Shoes have always been an expensive item for parents, as they try to keep up with their children's rapid growth. Sure, Wall Streeters have long favored those sleek Italian loafers but surely there has never been a time in our history when so many have spent so much for shoes.
You know the shoes we're talking about -- they're what we used to call tennis shoes, sneakers or joggers. They've become must-have items for younger males and are sought-after accessories by just about everyone.
But as is true in so many consumer products, paying a lot doesn't necessarily mean the item will be particularly durable.
Take Nikes for example. Lori of Hawthornwoods, Ill., said her son paid more than $200 for a pair of Nike soccer shoes, perhaps something similar to the CTR 360, which lists for $200.
"The seam came apart and you could clearly see the threads coming undone. Nike claims department denied my request four times. They advised that the shoe had been 'cut' by someone or it was due to an outside abrasion (kicking something other than a soccer ball)? They denied it being a 'workmanship' issue," she said in a recent ConsumerAffairs posting.
"It doesn't matter"
Lori said she managed to talk to a supervisor after a service rep turned down her request for a replacement and was told that further protest would be in vain.
"I was told by the supervisor that it doesn't matter how loyal I have been as a customer, Nike does not offer a loyalty program and doesn't care about keeping customers happy. When I asked to speak with someone who really cares, I was told to write a letter."
Things didn't turn out much better for "M" of New York, N.Y.
"After a very short time of wear, the material at the top of the sneaker above the laces started separating from the toe guard on my Nike In-Season TR 2s (a place on any shoe that doesn't wear out)," she said. "I tried to exchange them at the place of purchase, Foot Locker, but was told that it was a defect in the shoe, and I should bring them back to Niketown."
"M" hoofed it over to Niketown only to be told that the store didn't stock that model anymore and would only reimburse 37% of the original purchase price.
"When I returned home, my husband found the sneakers on Nike's website at the original purchase price. When I complained to customer service, I was told that without a receipt the sneakers could only be exchanged if there was a manufacturer's defect. Please see my second sentence," M concluded.
Susan of Knoxville, Tenn., bought a pair of boys' Lunarglides -- which can cost around $150 depending on trim -- for her son, expecting that he would outgrow them in a year or so.
"He wore them to school for two months. Over the summer, he was walking in them, and the webbing split on the left shoe," she said. "Fully expecting this to be covered under warranty, I paid to have insurance and two-day shipping to the claims department. I was shocked that they denied the claim due to 'normal wear and tear.' Never has he worn out a pair of shoes before he outgrew them!"
Like "M" of New York, Susan was successful in getting through to a supervisor but that's where her luck also ran out.
"He informed me that, "Well this is the first pair of shoes that he did wear out.' Refused to do anything. Very disappointed. I have better things to do with my time than talk to people who talk down to me," Susan said.
Back in balance
Now in fairness to Nike, these are just a few complaints but they're typical of the nearly 200 in our database and you'll find similar beefs around the Web.
While it can be hard for parents to resist pressure from brand-brainwashed children who are convinced they will perish without the proper foot attire, there are plenty of alternatives out there.
New Balance, for one, is an established brand with many faithful followers. It makes a couple of $45 soccer shoes and a large selection of kids' shoes -- many in Nike-like bright colors -- also selling in the $45-$55 range.
Our purpose here is not to endorse any brand or vendor -- although it's worth noting that Amazon, Zappos, Joe's New Balance Outlet and many other online stores sell just about every brand and type of shoe imaginable. No matter how much money you may have, it's worth perusing a few of these sites, if for no other reason than to brief yourself for whatever debate may ensure when it comes time to discuss a shoe purchase with your offspring.
And for what it's worth, I'm standing on a concrete floor at my vertical desk wearing a pair of New Balance 856 Cross Trainers which I bought when they were on sale at Joe's for about $70. I buy a new pair every year or so, mostly because after that time, they have been exposed to enough dog droppings, thorns, mud, snow and ice that they deserve a rest. I can't remember the last time a pair actually wore out.