Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thumbs up to professional shoe salesmen!

The dapper shoe salesman had given my feet a full fitting, checked the arches and answered all my questions about flex, durability and waterproofness. Now it was his turn to ask me a question.

“Well, what do you think? Do you want the $89 pair or the Goretex Merrells, our top seller, for $140?”

The man, a veteran shoes salesman, didn’t really have to ask. He already knew.

When it comes to matters of the foot, this guy is an old hand.

Most people get their shoes at big discount shoe emporiums staffed by bored 20-somethings who view your presence as more of an annoyance than an opportunity. They could care less about your feet. They don’t fit shoes, they stock shelves.

Yes, it’s ironic that a place that’s so full of shoes can have so much of one kind of sole and so little of the other.

I try and buy my shoes at a quality shoe store staffed by professionals. Mine is the Kamps Shoes at Westmoreland Mall. The guys there are mostly older, refined gents who know feet the way the way a butcher knows beef.

These gents understand my feet deserve the best. So do yours.

I say that without wanting to mislead anyone into thinking this is going to devolve into some aberrant passion for the foot. Mine is not a foot fetish.

In fact, I cannot stand the foot, even as I know it’s standing me.

My feet are ugly and cracked. They stink. The jagged toenails are a horror show. They look like a witch’s teeth when she smiles after roasting a stupid, fat boy.

And I baby them. I cuddle them in good shoes, soft socks and always take tiny little steps anytime I’m barefoot in a darkened room where other careless stumblers stub toes.

Because you can forget you’re wearing a swank or ratty shirt or dress, but a shoe -- good or bad -- is the one thing we all put on that lets us know it’s there with every step we take.

I’m confused by how many people spend so much time and consideration picking the perfect barber or hairstylist to determine the shape and length of their hair, but never give a thought to the care and comfort of the essential appendages they’ll rely on to carry them throughout life.

Feet are forever. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to back problems, sore joints and monthly appointments for spinal adjustments.

I figure if I patronize a good shoe salesman now it’ll reduce the chances I’ll ever need a pricey chiropractor.

I asked the guy how business had been.

“Tough,” he said. “It’s tough everywhere, but I don’t think people realize the problems they can have when they walk around in cheap shoes.”

I’m not kidding when I say I have immense respect for these gentlemen. I’m pretty sure they like most kids grew up wanting to be maybe a cowboy or an astronaut. It’s a cinch they didn’t raise their hand on 4th grade career day and say, “When I grow up, I want to be a shoe salesman!”

They are true professionals. They really care about their customers.

In fact, that may be a bit too broad.

They care about their customer’s feet.

I wonder if they feel they are to retail professionals what feet are to people. No one extends to them the dignity they deserve.

I wonder if they after a lifetime of selling shoes feel that people walk all over them. I thought this and at that very moment became instantly chagrined that I wasn’t some half-man/half centipede hybrid.

I wanted to buy 50 pairs of shoes and give this kind, hard-working man the sort of day he deserves.

It made me sorry I couldn’t grow another foot -- and that’s the first time I’ve ever wished for another foot that came with five little piggies to boot.

So what did I do?

You know exactly what I did.

“Give me the Cadillacs, my man! Don’t even bother with the box! I’m walkin’ ‘em right out the door!”

He gave me a kind little smile.

By putting some spring in my step, I was putting some back in his.

So let’s hear it for the humble shoe salesman, the only professionals for whom when we give them a foot we give them a hand.

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