Monday, March 11, 2013

Running Away From Returns

I bought THE most adorable pair of grey Chinese Laundry strappy sandals awhile back and awaited with bated breathe the arrival of that bright pink box on my doorstep.  There it is...I can see it as I pull my car into my spot.  Sitting on the doorstep in all its glory...YAY!  Yay, yay, YAY!

Picture: FashionRouge
Juggling my huge purse, my lunch bag, and the rest of the mail, I drop everything at the top of the stairs, grab a knife on my way to the couch, and cut the tape on the box.  They're every bit as beautiful in person as they were on line.  No.  They're even beautifuller! (shut up)  I kick off my pumps and slide one onto a foot...and I can't get the back strap over my ankle.  O...m...g...  They don't fit.  And no amount or combination of shoving, pushing, or breath-holding I try, they're just not gonna.  And suddenly the fact that they were on clearance makes a HUGE difference:  I can't return them.


It's always a great thing when you find something you love for a steal.  Even more of a great thing if you can actually use the item once it arrives! Since that purchase a couple of years ago, I've gotten ordering shoes on line almost down to a science.  And a bad fit is only one thing that can go wrong when ordering shoes sight-unseen.  Too big, too small.  Too tight.  The back doesn't sit right on your heel.  A buckle is broken.  The glue on the bottom shows.  The color wasn't near the color in the picture online.  There's a small knick on the back of the heel platform of those brand new black pumps.  Or, my favorite, the angle of the heel is far too steep to stand in, much less walk!

For some of these, there's just no help for it; they'll go directly from your sad, disappointed little hands, to eBay for resale.  Or, in my case, to my girlfriends who love shoes as much as I do!  But if you find that you just can't see donating them in any form, resale is usually the pain-in-the-hiney work-around for those disappointments.

Fortunately though, a lot of this can be mitigated.  Naturally misrepresentation such as shoe color appearing different online than in person can't really be dealt with.  It is what it is.  But there are some tricks you can use when shoe shopping in the cloud that will minimize your chance of experiencing that disappointment with which we're all familiar!  We'll look at some of them here.

Too Tight in the Tootsies

If the shoe is leather (and sometimes if it's man-made but malleable), using this trick can stretch out that toe-box enough to make them wearable without damaging the shoe itself in case, gods forbid, that doesn't work and you do in fact end up having to sell them.  No harm done either way, and there's a fine chance that this might make them roomy enough to be usable!  I did this with the adorable pair of spectator pumps (below, right) that I purchased from one of the shoe clubs and made them wearable as I just couldn't stand the idea that I'd never ever be able to wear them!

  • Take a GOOD quality gallon-sized Ziploc bag.  This isn't the place to skimp, girlfriend; buy the heavy duty ones.  
  • Stuff a corner of that bag (careful not to puncture the bag with a well-manicured fingernail!) into the toe of the shoe, and carefully fill that corner of the bag with water from the tap until you see the water in the bag has reached about halfway to the midfoot of the shoe itself. 
  •  Carefully  squeeze out any extra air out of the bag and zip it tight.  
  • Clear out a nice space in the freezer, and set the shoe in gently with the water-filled toe pointing slightly lower than the rest of the shoe so there's no chance that water will move out of the toe until it's frozen good and solid.  
  • Do this with both shoes and allow them to sit over night.  
  • Remove them the next day and let them sit out so the water can melt enough to remove the plastic bag completely intact. 
The waters expansion while freezing gently stretches out the toe-box just that wee bit and has, for me, been the difference a few times in keeping a shoe I just couldn't bear not wearing.  If this doesn't resolve the issue for you though, you can just remove the plastic bag and go on to the next step: mourning their loss and listing them on eBay!

Check out this great how-to video for specifics.

Too Loose in the Caboose

I recently picked up this pair of Iron Fist Death Dance Platforms that I loved.  I looked at them every few weeks and just couldn't get them out of my head, until they went on sale and I snatched up the last pair (literally!) that they had!

They arrive at my house, and I try them on and realize that the back of the heel isn't flush with the sole of the heel; there's a weird 1/2" gap where the back part of the shoe pooches out beyond the actual sole of the shoe leaving a noticeable gap between the back of my foot and the back of the shoe.  And walking in them felt like a marble rolling around in an empty jar.  I felt like the shoe was going to just fall off my foot.

And like I've said before (and will say again!): "If you can't walk confidently in a pair of 5" heels (in public), don't even try!"

So I didn't.
I got right back into my car and drove the block to the Walgreen's and purchased these: gel heel inserts.  And yet another pair of gorgeous heels are saved!  They're sticky on one side, comfy-cushy on t'other.  And they fill that little gap perfectly!  That along with the matching gel inserts for the toes which give me just that little bit of extra 'grip' to keep the foot steady, and Bob's your uncle!

These come in a number of different shapes and sizes for every shoe-fit issue you might find, from ball-of-foot (right) for those bits that might not be just as comfortable as you'd like, to the full foot comfort gel pads that run from heel to toe ($8.99 at Walgreen's) .  These will work for nearly every uncomfortable situation you might find yourself.  Or, at least, your feet.

Just After The Knick Of Time

So you just pulled out the pair of black pumps that just arrived from your shoe clubs latest BOGO sale, and as you're counting all its figurative fingers and toes, you notice that this had to have been a return from someone else, and that's why you got it so cheap!    There's a tiny little spot on the back of the heel that isn't as black as the rest of the pump.  But it was clearance and you're stuck.  You can't return it.  Too small to be seen by just the casual observer?  Maybe.  But you'll know it's there.

The quick solution is to grab a Sharpie.  Black Sharpie is your friend (or red if you're holding a red pump, purple if it's get the picture), and go to town on that sucker.  If the knick is slight, this will make it disappear.  

This is the pair I'm wearing today, my favorite go-to black tasseled loafer.  Unfortunately, I'm a little hard on my shoes, and these are a pair that are worn often.  The back of the heel is starting to show a little bit of wear especially down toward the bottom.  You can see the patchy areas where the faux 'suede' has worn a little bit on the picture on the left.  Literally 1 minute with a black Sharpie and, to the casual observer, that wear disappears!

Using common sense when ordering, checking the pictures and reading reviews, and then doing some quick internet research if you've received something you're afraid you might not be able to use, will cut down on the disappointment!  And eventually you, like me, will get to the point that those disappointing events become fewer and fewer and you've found that you can order shoes on line, sight-unseen, with confidence!

Tomorrow, we'll look at ways to make sure the box you receive on your doorstep contains a shoe that fits you well and is exactly what you thought it would be when you excitedly ordered it.  (Yes!  There are ways!)