Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/09/2012 17:27:43 MDT Print View

So this past Friday morning I am getting ready to do a trip in Nevada. Putting on my fairly new Saucony Peregrines, I notice the front rubber bumpers on the shoes are falling off. One worse than the other. Bought them online from REI, so I run down to the REI in Vegas on Rampart Blvd, as I don't want them falling apart on the trip. They don't stock the shoes. So I ask the sales guy what they carry in minimalist shoes with a rock plate. He says he never heard of the term rock plate. So we ask the other sales guy, and he has no idea what I am talking about either. So they get the manager. The manager explains to the sales guys what a rock plate is. Then tells me that no one manufacturers a minimalist shoe with a rock plate. That is the definition of minimalist, I am told.

So I head over to Sports Chalet to buy either some Shoe Goo or a pair of shoes. I ask the shoe guy there if they sell minimalist shoes with a rock plate. He looks at the shoes I am wearing and asks, "what's wrong with your Peregrines?" So I tell him. He says, "well if you want new shoes, tell me what you like about the Peregrines, and what you don't like about them."

I tell him I love the traction. Also I would like to try something lighter with a rock plate and with not such a pointed toe. I explain that the shoe will be for backpacking. So he shows me a couple NB shoes. He holds up a MT101 and says it will be under 10 oz in my size, the other pair similar in weight to what I have. Says the traction of the MT101 will not be as good as my present shoe, but should be fine for backpacking.

Then he pulls out a Bannock device and asks if we can measure my feet. I didn't even see one at REI, the sales people just ask the customers what size they wear.

So, he says I am between a 10.5 and 11 D. But with the NB, we should start with a size 12. So the 12 is perfect, according to conventional wisdom, but he suggests we go with a 12.5 or 13. So we try on some different shoes in different sizes. I end up with a MT101 in size 13. He then shows me different lacing techniques in case the shoes feel too tight on the top or too loose in heel once I am on the trail.

As it turns out, the shoes were great. I did end up running the laces through the back hole that no one ever uses, making a loop and then running them across the front to make the fit a little more snug around the heel.

Not the same REI experience I used to get. And I always had a perception that Sports Chalet was more like a department store.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/09/2012 17:30:59 MDT Print View

You should forward that to the manager at Sports Chalet so that guy gets credit for a job well done.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/09/2012 19:39:33 MDT Print View

The Sports Chalet salesman did a great job.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/09/2012 19:45:33 MDT Print View

Yes, great salesman. And I did let SC know. Unfortunately, we often get excited when someone does their job; what I would expect to be the minimum customer experience.

This general lack of service or knowledge today in the retail environment is generally not the fault of employees. It lies with management, as it is their responsibility to train. Since I have seen a large decline in customer service (ala knowledge), my take is that REI does not care enough about their customers, else they would put proper training programs in place.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Sales people on 04/09/2012 21:04:07 MDT Print View

Part of the problem with sales people is that we are not willing to pay them. I buy on the internet whenever possible to get the lowest price. In order for brick and mortor to compete they need to cut costs so wages drop to minimum and you use part time labour who dont stay long enough to become experts.

Imagine if treated retail sales like restraunts where you tipped based on service, would you pay 15% more for the in store experience. If that model worked you woukd see more experienced people working at stores.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/09/2012 21:14:46 MDT Print View

Sounds like every REI I've ever been in. The slick cookbook for the 2 yacht family.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/09/2012 22:04:31 MDT Print View

My advice for big retail places is ask who is the specialist for the area you are asking about.

Remember the guy/gal you are talking about is not getting paid a whole lot and the management expects them to know about a bunch of areas they may not be 100% familiar with. Sounds like the guy was

Did you ask the guy the most minimal shoe they had WITH a rock plate? Maybe you were both being too anal about the definition. Or they simply don't have what you wanted.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Re: Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/10/2012 17:40:11 MDT Print View

Cool the sports chalet person was so helpful. It, to me, sounds like the Sports Chalet guy knew a lot about minimalistic shoewear, and the REI people didn't. One topic, one one day, with one group of staff/member isn't enough to point to an institutional problem.

Also, minimalism is fringe. I'd walk in with less of an expectation, sadly. You could also try stores who specialize in footwear.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
REI experience... on 04/12/2012 07:18:20 MDT Print View

there is a new REI closer to my house, but i prefer to drive the extra distance to the original area REI because of the OP's experience. i see a clear difference in the knowledge of the staff at the original area REI, in fact, i have seen several of the staff while backpacking.

the new location is in a very yuppie area and many of the people there are more interested in the appearance of being outdoorsy rather than using the gear. that's fine and all, less people on the trails, but man i have heard some back advice given.

when i bought my Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32, i went to the closer location since it was in stock. the salesperson tried to up-sale me several times since it was so lightweight it would never be good at 32F and that i should get a 15F bag that was more weight so i would be warm. when i stated i had a very nice 15F bag already, they asked why i need another bag... like i'm going to use a 15F bag in August in the Mid-Atlantic. hahahaha.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: REI experience... on 04/12/2012 19:06:42 MDT Print View

I haven't been impressed by the shoe people at REI either. I went to the REI in Seattle when I was hiking the PCT. I told the guy I wanted mesh trail runners, no goretex, no boots. He brought me a stack of goretex boots! Then I couldn't get him to help me any further. I finally just picked a pair of street running shoes because they were advertised as having a 4E width and told him size 8. Size 8 was too big but I knew I'd get no further assistance, so I just bought them. I really needed shoes bad and wasn't familiar enough with Seattle to know where else I could go.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: REI experience... on 04/12/2012 19:51:02 MDT Print View

> I told the guy I wanted mesh trail runners, no goretex, no boots. He brought me a
> stack of goretex boots!
A truly depressing thought is that when he got out the back all he could remember was that you had said the words 'Goretex' and 'boots'.

Cheers

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Interesting Shoe Buying Experience -- REI vs Sports Chalet on 04/12/2012 19:54:59 MDT Print View

"My advice for big retail places is ask who is the specialist for the area you are asking about.

Remember the guy/gal you are talking about is not getting paid a whole lot and the management expects them to know about a bunch of areas they may not be 100% familiar with. Sounds like the guy was

Did you ask the guy the most minimal shoe they had WITH a rock plate? Maybe you were both being too anal about the definition. Or they simply don't have what you wanted."

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In most of the REI's I have been in, there are people who are assigned to the shoe department, it is one of their busiest departments. And I did talk to the Department Manager.

Regarding management, it is management's responsibility to train their people... it is not the employees' fault if they are not trained --- that is the point of my post. BTW for a living, I develop training programs for companies much larger than REI and many much smaller. These companies care about their customers and want to retain them.

Last point, the manager did not know which shoes had rock plates other than "the sole is usually stiffer."

Bottom line, REI is in sad shape compared to what they once were. I have been in many of their stores over the years to include the Seattle, Denver and Torrance, CA stores. My membership number only has 6 digits.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
buyer beware on 04/12/2012 21:48:05 MDT Print View

I always do my own research. I never rely on the retail sales people for advice on consumer products. In fact I tend to avoid brick and morter stores altogether because I find many (not all) sales personnel annoying. And I cant blame them for that, its just the wsy they're trained. Goes for anything from cars to socks and everything in between. Scary thing is an individual should be doing their own independent research on other things like finance and medicine too and not just blindly taking a broker's or doctor's advice as holy, yet it seems not many people share my attitude.

I would imagine a couple days researching minimalist shoe options and reviews on the Internet would arm you with better information than you will receive from a department store clerk. This kind of free information is all over the Internet, take advantage.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: buyer beware on 04/12/2012 22:46:54 MDT Print View

"I always do my own research. I never rely on the retail sales people for advice on consumer products. In fact I tend to avoid brick and morter stores altogether because I find many (not all) sales personnel annoying. And I cant blame them for that, its just the wsy they're trained"

This is exactly how I am. I never understood the idea that there may people out there who would actually want to talk to a salesman. "just browsing" is what I say every time any employee approaches me.
I do my homework at home, look at reviews, write down possible candidates and go to the store to try things on and see them in person.
I get very annoyed when my gf asks employees questions since I can not understand why she would think they would do anything but try to BS us? I wounder if its a little bit of a generational thing?

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: buyer beware on 04/12/2012 23:19:56 MDT Print View

An educated consumer is the best customer.

Ty Ty
(TylerD)

Locale: SE US
Can't expect much... on 04/13/2012 08:55:05 MDT Print View

I go along with the idea that you can't expect much from someone making probably $8 bucks an hour. It's really our fault as consumers. We base the majority of our purchase decision on price so the retailers have responded by going to the bottom of the barrel for salespeople.

Particularly with footwear it would be all but impossible to have a expert and true believer in every genre of shoes. That same Sports Chalet guy probably royally ticked off the next guy that came in looking for Gore-Tex boots. On another forum that guy is complaining that the salesperson didn't know squat about boots and kept trying to sell him woosy shoes for his backpacking trip.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: buyer beware on 04/13/2012 10:07:55 MDT Print View

Yep, usually the best approach these days.

I am pretty up-to-date on the selection of running shoes that fit my needs. Unfortunately I needed shoes right away. Time and selection/availability were my immediate needs.

I often have to do research on products, because of the lack of skillful, knowledge salespeople. But for me, I prefer to spend more money and less time if I can find a knowledgeable retailer. For me time is a valuable commodity. Less time researching means more leisure time to get out and do what I like.

About 10 years ago I wanted to get new inline skates (Roller Blades) for me and my wife. I heard that the REI in Torrance had some experts. The 4 hour round trip was well worth the drive. The salesman spent about 45 minutes with us and the fit/match was perfect. We ended up with different brands for each of us.

I have also bought many running shoes from a local running store, and one in Orange County, which is about 100 miles away.

The problem today is that cheap people go to stores like this to get fitted and educated; then don't buy... they go home and order on the Web.