Shoe shopping is such a glorious activity. On a good day, it’s something straight out of a movie scene—you walk in, you’re treated like a VIP, and you, hopefully, walk away with the dream heel or flat or boot that you’ve been eyeing forever. But on a bad day, an overcrowded store, a rude short-staffed sales team, and an inventory with nothing in your size can turn the whole frustrating experience into a nightmarish ordeal—enough to give shoe shopping IRL a break (temporarily, of course).
But reverse the situation for a sec and step into the other person’s shoes, so to speak. These sales associates have to deal with, well, us, and there’s nothing glorious about that, which we learned when we surveyed the floor. Yes, they are in customer service, but there are certain things we can do on our end to help lessen the distress. From making sure personal hygiene is up to par to being plain nice, here are the do’s and dont’s of trying on shoes.
Do Remember the Golden Rule: “We are in customer service, but it’s customer service, which means we’re not slaves,” says Dana Aponte, a store manager at Aldo. “Sometimes we get people who snap fingers at us and it’s really rude; it makes us not want to do our jobs properly. I don’t want to help you if you’re going to be rude to me.”
Don’t Expect the Store Carries Your Size: “You’ll be disappointed if you assume we’ll have all sizes,” says Jose Fernandez, keyholder at Stuart Weitzman. “This is retail and we get a certain supply. We can’t help you if you’re upset just because we don’t have your size.”
Do Try on Shoes on Display: “If it’s your size, then yes it’s perfectly fine to try on the display shoe,” says Rimma Boutsenko, a specialist in the Salon Shoes department at Bloomingdale’s. “If it’s not your size, ask, and we’ll help you.” In fact, Mohamed Khawatmi, a sales associate at Cole Haan, encourages trying on displays: “It makes my job easier instead of having to go in the back and grab it.”
Do Make Sure Your Feet Are Clean: “If your feet are smelly or unclean, put on a sock before trying on the shoe, because if you don’t make the purchase, someone else will be trying the pair on,” Aponte says. “We’ve seen everything—missing toe nails, overgrown nails, everything. Just make sure they’re washed, clean, so that they don’t smell; personal hygiene is a big one.”
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Don’t Sweat It If You Don’t Have a Pedicure: “Some customers who are self-conscious and apologize for not having a pedicure, but it doesn’t matter to us—we see feet, we deal with feet on a daily basis,” Fernandez says. Plus, Khawatmi made a good point: “You shouldn’t judge if you’re in sales—what if they have a health issue and can’t get a pedicure? Then, you’re the one who looks bad.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Nylons: If you’re skeeved out about trying on shoes without some sort of barrier, by all means, ask the sales associate for a pair of peds, or nylon socks, even if they don’t offer one. “Most retail stores that sell shoes carry nylon socks,” Aponte says. “Most people will forego the socks if they’re trying on sandals, but it’s not at all uncommon for people to ask when trying on closed-toe shoes or boots.” Some stores, like Cole Haan, have policies requiring all customers to try on shoes with nylon socks for hygiene purposes, so check with the associate first before slipping on a pair.
Do Feel Free to Bring Your Own Socks: “If you’re trying on a boot, for instance, and you have a particular sock in mind that’s thicker than a nylon pair, then bring that in,” Fernandez says. “You’ll get a better feel for the boot that way.”
Do Shop with a Purpose: “Some people give off a vibe if they’re there to play around, people who try on eight, nine, or 10 pairs of shoes without any intent on buying them, which can be obnoxious,” Aponte says. “That’s when we’ll limit them and let them try on three pairs at a time, otherwise we’ll wind up with 20 shoes on the floor, which can lead to mixed shoes and theft.” There are some exceptions, Aponte notes, like if a customer wears a special size, say an 11 and is looking for a black shoe, then they’ll bring out all the black shoes in that size. And of course, each store is different. Fernandez says in his experience, he’s let someone try on as many as 16.
Don’t Throw the Stuffing Everywhere: “My biggest pet peeve is when customers take everything out of the box and toss all the paper and stuffing on the floor,” Khawatmi says. “It becomes this big mess, and I have to clean it up.”
Do Let Your Sales Associate Know If You’re Not Buying the Shoe: “It’d be nice if you, at least, put the shoes on top of the box after you try them on, especially when it’s busy, because we end up with mixed sizes and colors,” Aponte says. “And it’s important to let us know because we can clean it up right away. If not, we might not have noticed you didn’t pay for the shoe and it could be easily stolen.”
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Don’t Worry About Repacking The Box: “You don’t need to put shoes back in the box, because it’s our job,” Fernandez says. “But if you do put it back in the box, we’ll always appreciate it.”
Do Try On Shoes on Hard Flooring: “The leather sole on shoes is slippery on carpeting,” Fernandez says. “We always recommend trying on shoes on hardwood, for a better, truer feel.”
Don’t Wander Off to Other Departments: If you’re shopping in a department store, stay in the general vicinity. But if you want to try the shoes on with a dress from a different floor, Boutsenko says to let the sales associate know.
Do Recognize the Consequence of Ordering Online: There’s nothing wrong with trying on shoes in the store and purchasing it online, but it’s frustrating for sales associates, especially when they’re working on commission. Also, it affects the brick-and-mortar’s profits. “If people continue to make purchases online, it lessens the traffic, and it hurts the store,” Aponte says. “It affects rent, the pay roll, everyone, and that’s why so many stores are closing down.”