Friday, August 29, 2014

Post of Shame: The Shoe Doctor Saga

Subtitle: How to be an Asshole Without Even Knowing It.

Ok, so back in July, a few days before I was to leave for Pony Club Festival in Kentucky, I broke the zipper slide on one of my tall riding boots. (Riding boots these days nearly all have long zippers in the back seam, to get them easily on and off). This was concerning, as I always and only ride in these boots, but it was a fairly minor problem--the little metal place on the slide that attaches to the tab you pull broke off, so you couldn't attach a tab, but otherwise the zipper still functioned.

I took the boot in to the Shoe Doctor, on Euclid Avenue in Bristol, VA. Now, I knew the place didn't have a very good reputation, but it was only a zipper slide. They said they'd have to order the correct size slide and it would take two weeks. I paid $18.75 in advance so they could order the slide.

I borrowed half chaps to get me through Festival. On my penultimate day there, I fell off my horse and was knocked unconscious, and was a little scattered for a week or so. I hold this up as my only possible excuse for what came later: not much, but all I've got.

I wasn't allowed to ride for 3 weeks, but about two weeks after Festival I went back to the Shoe Doctor to fetch my boot. The woman behind the counter couldn't find it. This was disconcerting, to say the least. She said no problem, her husband would know where the boot was and would call me. No one called me.

I went back a week later and this time the woman let me come into the workrooms and look myself. No boot. There were plenty of shoes--heaps and heaps, what a mess--but my boot wasn't there. The owner phoned. I told him if he couldn't find my boot he'd have to replace it, and he threatened to call the cops on me. The conversation kind of went downhill from there.

I came home full of righteous indignation and posted an inflammatory post on Facebook. Lots of friends chimed in with stories of the Shoe Doctor, so I felt justifiably aggrieved. These boots weren't anything special--five years old, straight off the rack, standard size, and, at about $250, pretty cheap for riding boots, which can easily cost $1000 or more. They were, as my son pointed out when he suggested I might calm down a tad, neither alive nor irreplaceable. They were, he said, just boots.

Yes, but how do you lose a boot? I went back, and this time the owner told me that my boot had been accidentally put in storage by some recently-fired employees, but that he would get it out of storage and personally call me in the morning. He didn't call, and his shop didn't open the next day, and I posted on Facebook again.

After careful consideration I decided that I was justified, possibly even virtuous, in taking this man to small claims court. Now, getting any money out of him was unlikely--right at the bottom of the Googled article "How to File A Small Claims Court" was a cautionary note that if people don't have the money to pay you it doesn't matter if you get a settlement or not. But this was about righteousness. He should not be allowed to lose peoples' boots.

As the first step, as suggested by the article above, I wrote a Demand Letter, laying out my case. I included a photocopy of my claim check and a catalog printout of the boots and how much replacements would cost. I noted that I still had the other boot in my possession (it had been in my mudroom the whole time). I sent it on Wednesday, August 27, knowing he would get it the next day and hoping it would prompt him to find my frigging boot before I went off to the Virginia Starter Trials Friday afternoon. I could buy replacement boots at the tack shop there, but would then face the unappetizing choice of showing in brand-new, unbroken-in boots, or poorly fitting half chaps.

On Thursday he called and told me he'd see me in court, which meant he still couldn't find my boot. Damn.

I went out to the barn and started packing for the horse trial. Since our previous outing had finished with a medical emergency and complete strangers had packed our stuff for us, my gear had gotten scattered all over the place--odd bits of it had been flung into my daughter's trunk or the back of the trailer or loose anywhere when it should have been in some kit or another. In the intervening weeks I'd mostly ignored the mess. Now I started sorting through it systematically.

And found my boot.

Let me repeat that: Found. My. Boot.

I stood staring. It couldn't be my boot--my surviving boot was in the mudroom at the house. And yet, it wasn't my daughter's boot. It wasn't my boarder's boot. It was, unmistakably, mine.

Still doubting the evidence of my own eyes, I took the boot back to the house. I put it next to the one in the mudroom. A perfect pair--and there was that damn broken zipper slide.

You ever feel all totally self-righteous and justified and badly used, and then in one stroke realize you've been entirely wrong? Because, yeah, the Shoe Doctor is beyond annoying, quick to threaten and not particularly honest,  and based on the number of friends who've had problems with him I don't recommend using him, BUT I was demanding all along that he produce a boot he didn't have. The man was not a magician--and he had to be feeling pretty desperate, about to owe me $250 for a boot he didn't lose.

I must have told them I'd bring the boot back when the slide came in. I honestly don't remember. I'd been so angry for so long, and I'd been so convinced of his fault that I never took a good look in my own barn to see if there was an alternate explanation. I hate that this is true, but the actual villain of this cautionary tale is me.

I phoned and apologized profusely. The woman was nicer to me that I deserved. She offered to fix the boot if I brought it in this morning, but you know, I just can't. What if I don't like the way they fix it? What if I drive all the way there and they're closed? What if I manage to look like an ass all over again? I think it best to let this one lie.

Meanwhile, after consulting the internet and examining my boot closely, I've managed to jerryrig the zipper with a safety pin. It won't last, but it may get me through this week. Lord have mercy on our souls.