Not Cool Enough, Apparently

No greeting as we walked in. No acknowledgment of any kind, really. At least three staffers, though. One working on a nesting table’s display of floating rose petals, one standing behind the check-out counter, the third sitting on a chair in the shoe area, chatting with two people while one browses a selection of mark-downs.

A sign that said “50% off all men’s shoes” is what brought me in. My first time through the doors. I’d previously admired their shoe selection through the glass. Unfortunately, I could also see the price tags, which is what kept me a window shopper.

I expect high end boutiques to be a bit snooty. But here in Carrboro, I question any place trying to play that role. For one, this is Carrboro, so come on. Second, any place that sells kitchy accoutrements like novelty wallets and other crippety crap is not high end. This place is just another forgettable ‘stuff’ store in a wannabe cool mall that can’t figure itself out, let alone its customers.

That said, a hello upon entry would have been nice. But OK fine, it didn’t happen, not the end of the world. Let me find those discounted shoes and see what’s up.

Five, maybe six minutes of looking, picking up displays, examining soles and laces, finding my size in a stack and pulling out a box without toppling the Jenga tower (yes, I still got it). And not a peep from an employee. Nothing. Meanwhile, the other shopper is strapping on some sandals while her guy looks over his glasses and gives an eyebrow raise before returning to his iPhone.

I put my shoe box back, pull out another one. Lift the lid, scoot aside the tissue paper, remove the left, mess with its ankle zipper (never had any with this feature), notice the thin midsole, the thick elastic lacing. I like the high-top style, I like the color, I wonder if they’re too young for 45-year old me. I think I could pull it off.

Then there’s a voice that says not “hello,” or “hey, welcome to the store,” or “sorry to keep you, I’ll be with you as soon as I can.” Just a monotone drone, “we’ve got more sizes in the back…we could only bring out a few so if you don’t see what you want lemme know… not enough room on the floor.”

I look up. See the employee who just spoke (to me?). Nod to her. She says more, “there are also some men’s shoes behind you…same with those sizes. May have more of them in back.” I nod again.

If she had been paying attention, she’d have seen me browsing the back wall for the past five minutes. She’d have noticed me pulling not one but two boxes already. But she missed it. All of it. She goes back to talking with the woman with the sandals. Something about a new restaurant. A rude chef.

I watch her for a few seconds, too much lipstick. Still yet to smile. I look at the man still swiping his iPhone, look at the woman wrapping leather bands around her calf saying to herself, “ooohhh, these are something.”

I’m invisible. I look at my girlfriend and give her the “let’s get the hell outta here” look. She makes her eyes all wide like finally. I put the box of shoes back on the stack and we walk out. Pass five humans en route, three with name tags, not one says a word. Not a “see ya” or “thanks for coming,” not even a disdainful glance. Nothing at all.

Damn. I really wanted those shoes. And no doubt the store wanted me to buy them. But it was obvious that’s all they wanted. And only barely kinda sorta. Which is exactly why I left.

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