Running into great service

Running into great service

A trip to buy shoes demonstrates the meaning of value ... in retail and in veterinary practice.
Apr 01, 2011

This past weekend I set out on a mission. Keys in hand, jaw set, I got into my car and vowed I would not return home without a new pair of running shoes.

Now, this shouldn’t have been such a difficult undertaking that I had to make a solemn oath to complete it. But I’d been avoiding the task for weeks. OK, months. In fact, I was completely intimidated by it. I’m not a hardcore runner, and the idea of facing that wall studded with endless configurations of rubber, latex, laces, webbing, and patented synthetic technology overwhelmed me. The only thing worse was the thought of dealing with some zero-body-fat marathoner salesperson who wanted to talk about things like propulsive force and the anaerobic threshold.

But I needed new shoes, and based on some niggling problems I’d experienced the last few times I’d been running, I needed an expert to tell me which kind were best for my foot and my gait. So I was headed to a store known for its service and expertise regarding all things running. If I had to deal with an obnoxious marathon-running beanpole, so be it.

Walking in the door initially confirmed my fears. The wall of shoes was vast, and in front of it scurried a beehive of employees carrying stacks of boxes to sock-footed customers waiting to try them on. Should I get in line? Take a number? Walk back out and order shoes online?

Fortunately an attentive manager spotted my hesitation and asked me to take a seat, assuring me that someone would be over to help me soon. I had to wait almost 10 minutes, but I didn’t mind because my presence had been acknowledged—plus it gave me a chance to watch the staff assist other people and get familiar with the process.

Eventually an employee seated himself in front of me, measured both feet, watched me walk to the end of the aisle and back, and diagnosed me as a slight overpronator. He brought me half a dozen pairs of shoes, explaining the features and benefits of each model (plus what other runners said they liked and didn’t like), and had me try each on, comparing one against the other. He was efficient but thorough as he guided the process, educated me, and answered my questions—he was definitely a running geek, but he never talked down to me. By the time I made my decision, I was confident I had the best, most comfortable pair of running shoes I could possibly find. And I couldn’t have done it without expert assistance.

A few days later I was describing the experience to a friend, also a sometime runner. She asked how much the shoes cost.

“Um ... ” I said. “They were more than a hundred dollars, but I can’t actually remember the exact total.”

What I did remember? The excellent service. Becoming a more educated consumer. The thrill of knowing I’d made a very well-informed decision about the care of my feet. The knowledge that I would return to that store and that store only for all my future running-related needs.

Hmm. See any connections to what you do every day in your practice?