Yes, I’m looking at you, Big 5 Sporting Goods.
I needed a pair of sneakers. Specifically, something I could wear to aerobics classes. I’d been wearing my running shoes to Jazzercise for weeks and had the aching feet to show for it. But the last time I bought shoes just for gym wear was probably in the 80s sometime, so I thought I’d ask for a little help.
I’m in Big 5, looking at the big wall o’ shoes. Running, tennis, walking, fitness…hm, don’t think these are what I want. By the way, “fitness” is code for the trendy off-balance shoes that are supposed to tone your legs and butt while you walk around. They don’t, although they do making tripping and falling much easier.
A very bored-looking employee asks if he can help me. Here’s the exchange:
Me: I’m looking for shoes I can wear to an aerobics class.
(Time passes. Crickets chirp.)
Me: You know, something that’s not a running shoe.
Him (Yawns hugely in my face): Sorry, what?
Me: Sneakers. Aerobics. Jazzercise. Not made for running.
Him: Try a trainer. (Waves a hand toward wall o’ shoes.)
Me: Do you recommend any specific brand?
Me: Do you know if any brands tend to run wide?
(Side note: last sneaker shopping was for running shoes, and at places like The Boulder Running Company they know what shoes run wide or narrow, whose shoes have higher arches, etc. Basic product knowledge. And I have wide-ish feet. Not total Fred Flintstones, but not petite flowers, either.)
Him: You could buy men’s shoes.
(Can I tell you how helpful I found this?)
Me: OK, if I pick out a pair, are they on display somewhere out here or do I have to ask you to get them from the back.
Him: I don’t know.
Me (picking up a shoe and NOT throwing it at him): I want to try this is a size 9.
He wanders over to a shoe display and glances around. He turns to me and mumbles something. When I ask him to repeat himself, he says he’ll have to get them from the back. Then he stands there staring at me.
Me: Still a size 9, thanks.
He brings me a pair of sneakers, hands me the box and promptly vanishes from the face of the earth.
There’s a small row of chairs, so I sit down to try on the sneakers. You already know they aren’t going to fit, right?
I’m bent over, trying to wedge my foot into the second shoe, adjust the laces, normal shoe stuff, when another employee squeezes past me in the three inches of space between me and the shoe display.
Hello, Mr. Johnson. With miles of empty aisles all around me, this guy has to squeeze past me, facing me, so that the crotch of his pants is almost brushing against my nose. If I had sneezed, I would have bitten off his vital equipment.
Maybe this guy gets his thrills waving his junk at soccer moms. Maybe he’s just so self-absorbed he doesn’t realize there are other people inhabiting his planet, people who don’t want to be that close to his reproductive organs without an extended courtship and a promise of marriage. Maybe he’s just an idiot.
At any rate, no other Big 5 staff approached me, spoke to me, offered assistance or in any way acknowledged that a person with money to spend was in their store looking to buy a product they sell.
But the people at Sports Authority were friendly, and that’s were I bought my Nikes. Happy ending for me, and I don’t ever have to go back to Big 5 again.