By Louise Ure
Okay, I know I risk the loss of attention of some of our male ‘Rati here, but I’m talking about shoes today.
Little girls love them because they’re a physical manifestation of our princess fantasies. Adult women love them because they’re a physical manifestation of all the rest of our fantasies. Big girls love them because they’re the only clothing (aside from gloves) that we can buy in a normal size. Slim girls love them because they make us feel like the ballet dancer on the top of the musical jewelry box.
I love them all. Flat shoes. Fancy shoes. Killer heels. Animal prints. Straps.
I used to date a guy named Tom who bought me shoes for no reason at all. I’d come home from work and there would be a little pyramid of shoeboxes on the bed. Straw wedges. Red canvas sneakers. Strappy sandals with a chunk of turquoise in them. Black ballet slippers. It was heaven.
It takes a special man to know the shape and pressure points of his woman’s foot. A special man to get the right size every time. I’d be with Tom today if it wasn’t for his equally nasty habit of leaving lipstick love letters in baby talk on the bathroom mirror.
I’ve grown older and wiser since my Tom-the-Shoe-Man days and now eschew heels of either the footwear or male variety. And I’ve cut back from the 100+ pairs of shoes in the closet to a measly fifty.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the passion.
So the day after Christmas, with my shoe jones in high gear, I sneaked off to see my dealer. Zappos.com, that is. From the Spanish word “zapatos” (shoes). They have 1000 brands on hand. Ninety thousand styles. Three and a half million pairs of shoes ready to go.
I gave the secret password and entered into the wonderful world of shoes. Fleece-lined. Waterproof. Thigh-high. Italian leather. Purple.
Did I say purple? For some reason, my shoe jones was screaming for purple and I found just the thing. Puppy-soft leather. A hot-orange sole for flamboyance. An elegantly understated logo across the heel.
Zappos never disappoints. Twenty-four hours later they were in my hands. Er … on my feet.
Except that they were tight. And the flamboyant orange made me look like I ought to be duck hunting. And that understated logo was braying like a tea partier with a megaphone.
They were going back.
When you print out the (free) return-shipping label at the Zappos website, they have this deceptively humble little comment box that says: “What could Zappos have done to prevent this return?” As if it were their fault.
It reminds me of that weight loss ad that on late night TV that starts with: “Unsightly belly fat? It’s not your fault.” Of course not. That bean burrito just jumped right out in front of me at the intersection. And I didn’t even realize I was being rude to that jelly donut until it started crying.
What could you have done differently, Zappos? I’ll tell you.
“Next time please remind me that there’s a whole world of purple out there and the color on these shoes is not going to match any of the lavender, lilac, deep purple or mauve in my closet.
And you could whisper that I haven’t been a size 8 in a closed-toed shoe since I was in third grade.
You could tell me that I bought the same pair of shoes from you in gray last year and they’ll go just fine with all the purple stuff.
You could cough gently into my computer and say that $188 for a pair of faux-leather purple shoes I don’t need is not a bargain. You could even have a little asterisk at the bottom of the page with the credit card info that teases, ‘Are you sure? You’ve got a big credit card bill coming in at the end of the month.’
Like a nurse in a methadone clinic, you could have offered a free pair of those little slip-on satin Chinese slippers instead, with the warning that ‘as a writer, you spend most of your time at the computer and you shouldn’t be wearing screaming purple and orange outdoor shoes.’
You could have cut me off. Told me my addiction was getting out of control. Your pages could have taken longer to download. You could have saved me from myself. But you didn’t.”
I hit Send, then printed out the return label and hot-footed it down to the post office before I lost my nerve.
Unfortunately, the Post Office was in cahoots with my dealer and instead of sending the shoes back to Zappos, they returned the box to me. Like a recent quitter who finds a fresh pack of smokes in her purse, the jones kicked back in.
I would prevail. But now I needed a new return label, so I got on the phone to talk to my dealer directly.
“Zappos, the happiest place on the internet! This is Loren,” he cooed. Oh my, yes. I’ll bet he had blue eyes. I wondered if he left messages in baby talk on the mirrors.
I explained my dilemma.
“Let me look up that order,” he said.
There was an uncomfortable silence as he read my suggestions for what Zappos might have done differently.
“Oh, you’re THAT Louise.”
P.S. The winner of our “‘Rati Holiday Contest” is commenter Sylvia! Ms. Sylvia, if you’ll send me your snail mail address, you’ll have 14 Murderati books winging their way to you!