“I love my Converses,” the customer says ruefully in an accent that sounds like something out of Harry Potter. “They’re spiffy and they go with my personality but now I’m really wishing I’d never dusted them off.”
The man pushes his long coat aside, raises his leg, and sets his right foot on Shelley’s store counter.
He’s got good balance, to stand on one foot like that.
“They’re okay,” Shelley agrees tactfully. “Especially as a fashion statement. But Cons really don't have adequate support for most sports.”
The man nods. He’s skinny, looks pretty fit, and has funny sideburns. Shelley thinks he should lay off the hair gel.
They both stare at the cream-colored Converse shoe and he rotates his foot back and forth. “But Cons can never in a lifetime, not even one of my long lifetimes, be considered running shoes.”
It’s an odd turn of phrase but Shelley understands. “That’s for sure. It can feel like a lifetime out there on a long road race without the right shoes.”
With a sigh he pulls his foot off her counter.
“Well, sir, I’m sure we can find the right shoe for you here at Road Runner Sports!” Shelley tells him confidently. “We’ve got the largest selection in San Diego!”
He’s not an especially helpful customer but Shelley didn’t go through three years in the guest training program at Disneyland and then the Road Runner Sports How To Fit Your Customer tutorials for nothing.
So they start with the basics. He has no idea what his shoe size is. This isn’t some knock-off mall store or big box superstore; Road Runner is for runners and they pride themselves on the right shoe, for the right foot, for the right purpose, at the right price. So, she measures him properly -- he's an American 10.5, UK 10, European 43 or 44, and the right is just slightly longer than the left. Then Shelley makes him hold up his brown pant legs and walk and jog up and down the store aisle so she can watch his feet. This ends up taking a long time because he keeps getting distracted by the watches and pedometers.
“Your arches are fine,” she tells him.
He stares at his foot. “I think I had very high arches once,” he says.
She doesn’t think that sounds right but doesn’t correct him. “And you have a neutral stride and no particular pronation that we need to adjust for. So what sort of running do you do?”
“Lots. And fast,” the customer says. “Very fast.”
“A sprinter?” Shelley is surprised. Given his build, she’d pegged him for a distance runner. “How many miles a week? Ten? Twenty?”
“It depends on what’s chasing me.”
“Oh, you‘re doing Zombies Run! Well done Runner 5!” she says, repeating the program’s congratulations for completing a successful run to get medical supplies during the zombie apocalypse. The customer gives her a blank look.
“What surfaces do you run on?” Shelley asks to cover the awkwardness. She goes to the shelves and pulls a few boxes down.
“Metal,” he says. “Ice, volcano flows, rocks, sand, carpet. And down a lot of dark corridors.”
“That must be quite a health club!” Shelley says, laughing. She climbs a ladder, and gets the Asics Gel, at both price points, and in a 10.5 and 11, since they can run small.
“These are fantastic!” he bursts out just as she’s taken the New Balance shoe from the lower shelf.
She turns and he’s gotten into the Vibram Five Fingers shoes that fit like a glove, but on your feet, with all your toes sticking out. He’s put black and green ones on his hands and is waving them around. Shelley thinks this barefoot running thing is just a fad and that the toe-not-shoe things feel weird on her feet.
“I’m not sure the barefoot shoes are right for your…”
But he’s already cleaning the display out, pulled them off his hands, and is standing on one foot, trying to squeeze his American 10.5, UK 10, into a size 8 mitten for your foot.
The customer is always right, she remembers from Disneyland when she sold moon burgers and lunar frosts at the Astro Terrace in Tomorrowland. She gets him to at least try the Asics Gel, but he decides he likes the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila.
“Brilliant!” he says, wriggling his toes now covered in grey and palm green stretch polyaminde with TPU caps. “I’m not sure about the color, though.” He holds up his brown suited pant leg and looks in the mirror. “I really like the cream color of my Cons. I have a pair in red, too.”
“We only have your size in the green you have on,” Shelley says, rocking back on her heels and studying the fit. They’ll do, she supposes.
“They don’t match my suit,” he complains. “I wear a blue suit, too, and green shoes won’t match that one, either.”
“You run in your suit?”
The look he gives her makes Shelley feel she’s asked the most idiotic question in the world. Really, who is she to judge? She loves the Princess Leia costume she wears for the Disney half marathons and in college she ran a 10-miler on Saint Patrick’s Day dressed as a bottle in a 6-pack of Guinness running team. So, she recovers quickly, thinking maybe she can up her commission if she cross-sells some compression shorts and reflective gear – he had said he was running in the dark.
After looking at the colors in the other sizes, he decides he wants the tan and red Bikila shoes, which even Shelley has to admit don’t look bad with the brown suit. He wants to take the larger size, but Shelley just can’t do that.
“Sir, will you at least let me call around? I’m sure one of our other stores has them in your size in the red and tan.”
She leaves him to poke about the store while she checks the computer inventory.
“Good news, sir!” she calls and he comes over to the check-out counter. While she’s been calling stores to confirm the stock, he’s been trying on sweatbands and sunglasses and playing with the reflective armbands with LED lights. “Our Costa Mesa store has them in your size in the red and tan!”
“Brilliant!” he cries, grinning. “Do you have any Jelly Babies?” He holds up a package of sport beans. “I’ve not had those in years!”
“I don’t know what Jelly Babies are, sir. What you have there are made by Jelly Belly but they aren’t candy. They’re for runners.”
“I’ll take the whole box.”
Paying for the Bikilas and twenty packages of sport beans in the display box gets confusing. “Cash or credit?” isn’t complicated but he doesn’t have a debit card and the reader doesn’t like his credit card (and Shelley has never heard of the First Bank of Nacre either – she wonders if it's in Florida.) He starts looking through his wallet mumbling about exchange rates and finally hands her a wad of bills, most of them not dollars, and Shelley sorts through them for the right amount. She's never been to England before but their money looks really weird. Maybe these are Euros?
“I will call the store and they will ship the shoes to you, free of charge,” Shelley says, pulling out the order form from behind the counter. “I’ll need your name and address where we should ship them. You’ll have them in three business days.”
“Oh that won’t work,” he says airily. “I’ll just pop over to the store. Where did you say it is?”
“Costa Mesa,” Shelley replies.
“Oh,” he says, frowning. “Is that anywhere near Costa del Centauri VI?”
“I don't think so,” Shelley replies, though it does sound like a housing subdivision. “It’s in Orange County, about 2 hours north, depending on traffic on the I-5.”
“Traffic won’t be a problem!” he says happily. He pops one of the sports beans in his mouth and screws up his face. “These aren’t the same. Though the taste buds that liked them were six regenerations ago.”
Shelley has no idea what to say to that, but she’s worried when he empties the whole package into his mouth and starts chewing. “Be careful, sir, those aren’t like regular jelly beans. They’re fortified and the watermelon and cherry flavors have caffeine.”
And really she’d not want to be in a car with this guy for a two-hour drive to Costa Mesa. He’s already bouncing like a bad sports bra and that was before eating the equivalent of three Red Bulls.
“Fantastic!” he says. “Do they come in banana?”
Here’s a picture of 10’s shoes of choice, Men's Five Fingers Bikila