The one about shoes


Image from

Image from

So, yesterday I took my preschooler shoe shopping.
It would have been easier to climb a wall of razor blades. Naked. In a blizzard.
Whatever made me think I could place a 3-year-old girl around shelves lined with pink, purple, glitter and licensed characters beckoning from every box and expect her to pick out something conservative?

What made me think she’d pull one box at a time from the shelves? What made me think we could do this in 15 minutes?

Is it asking too much to find presentable, reasonable, dyed in a hue occurring in nature, spare of any licensed characters and flashing lights footwear?
If you’re willing to shell out some bucks, then it’s possible. If you’re looking for bargains, it’s going to be painful — razor blade painful.

Let’s point out right now that I don’t own a “Born to Shop” T-shirt. I like to get in and get out when it comes to shopping, particularly when it involves people with short fuses, small bladders and Dora the Explorer obsessions.


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As I struggled to pull the neon purple, blue, pink and red disco shoes off Girl from the East’s  feet, I looked lovingly at the display of baby shoes. So cute and sweet. One pair had little cupcake appliques. Another, a simple Mary Jane with a bright red button. But these designs don’t carry over to the toddler side of the aisle.

Want to know why? The baby shoes are sweet and attractive because the mothers, fathers and grandparents are selecting them. The toddler shoes suck because the manufacturers know that the kids with this size feet are aware and making choices.

They are old enough to manipulate and be manipulated with licensed characters. Put Dora or SpongeBob on the shoe and the kids will scream for them until their parents’ ears bleed. They’ll make life so miserable that buying $12 Hannah Montana Croc rip-offs will seem like a day at the spa.

These down- and-dirty marketing tactics reduce parents to our own most desperate measures. Here are my three favorites:

There’s the bait and switch: Allow the shoe to be tried on. Then, when it’s safely off the foot, distract the child’s attention and pitch the shoes into the next aisle. When you arrive at the checkout line, declare the shoes as lost, having fallen out of the cart never to be found again.  Ever wonder why you see ugly shoes tucked into bread displays? 
Next is the  inventory shortage: This is where you say: “Sorry, honey. They don’t have it in your size.” I am using the tactic as long as I can because she’s learning those numbers at a fast clip.
Finally, there is the delayed gratification: With this strategy, you bank on short-term memory failure.  “We’ll get it another time,” you promise,  knowing you’ll either win this one or live to deeply regret your words.

Your parents pulled one of these on you, didn’t they?

Heck, I’m still waiting for my first car.

7 thoughts on “The one about shoes

  1. I can not state, emphatically enough, how much I abhor shoe or clothes shopping with my 3 year old. It makes me shudder and twitch uncontrollably just thinking about it. The only thing worse is taking same said 3 year old into Toys R Us!

  2. Oh, I hear you. That is why I used to go to Mervyns, where I knew I could exchange the shoes, and buy shoes WITHOUT CHILDREN PRESENT, then take them home for the try-out. They were usually okay and the girls were thrilled to get new shoes. They were presented with no other options so I had total control.

    Not that easy when they get older (5 and 8) and know their options. I prefer the passive-aggressive “okay, well, then, I won’t be buying ANY shoes today” approach, which works but makes me feel like a bitch.

    Sigh. There is no winning, is there?

  3. “Ever wonder why you see ugly shoes tucked into bread displays?”


    I have always wondered that, actually.

    I don’t remember having a shoe fetish when I was a little kid. And it’s a good thing. No way would I have gotten near anything pink or glittery.

    I hate Crocs, but those purple Hannah Montana ones are . . . kind of cute.

  4. The list of tactics made me laugh so hard I got Diet Pepsi up my nose.

    I’ll have to print this post out and take it with me on my next shoe trip with Bean, who is currently sporting Thomas The Tank Engine light up monstrosities that I bought just to stop the screeching. Ha.

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