Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inadvertent cheapness triumph

I give up. I fail at shopping. I may be a heterosexual woman who grew up in New York, who studied French, who in stereotyped principle ought to be all about this, but at the end of the day, nope. I'm terrible at it.

I had spent the entire winter admiring a particular pair of Alpine brown leather hiking boots. They kept fluctuating in price from around $240 to around $310. I could imagine paying the former (as the previous such pair was one I wore from freshman year of high school until college), but not quite the latter. I'd been trying to find this kind of shoe for years, but kept wavering. $240 is still too much! Or is it? Yes! Or is it? Gah!

Finally, I realized that my lack of proper boots was causing, like, day-to-day inconvenience (the ice!), and when the boots dipped down once more to their lowest price, I hit "purchase." And then was like, maybe that was a mistake? So much money! But you can't cancel things so easily on Amazon once you've ordered them (I wouldn't think you could at all, but they offer this as a pseudo-option), so I figured, maybe forces greater than myself thought I should get the boots.

And then, lo and behold, the boots! So beautiful! So... enormous. For some reason, this company considers a 40 a U.S. women's 8. I'm a 7.5/8, which is more like a 38-39, which means these were not any kind of improvement over my existing footwear which, if nothing else, mostly fits. These basically slid off as I walked in them. So I put them back in the box, and sulked over to the mailroom with the return label and the boots.

Well, the return shipping label. Because I almost never shop online, and when I do, generally keep what I've bought because the process is so daunting, I'd forgotten to include the label that goes into the box. Much panic, much apologizing, and much humiliating myself before the mailroom staff on my second visit, I think I got the package right, and that the boots will be returned. Will I be ordering them in a smaller size? I think not.


Britta said...

I have been in the market for knee-high leather boots which are designed for snow but look somewhat professional. I have another pair of knee-high leather boots I bought in 2003 in Milan for 25 euros, when I was 20 and too young to realize exactly what an amazing deal that was. Those boots are perfect in every way, but I can't wear them in snow or when it's really slippery outside. When I started looking for leather snow-compatible boots, I was shocked at the prices, which seem to range around $200 and up. After years of idly searching for something ideally under $100 or $150, I found a pair of La Canadienne boots on sale for $160, down from $400. There was one pair left, in a size larger than what I normally wear, non-returnable. I took a gamble, and I am glad I did. They are exactly what I wanted. Ideally I would own these boots in my size, since they really are slightly too big, however I've been wearing them with enough socks that it's not a huge issue. (Though, they are cut large enough that sizing down half a size would still allow for me to wear large socks and would give a snugger fit). I might invest in some inserts to make them snugger once the weather is warmer and I've stopped wearing them with multiple pairs of wool socks. The calf is wide enough they might look silly worn without pants and knee-socks, but since I plan on wearing them mostly in winter that shouldn't be an issue.

Anyways, I would say this is a wash on cheapness, since 1) I got these boots for about %60 off, which is a good deal, though 2) if they hadn't been on sale, I wouldn't have bought them at all, and continued wearing my hiking boots in cold weather, and ultimately would have saved $170 ($160 + tax.)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Ooh, a classic cheapness dilemma - is it better to pay less for something that (ostensibly) once cost more, or to pay up for the thing you're 100% sure you want and 100% sure fits (or you'll damn well have to think this, given what you paid)? It depends on various factors - whether one has reason to believe the original price was accurate (with La Canadienne, I'd think yes!), whether the finer item will cancel out the fact that it may not have been exactly what you'd have selected (size or style) without the constraint of the sale (i.e. if you'll still wear it), etc.

For me, with most things, good-enough will do, thus how I ended up with the $30 J.Crew (non-outlet) jeans that, while nicely-fitting, have those unpleasant streaks that are presumably appealing to someone, but not me. Thus how I have other pairs of $30 pants that were originally $30 and look it. But with shoes, at least ones I expect to walk around in a lot, I end up going a different route. While I'm not sure if these were an investment purchase, the fact that I've worn them almost every cold or chilly day since buying them in 2011 (?) makes me feel less ridiculous about having gotten them in the first place.

Britta said...

With the boots, I think it was worth it. I could see justifying an extra $50 for getting exactly the size and color* I want, but not $250, and I still wear these boots almost every day, since they are basically magic. If I had a real job, I also think paying full price for these boots would be worth it. I do think footwear is a place where good quality is usually more money, and it's worth spending it.

I have another cheapness issue, which is the zipper on my $6 down coat broke. My coat is 8 years old and cost $6 on super super clearance in China. It doesn't have all the snazzy features of most down coats (e.g. no elasticized sleeve openings), but it's reasonably high quality down, and has gotten me through 6 Chicago winters. A part of me wants to toss it and buy a new down coat, but my friend pointed out that except for the zipper the coat is fine and if I'd spent more on the coat I would be more inclined to fix it. I realized that she is right, and that the ridiculous cheapness of the coat shouldn't make me discount the fact it is actually a fairly decent down coat that keeps me warm in the -10000 degree winter we've been having.

*these boots are a gray-beige suede, and I probably would have gotten the darker brown leather, had it been available.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I like a good cheapness dilemma! In this case I'd say, don't be swayed by the original cost. If you like the coat, get it repaired. If not... I'd say do as I did, and get a super-discounted North Face one on Zappos at the end of the season (and a really excellent one that's all shiny-black, so no obvious brand logo), but in this year of eternal winter, that's probably not possible.

I've definitely given up on items too soon because they were very cheap, only to then realize I kind of liked them. (I'm specifically thinking of some $5 A.P.C. thrift store jeans...) But if it's an item you've had enough of and really worn out, a necessary repair is always a good excuse to replace it.