01 August 2007

I'm one of the most anti-consumer curmudgeons I know, and I only buy things when I absolutely have to. Today I went out to buy new basketball shoes, which was without a doubt one of the lowpoints of the week. I had the following criteria when I set out:

1. Don't spend over $100.
2. Buy from a reputable company (in the hopes that the shoe won't fall apart).
3. Get a shoe that fits.

In the end, I had to sacrifice on #2 after going to four different stores and becoming progressively embittered in the process. The first problem in the basketball shoe market is that Foot Locker has effectively become a Nike fashion boutique. They have almost no other shoes besides top-end Nikes, and the walls are filled with rows of the same models in different colors. This would be ok if someone else were stepping into the void of selling shoes to people who care about quality/performance instead of looks, but at least in Albuquerque no one is doing that. I would also be able to bear the current state of affairs if Nikes were wide enough for my feet. Alternatively, if I had arches, I could probably get away with buying crummy shoes without my feet hating me. Instead, I have to go to general sporting goods stores and department stores (where they sell low end models and sketchy brands) and hope I luck out with quality and fit.

This is in marked contrast to the running shoe market, where shoes are priced and marketed based upon performance/quality. Companies sell shoes in various widths. Top end models are expensive, but non-elite consumers without specialized needs can find servicable shoes for a bit less. Also, decent running shoe stores abound where they have a variety of shoes to fit different kinds of feet.

My second curmudgeonish consumer lesson of the day is that rental car prices go up like airline prices as you approach the date of rental. I had assumed that they stay stable, more like hotel prices. (I'm going to a wedding in San Diego in ten days and just now bothered to rent the car.) On the plus side, Hotwire gives discounts on rentals with none of the downsides you experience with their plane fares (i.e. not knowing when your departure/arrival times will be and not knowing what kind of layover you'll have).

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