to buy anything and still talk to us. What I see a few times a week is someone coming in, saying they’re fine just browsing, then they go stand at the shoe wall with no fucking clue what they’re looking at. It’s a menu they don’t know how to read.

I get it that customers have a feeling of guilt taking up a salespersons time, or a feeling of obligation that comes from taking up that time or a worry about being pressured into buying. But really, coming in to museum-stare at shoes then leaving with a cheery thanks makes us all feel stupid.

So I hereby declare that IT IS OKAY to tell us your concerns, your pains, your hopes and dreams, and pump us for ideas to look up on your own. It’s on the big, stone, OKAY tablets.

In fact, to a degree, to a fucking degree, it’s okay to come in just to feel heard. I use that phrase a lot at work and in life and it all starts with an old guy – Ed, I know him by name now – who came in and at first I was like, this is a talker, an old lonely coot who is not going to find anything he wants or needs at a store that sells 220 dollar hype shoes. But also, I had nothing else to do. I thought of it like sitting next to an old timer at the pub, you just hang out and listen and both have a pleasant time. So I just listened and listened and we came back to shoes a few times and then veered off again and when we came back I dug through the oldest, most neglected sales shoes to find him his grouchy old man wants and needs and he ended up buying them. Now whenever he comes in I’m thrilled to see him – because luckily he’s never come in when it’s busy.

And I even see it, and don’t mind it, when they aren’t fun and don’t buy anything. We had a woman come in – again, while there was nothing going on – and she was told by her doctor to an ankle-supportive hiking boot to protect a new injury. We have nothing like that and told her, sweetly and apologetically, that we had nothing like that and Atmosphere was the best nearby option. She still stayed and went over and over how she got the injury and what it was like to recover and she left visibly relieved. I’m certain from her husband to her doctor to her gal pals no one had just let her get it out that this sucked and I wish I wasn’t dealing with it. And we could have been guilty of the same thing if we’d been busy – we’d have shooed her out the door and even gotten pissy if sh’ed been upset or demanding about.

I’ve had customers get so shitty and livid because I’m not helping them when what I’m doing is trying to tell them that I can’t help them. At the same time I’ve gotten absolutely dug in trying to help people with insanely idiotic laughing-over-coffee-with-my-coworkers bullshit because I had no other priority at the time.

When I look back at any customer-interaction that went badly I can see a moment when they wanted to feel heard and I wanted to rush through the process because I’m busy, I know what all the steps are, let’s just get through this.

And when I look back at a great customer interaction, like a day-highlight home run, there’s always a moment when I was like k, c’mon, hurry up – no, there’s no where else I need to be, there’s nowhere else I can possibly be, so just be here, just listen – don’t wait just listen. Those end up being the people who email head office saying Allister-at-Westhills is just great, love him so much.

Actually, I was writing out my list of things to discuss with each Saturday employee and I put my own name down as well and wrote slowing down, resetting with each person, not rushing.

To bring this back to the title of the post, if not the spirit, it’s also okay not to be the priority. I know you’re the customer and you’re a middle-class white person who’s never been treated as off-center from the center of the universe – or always able to force yourself into being treated as the center of the universe – but man, I get one-a-week characters who come in the door with an about-me attitude like I’m supposed to have been expecting them; like this is their house and whoever is here is obviously a butler.

And you can guess what those people end up writing to head office about me.

There’s no way to bring this post back to the intent it was started with… so… [Sarah-Lynn gif]

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