Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Shoe Story

See these happy girls? Any of them could be me. Shoe shopping is my sport, my drug and my secret lover all rolled into one. It gives me such a high, such a sense of achievement that nothing else can beat it. I strut out of stores with a pair of brand-new shoes feeling unbelievably smug, and as I waft out of there smiling I actually have to fight the urge to high-five myself. And then I can't wait to get them home and examine them from every angle. I look at them tenderly, deciding what to wear them with and when. It's almost like falling in love. And it's even more like love when it all goes wrong.

Recently I bought a pair of silver ballet flats to replace a loved-to-death pair that had been retired. I hit the shop, picked them out, tried them on, loved them, bought them. Too easy. AND they were on sale. Bonus.

I resisted the urge to wear them immediately as it was raining and we had a birthday party with a petting zoo to go to and I had a sneaking suspicion there would be animals there (yes, I'm very perceptive like that) and that they may have questionable personal habits. As it turned out I was right because I not only walked through duck poo, I knelt in it as well. And I had a pony ride. But I digress.

So the next day I wore my shoes for a few hours around the house. I took them off at one stage and noticed that the silver coating on the leather had come off around the toe and the side of the shoe. It seemed to be unsealed and was rubbing off on my hand, so I decided to return the shoes the next business day.

I have shopped at this particular store many, many times and been served by lovely sales assistants who can't do enough for their customers. But this time I was served by a man who seemed to take a strong dislike to me the minute I said "return". He glanced at them and told me I had damaged the shoes so he wouldn't refund me or exchange them. He also told me he had an angry phone message from me about these shoes which he'd be hanging on to, should he need to use it against me. I breathed deeply, smiled and told him I was here because the shoes were obviously faulty. I also said, still smiling, that I had left no such message, but it seemed he had received another complaint about the same ones, so obviously there was a problem with them and shouldn't he take it up with the manufacturer?

About this stage of the conversation he got aggressive. He threw the shoes at me and told me to get out of his shop and never come back. Call me sensitive, but this is where I got seriously pissed off. I realised I was getting nowhere and was being conned. And suddenly, somewhere in my brain a bomb went off. I now know what people mean when they 'see red'. I lost my temper and shouted HANG ON A MINUTE! I'M THE CUSTOMER HERE and moved on to how he CANNOT TREAT ME THIS WAY. People were standing there staring open-mouthed at the crazy woman waving shoes around. I would have. Then I barked something about consumer affairs, that he would be hearing from me and stormed out of the shop.

Which may have been quite a powerful exit had I not had to immediately storm back in to retrieve my two year old who was trying on gold wedge sandals and refusing to leave. It kind of killed the moment. But that said, I wasn't really trying to make any kind of impression, and I don't actually feel good about making a scene or shouting at anyone, let alone complete strangers who I believe owe me money and I'm trying to reason with.

The result of this is that I now have a consumer affairs case pending against the shop, so I won't name and shame just yet (but I'll update this post when I can). I'm still mad as hell, and I have no idea whether I'll get my money back, but my hope is that I can give the owner of the shop at least my money's worth of grief over it. I was left feeling ripped off and humiliated which can't be good for future business. What is also bad for his business is my word of mouth, which I have passed on freely to everyone I know. I've since heard feedback from friends that my experience is fairly common at this store, as the owner's usual mode of operation to avoid making good on people's returns is to be a bully. I hate bullies.

You know the worst part? I feel like I've been broken up with really badly, because I really loved that shop. It was a treasure trove of shoes of every kind at every price point for every occasion. I can never go back again because, just like a break up, it all went wrong and now the love is gone. Hell hath no fury like a shoe lover scorned.