Thursday, December 29, 2011

The New Kid in Town

What happens when a Hollywood Starlet, a big name stylist, and a legendary shoe designer get together and create a shoe club? ShoeMint is what happens - a club with higher quality materials, and a higher price tag than the competitors ($79.95/pair). But, what you get are shoes styled by Rachel Bilson and Nicole Chavez and designed and manufactured by Steve Madden. Ah, there's that name. The American shoe god. Even if you know nothing about women's shoes in the modern age, you know who Steve Madden is. And you know that other than the occasional wonky sizing, you'll hear very few complaints about Maddens.

When this club was first announced, there was quite a bit of buzz. Mainly, people were wondering if a shoe club could exist at TWICE the current standard price. The assumption was that the designs would be fashion forward, exclusive and that $80 would be a steal for whatever they released. Then, discount codes were sent out to reel in some true shoe addicts and it worked. A lot of us in the online world of shoes jumped on board. But there was a glaring issue: They were not exclusive designs - two of the original three debut shoes were almost identical to shoes already available under the Steve Madden brand. One more expensive, and one the same price.
I, and many other ladies shrugged it off and decided to give them a try anyways. They had sent out tons of discounts - for referrals, for surveys, as gifts in items from other BeachMint companies - so most girls got their first pair for either $1 or $40. For that price, it was worth trying out.

And so, I bought the blush Edith's for $1 in 1/2 size up as recommended. I really wasn't expecting much, they look kind of bland online, and way too tall with way too much platform. But for $1, I wasn't going to be too judgmental. Then they arrived. Holy High Heels! They're 6" tall. The tallest I currently own by 1/4". I was terrified to stand up in the damned things. But, the suede is so soft, and the quality is so good that I decided right then and there that I was keeping them - even if they had to be over-the-shoulder shoes. Then, I told my friends "Wish me luck!" and I stood up. And OMG! They are the most comfortable heels I've ever put on my feet. They're high, yes, but the platform makes up for it and they have a natural shape to the toe that makes them super easy to walk in. They fit perfect at 1/2 size up and are tinger-friendly. After walking in them for about 15 minutes, I decided I need the black, too. So, I found someone that wasn't using their $30 off coupon and I bought the black with it.

Three short days later, the black Edith's arrived at my doorstep and this is where the trouble began. As soon as I took them out of box, I could tell something was seriously wrong. I put them on and about fell over because the heel was so crooked on the right one. I'm used to quality issues with ALL the shoe clubs, so I didn't really think it was that big of a deal. I'd just contact them, maybe send them a picture if they requested it, and they'd send me replacements while they're still in stock. Nope. Not how it happened at all. They informed me I had two options: 1) Send them back - which takes a week, let them process the return - takes another week, and then they'll issue me a credit with which I can re-buy them or 2) I can buy them for full price up front if I'm worried they'll sell out and they'll refund me that $80 in about two weeks once the damaged ones are processed. I won't go into the really gory details of that initial conversation since many of you saw the details on the ShoeMint fan page on facebook. That initial representative got me in touch with their Customer Service Manager. I sent her a long and cogent email about why an $80 shoe club can't possibly have worse customer service than the $40 clubs and expect to survive. She responded to me the next day, a Saturday, Christmas Eve, with an order number of the replacement pair and a promise to send them rush as soon as the holiday was over. I, in turn, mailed back the defective Edith's that same day.

Today, I received a flawless and beautiful pair of black Edith's via FedEx. They were worth the hassle and more. I paid $50 for this pair, and I think they were worth every dime, but I don't think I would have gotten either pair if I had to pay full price. But, as you know by now, I don't like paying full price for anything. If you have a discount code for at least $30 off, then get one of these. They really are magnificent and are honestly probably my favorite shoes at the moment. (That may change - my powder Jessica Simpson Cheetah's will finally be here tomorrow!)

As for ShoeMint - they've still got some major kinks to work out - as would any company at this stage. Their order system isn't syncing up with their shipping info so if you get a shipping confirmation at all, it's often after you've already received your shoes. For all three pairs received, I've had to contact customer service for tracking information. Their policy regarding defective products needs to at least be changed to match that of the other clubs because the current policy virtually guarantees that you will either be out $80 for a couple of weeks, or you won't get the shoes you want. It is my understanding that all of the BeachMint companies follow this policy though so they've apparently chosen this path intentionally. Their live-chat is a nice feature, but I get the feeling that the agents don't have much discretion or gray area in which to be able to handle issues on a case-by-case basis. Though I do want to give mad props to the manager, Claudia. She was wonderful and did everything in her power to correct my problem. And, in my honest opinion, they need to dial up the Wow! factor on their shoes, too. The January previews are looking bland and are also available elsewhere.

After all is said and done, I'm happy with the overall experience - I ultimately got two gorgeous, real suede, comfortable pairs of shoes for $51. Yes, there was a major bump in the road, but they stepped up and made it right. I wish I hadn't had to put so much effort into it, but I'm cutting them a little slack for being less than a month old at that point. I'm extremely happy with the shoes and I really hope that the customer service, shipping and policy issues get corrected soon before too many people get a bad taste in their mouths. As for me, I will continue my membership and see what the next few months bring before I make a final judgement call. The Shoe Squirrel is always looking for new sources, after all.

Minor Update: A few of you have asked me why I was so nice in this post considering the actual details. I wanted to show them that good customer service will be rewarded, just as bad customer service will be blasted. Here is the link to the whole sordid affair on facebook if you want to see how it all really went down. Even one good customer service supervisor can go a long way in my book, and I know that after I gave her contact information to others that had the same or similar problems, Claudia took care of them too. The company itself has major issues at this point, don't get me wrong. But I will give them another chance because I know that if it happens again, I have a contact that will rectify the issue.

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