The Saga of THE BOOTS

For two years I stalked a pair of boots. Yes you read that right--boots. Online I discovered the perfect specimen—leopard print calf hair, check, sexy spike heel, check, Platform sole, check. They were gorgeous and woefully higher than the price I was willing to pay for animal print ankle boots.

Last fall they went on sale, but even 49% off of ridiculously expensive still ends up being too costly to justify, so what did I do? I went to a store and bought what I considered to be the next best thing at a fraction of the cost.

Sure the cut of the shoe and coloring of the leopard spots weren’t quite the same, but they would have to do. How closely do people judge leopard print anyway? If that person isn’t me, chances are they don’t really care all *that* much. So I had some boots—not THE boots, mind you, but a compromise that would help me get over not having the exact ones I wanted.

The end. Right?


Despite buying the substitutes, I kept checking out those boots online. All you had to do was type the magic word into Google (“Mercurypipe”), click your heels three times, and voila, the first link to come up took you straight to Zappos. Sometimes the boots were 10% off. Sometimes more. They had been on the site for so long that I took their presence for granted. If I happened to be browsing for something else on Zappos, I could always click around and check up on the boots. They weren’t going anywhere, right?


Imagine my surprise when I caught them at 59% off. I immediately checked to see if my size was available, but the only size left was 10. I could get away with a 9 if I stuffed the toe, but 10 would be pushing it. I filled out the form to be notified if my size miraculously became available but I knew it was futile. Deep discount + one size left meant I had missed my chance. Not only that, but the designer had a new style of leopard print boot at full price, which meant the ones I had stalked were officially old news.

Panic struck. How could it be? I had the other boots, sure, but we all know those were Not The Same. Those were meant to tide me over until the day came when I no longer wanted THE BOOTS. And that day never came. The day that came was when THE BOOTS were no longer available.

I know, I know, it’s just stuff—a material thing you could very easily live without. I have so many shoes more practical than these, so there’s no way to even say that I needed them. They squarely fell into the category of “superficial unnecessary want”, and with another quick search, I was able to figure out what had become of the arsenal of boots that had once been on Zappos.

Bluefly bought them. Sure, the name of the style had been tweaked a bit, but the photos indicated that these were the same boots—same exact, down to the stock photos used on the site. There was no free shipping, but the 49% off sales price was there. I checked the sizes—all were available except my exact size—8. But they had 8 ½. I could get away with a little extra toe room. I bit the bullet.

Am I doing the right thing? I asked myself as I typed in my ordering information.

"Sure you are," I replied. "You looked at these suckers for two years. Why not give yourself an early Christmas gift? Go on. You deserve it."

I could save that money. I could buy someone else something nice. I could give it to charity.

"Are you crazy?"

Well, no, but how can I justify spending--

"But the boots." I replied. "THE BOOTS. You let them slip away on Zappos, and now that you’ve found where they went, you don’t want to lose them again!"

I pressed the “Complete order” button and waited for my confirmation to pop up.

I felt a little sick at the amount (because 49% off of ridiculously expensive is still expensive) but if I brought my lunch to work for a month, I could defray the cost. And if I kept that up, I could save a lot of money over a year. Bringing in lunch was the answer. Why, if you added it up, I was buying the equivalent of THE BOOTS (at 49% off) in lunch every single month. That was worse than just buying THE BOOTS once.

Early the following week, I tracked the shipment. “They should get there soon,” said a friend, “the warehouse is just down the road in Virginia.”

When Wednesday rolled around, I came home and checked the front step. Nothing. I went upstairs and checked my computer. “Delivered at 4:55 p.m.” read the UPS note.

They were already here!

I checked the front again, but there was still nothing. I went to the garage, opened the door and—there, in the corner between the house and the garbage can was a box. The return address was Bluefly. I retrieved it, closed the garage and whisked the package upstairs to my room, where I prepared for the unveiling. Would they be everything I had hoped for, or was the idea of having the boots better than the reality?

I pulled off the packing tape, pushed the stuffing paper out of the way and uncovered the purple Stuart Weitzman box. With a deep breath I pulled off the lid.

Angels sang. Beams of light rained down from the heavens. It was...beautiful. (Sidenote: why do I look like Tobey Maguire?!)

Okay, just kidding. But there they were in the “flesh” (in the leopard printed calf skin? How do you describe it when you “meet” an inanimate object?) It is kind of gory and creepy if that object is made from a once living thing.

I pulled them out and tried them on. By now I was in pajama pants, so it wasn’t a good look, but this was more of a test for fit and feel. The soles of the shoes were—stiff. The heel was a bit higher than I was used to. I hobbled down to the guest room to check them out in the full length mirror. I wasn’t sure if I had pants long enough for these, but I’d figure something out. I would make them work.

After I took them off, I studied the workmanship. Each boot was made of two pieces of material. The hair was like silk. The color was rich. Even the suede on the platform resembled velvet. These made the substitutes I bought last year look like utter crap. They were expensive—the most I had ever spent on a pair of shoes, but come on, you’re paying for QUALITY. I still felt guilty about the cost but it was a one time deal. I’d get over it. Besides, I never had any of this buyer’s guilt before having a kid. For some reason being a mother makes you think of all of the different ways you could have spent that money for OTHER PEOPLE. If it’s for you and strictly for you, somehow it seems wrong. (Oddly enough, men don’t seem to have this problem.)

So the next thing was preparing for the Debut of THE BOOTS. Holiday party? Nah, that involves too much standing. Dinner out on a weekend? Possibly. They would be cute with jeans. Work? That involves a lot of sitting, but that might be better. I would have to make sure the rest of my outfit was subdued though. There would be no coordinating animal print scarves, belts or bags (though I own some of those as well). I wasn’t trying to represent the entire animal kingdom. I was just going for interesting little accent piece. You know, kind of a plain outfit—oh that’s a nice silk jacket, oh there are some black pants and then WOW! Did you see those boots? That’s what I was going for.

So I wore them yesterday. It took some adjustment, but seeing the world from four inches higher than my usual perspective was strangely empowering. If I walked short distances they were moderately comfortable. I could do this!

A friend asked if we could meet for lunch. “Sure,” I said, picking a location not too far from my own building. I could strut down there without having to change shoes, I thought. When she called to let me know she had arrived, I thought, Well, so have I! THE BOOTS and I have arrived.

Okay, no, I didn’t think that. I’m not that much of an asshole. I just told her I’d be there in two minutes. I grabbed my bag from my desk, took a step and whoops

I looked at the floor first. Was there a hole? Had I tripped? I stepped down again and whoops

Something wasn’t right. I balanced on one foot, bent my knee and sloooowly lifted the other foot. There. The heel was--bent?

No! It was broken. Clean off! I had to study it for a few seconds to fully process what happened before I pulled off the heel in disbelief. Five slightly bent screws protruded from where the heel should have been. What in the world? The first day I wear them and THE BOOTS didn’t even make it to lunch time? I’ve had payless shoes that stayed intact for years, but the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought don’t even survive a few hours? Quality my foot.

I felt a little sick inside, but it would be okay. I put on my spare shoes (kept in my desk drawer), grabbed a plastic sack and stuffed the boots inside and continued on to lunch. There was a cobbler and he could probably fix them. In fact, I took both boots in the event that the other one had a similar flaw.

After lunch, I beelined it to the cobbler's shop.

When he pulled out the pliers relief washed over me. There was hope after all. Suddenly he stopped. Shaking his head slowly, he said those awful words.

“They can’t be fixed.”

"Can't. be. fixed?" I echoed.

He explained that part of the main screw had broken off inside of the heel which meant there would be no repair.

"I'm sorry." he said, obviously reading the anguish on my face. It was curtains for THE BOOTS.

Now was the time to panic. I returned to the office, sat through my meeting while wondering what Bluefly’s return policy was. If they wouldn't take them back I'd have to break out the Liquid Nails and try my hand at shoe repair once I got home. After the meeting, I went to my desk and checked online

“Footwear returns will be accepted on unworn shoes returned in the original shoebox (without postal labels).”

Well, that didn't sound good. It was time to call a human being and plead my case. I called customer service with my sob story (emphasizing that this was the first day I had ever worn them) and Tiffany the customer service rep told me I could send it back noting that there was a defect and I would get my money (or credit) back.

I exhaled.

“They’re still available in your size if you want to buy another pair.” She offered.

“No,” I said, “I don’t think so.”

“I understand.” Replied Tiffany.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in all of this. Priciness does not equal quality? All that glitters isn’t gold? It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? Who knows; I’m still trying to figure it out. I even pulled the substitutes from the closet. The calf hair felt like sandpaper and there was a seam down the toe, but they were still in one piece and had survived their debut wearing. Even if they hadn't, I didn't spend nearly as much on them. Sure, they were Not The Same, but they weren't so bad.

What I'll remember most was that feeling of disappointment and the horror of holding the dismembered heel in my hand. Never again will I insist that paying the extra guarantees that what you're buying is better than the cheap-o version.

Stuart Weitzman, you're dead to me. Dead!

(well, at least until these go on sale)

No comments: