The Fat Shoes

Sometimes even the best laid plans backfire in ways that we don’t expect. It’s easy to think we should charge for everything of value we provide, but trying to extract the last penny can cost us the entire sale. This is one such story.

We were shopping in Mexico and went to a Skecher’s shoe outlet. Ann found some shoes that she liked and that fit well. She was contemplating the purchase when the salesman brought over another pair of shoes. The store was full of advertisements for their new “Shape-Ups” brand shoe, so they were clearly instructed to push them. He brought one such pair over and asked if she would like to try them. When she declined, he said they were asking people to try the latest version of the shoe just to give them some feedback. Clearly another instructed line. She declined again.

Observing from a distance, I found this interesting. I determined that there must be some reason they were pushing this shoe. Their signs explained that with this shoe, you could save on a gym membership. I wondered if they had priced the shoe based on that type of value proposition. So I went to go check the prices and sure enough, the shoes cost about $100 more than the other shoes. One hundred dollars for a bit more rubber on our soul. But that wasn’t their biggest problem.

Ann turned them down and decided to buy nothing. As we left, she expressed that she would have bought the other shoes if it weren’t for the rude salesman. Ann works out 3 times every week religiously and is in good shape, and here this salesman is implying she needs exercise shoes!

Clearly, they were trained to push this shoe and how to do so. What they missed in training is counteracting the implicit message you send when you push exercise shoes – that the other person needs more exercise. There are plenty of ways to defuse this situation, but only if they first understand that the situation might exist.

Ultimately, this is yet another reason to spend a lot of time empathizing with our customers. Treating everyone the same and assuming that a pair of shoes should obviously displace a gym membership isn’t going to cut it. The reality is that unless we try to understand who we are talking to, we are bound to send messages to them that may be exactly the opposite of what we want to be saying.

Words matter. Choose them wisely.

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