I was trying on shoes in Foot Locker last weekend, when the young clerk, brimming with confidence, began his pitch, “As you can see here, sir,” he said, pointing to a frayed shoe sole, “the soles on these shoes (Nike Shox) commonly fray and break at the seam. So we offer an insurance policy where you can exchange the soles for the life of the shoe.”

Foot Locker, Sales pitch, Up-selling, training

I complimented him on his well polished up-sell, awkwardly accepting my compliment, and I kindly said I was not interested. The store was packed, so I got into ethnographic researcher mode (think “cultural detective”) and began observing whether or not the other employees were engaging in this spiel or whether I happened to be dealing with a hard worker who developed his own sales pitch. It was clear that the “sole up-sell” was systematic training.

This is when my cognitive dissonance kicked in. What a smart business move for Foot Locker! They found a way to create an additional revenue stream by coupling a different product to patch the defects of another product, and by purchasing the value added insurance service, they get the added bonus of bringing customers back into the store for the life of the shoe, likely leading to additional purchases. Financially, it makes sense.

Through a different lens, Foot Locker is choosing to sell a defective product, a product that breaks, and instead of remedying the product by working with the manufacturer or not carrying the defective product altogether, they try to persuade customers to buy a “fix.” Imagine buying a car whose radiator goes out every 5,000 miles but for an additional fee the dealership will tow your car to the lot and repair it for the life of the car.

While it may be a smart business decision (new revenue stream, additional foot traffic), that decision has lost my business as a future Foot Locker customer. Sell a better widget, don’t sell me something that is built to break and then try to add on a widget fix. I am sure the young Foot Locker employee didn’t analyze his pitch from my perspective. I just hope that when people his age begin to open businesses, they choose to sell products that work instead of trying to hoodwink their customers and assume they’re idiots.