I was fitting a customer the other day – she was having difficulty choosing a shoe. She asked, “Are all your customers as difficult as I am?” I, of course, replied that she wasn’t being difficult at all, just discerning – and that she was spending good money and needed to ensure her shoes fit properly and were comfortable. She then quietly whispered to me, “I’ll bet you get a few real doozies in here, don’t you?” I smiled and nodded and she said, “I’ll also bet you all have some stories to tell.”
The people you run into in the course of your life in many ways define who and what you are. The constant stream of people through our little store is an on-going source of inspiration, entertainment, encouragement, enlightenment, and joy. I DO have some stories to tell, as do all of us here at the store (and as do all of you, I’m sure), and I thought you might enjoy hearing a couple of them.
New Running Shoes
I had a gentleman several years ago who’d never been fit at a specialty store before. We went through the fitting process you all know and love, and, after trying on 3-4 different models, he settled on a pair. He fiddled with the laces a bit and went outside to jog on the sidewalk. A minute or so later, he returned, sat down, fiddled with the laces again, and went back outside. He repeated this process several more times, finally returning, plopping down in the seat and said, “These shoes are amazing. Do you have another pair in the back?” Thinking he wanted two pair, not an unusual situation, I went back and retrieved a second pair. Leading him up to the register, I said, “Anything else besides the two pair of shoes?” He replied, “Oh, I don’t want two pair – can I just have the pair you just brought out?” Pointing to the pair on his feet, he said, “These have been worn!”
Running Shoes and Colors …
We used to carry a Nike model called the Shox. It was an unusual shoe, with an array of small hollow columns in the heel of the shoe designed to absorb shock and provide additional cushioning. It was a very distinctive look, and very radical for an athletic shoe. One day, a very elegant looking young man came into the store, impeccably dressed in a three piece suit – a partner in a very prestigious law firm in downtown DC. I greeted him, and accompanied him as he walked up to our “shoe wall.” He immediately focused on the Shox, in this case, a Chinese red shoe with black Nike “swoosh” and trim.
He said, “How could anyone wear THAT shoe? It’s SO loud!” We went through the fitting process, and he kept looking up at the Shox. Finally he asked, “Could I wear that shoe?” I smiled and said that yes, he needed a neutral shoe, and the Shox was, indeed, a neutral shoe. He asked me to bring him a pair, and when he tried them on, said, “Oh my god, these are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn! I’ll take them.” I pointed out that we also carried the Shox in a much more sedate color, a nice navy blue and white (Dallas Cowboys colors), to which he replied, “Oh no, if I’m going to wear *this* shoe, I’m going to wear *this* color!”
Another story of shoe color involves a slightly different twist. Another young man similarly attired but working for one of the federal financial regulators, came in one day. After the fitting process, and trying out several pairs of shoes, he decided on the Brooks Adrenaline. That year, one of the color choices for the Adrenaline was gold – reminiscent of track star Michael Johnson’s gold shoes worn when he won the gold in the 400m and 200m in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He had misgivings, though; as he said the shoes were so “loud” he didn’t think he could wear them. I offered to order another pair, but in thinking about it, he said, “Well, the shoes feel great, and I do my workout first thing in the morning when it’s dark, so nobody will see them.” This was at closing time on a Tuesday evening, and he left the store with the gold shoes. The next morning, he was waiting at the door when I opened the store. “I simply can’t wear this color – can you please order me a more neutral color?”
Running Store = Community
Another story, this one very close to home – from several perspectives. Just before retiring from my “day job” about eight years ago, I interviewed with the original owner of Metro Run and Walk, Lea Gallardo – an absolutely amazing woman who created a very real force and presence in the running community here in the DC area over the years. During that interview, Lea said, “John, we sell a service here at Metro Run and Walk – and sometimes shoes go with it.”
This was driven home again about four years ago, when my daughter, who lives in the Czech Republic, came back for a visit. While here, she said she needed a new pair of running shoes and asked if she could come in to the store to be fitted. I said of course, and went through the whole Metro Run and Walk fitting process with her – the mini-interview to determine what she’d be doing in the shoes and any injuries or issues I needed to consider, the gait analysis, and the measuring, fitting, and comparison of 3-4 pairs of shoes. About 30 minutes after she entered the store, we finished and I took her up to the register to ring her up. She said, “Daddy, you didn’t need to treat me so special.” I replied, “Look around sweetie – I didn’t treat you special. We do this for *every* customer who walks into the store.” She got a look of astonishment on her face and said, “You guys need to open a store in the Czech Republic. They don’t know from customer service – you’d have a line a mile long outside your door every morning.”
Finally, not another “customer story,” but an observation. I used to think the greatest compliment we received was when customers brought their child(ren) into the store for shoes. Over the years, we’re seeing more “children” bringing their aging parents into the store to be properly fitted, and I’ve come to believe that to be the highest compliment. We know you can buy your walking and running shoes anywhere. And in many cases, you can probably save a few bucks. We know the only thing that differentiates Metro Run and Walk from any of the other “specialty” stores in the area is our customer service and our unique personality. Thank you for your continued belief and trust in us.
Fall’s here – when is it going to get cold enough to use the fireplace?
- 5 Things to Ignore When Buying Running Shoes (fitsugar.com)
- How to Buy the Right Running Shoe (fitsugar.com)