Two Sides of the Same Coin

Yesterday we had decided to spend the “last” day of vacation visiting The Market District. Since we were going to be out and about anyway, we decided to go shoe shopping. Both of our pairs were well over two years old, it was time.

Who would have thought finding a shoe store would be so difficult! Thank goodness it was tennis shoes we needed, as that was really all we could find. After a web search, we found a mall sort of nearby that had a Foot Locker and Finish Line.

The mall is in the middle of what is probably considered a mostly black neighborhood. In entering the mall, I was the only person not of color. Although I am well aware it isn’t the same thing, it is an interesting feeling to look around and not see anyone who looks like oneself. I have a renewed appreciation for those of us who go through life in areas in which they may not see someone who looks like them.

Several things stood out to me as we were walking and shopping. The first was how the owners of the mall are failing to keep the facilities enticing and attractive. Our downtown mall, and other malls in the area, all seem, at the very least, not be drab looking. There is a little bit of an invitation to come in. Other things were how empty the parking lot seemed to be for the time of day. What stood out the most to me though, was our experience in one of the stores.

It was the first store in which we both saw shoes that peaked our interest. The sales person was nice and professional. He brought out a couple of pairs of shoes, and got one of the shoes ready for us to try on. What was odd was he only handed us one of the shoes, not both. When he went to help another customer, we took the other shoe out of the box so we could walk around to see how the shoes felt. I tried on the second pair, with the same experience.

Since I like to walk in both of the shoes, I started to take the second shoe to put on. That is when he let me know, in a nice way, I could only try on one shoe. Of course, I had to ask why as it just seemed so weird. He said it was store policy that customers could only try on one shoe. I complied and let my husband know we were only supposed to try on one at a time.

As this had never been my experience, it stayed on my mind. It came down to, and in all transparency, as this is only an assumption, the store has had experiences of customers walking out without paying. As we talked about the experience later, this was the only thing we could think might be the reason for this policy. I could be totally wrong, but what else might cause this policy to be in place? Since we didn’t try on shoes at other stores, we don’t know if this is a common practice for the mall as a whole, or just for this particular store.

Then we flipped the “coin.”

After leaving the mall, we went off to our original destination. It is a fantastic grocery store. If you want it, it probably has it. I now know this because I’ve been looking for Tasso and Speck. When I saw the store had both of these, well, let’s just say I was a tad bit excited (just ask my husband!). It also had flank steak in the amount I wanted, veal, lamb stew meat, and Chinese Five Spice. We were there for at least a couple of hours as I ran from one place to the next in cooking idea heaven.

As we were leaving, my husband found one more shoe store, a runner’s shoe store, that was nearby, Since we were so close, we headed over. When we arrived, we were greeted right away and asked how she could help us. We let her know we weren’t sure what we wanted, and she said just call her over if we need her. She then walked off to do something while we looked.

Once we found a couple of shoes we wanted to see, she came right over, got our sizes, and went to get the shoes. During the conversation she was having with us in trying to discern our needs, I had told her I needed to watch the color of the shoes. When she brought the shoes out, she had brought out what I wanted, plus another potential based on the color. While I tried one pair on (both shoes), she walked over and checked to see if the pair I liked the most was in the color I had wanted at another store, something I hadn’t even asked about.

This customer service continued throughout the sale. In total, she brought out five pair of shoes (I can be very particular since I know it will be a while before the next pair). All five of those pairs were left out for me to try on, both shoes, whether she was with us or not. Quite a different experience than earlier in the day.

For me, I kept thinking about privilege and feeling offended. There was definitely a different experience between the two stores. I was a little offended about only being able to try on one shoe at a time. My thoughts then went to other customers who may go there more often. How must they feel to not be trusted to fully experience shoes before taking them home? Do they feel they are being held responsible for the actions of a small fraction of dishonest people? Do they even question or think about the policy?

Then I also was thinking about myself. Am I being totally off-base and is this a company-wide policy? Have they had a high amount of theft over time, thus needing such a policy? Am I sheltered in my shopping experiences?

Have you had similar dichotomous experiences?

Why does it have to be this way? And, what, if anything, can I do to create more equality, and more equity, has been the question I’ve asked myself a lot lately?

So far I have no answers or solutions.

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