After completing a grueling, difficult, four-day backpacking trek in Yosemite; climbing and then descending approximately 5,000 feet; Stephen decided I needed a new pair of hiking boots. For the past five years, I have been wearing the most awesome pair of Vasque boots. I love them. I have worn them everywhere: hiking, backpacking, to church. I have worn them in the jungles of the Amazon, in the piney woods of East Texas, and the corridors of the shopping mall. They are broken in. They are comfortable. And they don’t give me blisters. But, alas, they don’t offer much in stability. Sadly, they are a low-cut day-hiker boot style. Perfect for flat, easy terrain; but not for elevation change, scree, or bouldering. So for added safety and confidence, I caved and off we went to REI in Dallas “just to look”.
Because of my love affair with Vasque, the choices were quickly narrowed to four pairs. And, what luck, they were all on sale! After trying all four pairs, it was determined the Vasque Bitterroot in a size 6 1/2 was the perfect boot for me. High enough to give stability to my aging ankles, sturdy enough to last forever, GoreTex (waterproof), and hopefully, as comfortable as the pair I adore. I said hopefully because I had no way of knowing. The store did not have a size 6 1/2 in stock. But, no worries, the sales rep could do a nationwide search and do a store-to-store transfer. Stephen gave him the proper information including our debit card info, and the sales rep agreed to call us when the boots arrived.
The next day Stephen received a call from the REI Dallas store. The customer service rep apologized and said that the sales rep that helped us the previous night was new and failed to complete the paperwork. Everything was filled out properly except the part that states what we want to purchase. What exactly are they looking for? This should have been a red flag, but Stephen really wanted me to have these boots, and the sales rep was new, so the transaction continued with an updated, completed form. The search was on.
A couple of weeks roll by and, although the charge for the boots has cleared our account, we haven’t heard a word from REI. Stephen calls the Dallas store and talks to Linda, a sales rep. The boots are not in the store. Linda promises to look for the original order and asks to be called back the following day. The next morning I call Linda at REI. She has found the order in the store and learns the boots have been shipped from Farmingham, Massachusetts to a random address in Livingston, Texas. Immediately I become suspicious. Even though the address is incorrect, we do have a Livingston mailing address. Because we full-time RV (live in a recreational vehicle), we use a mailing agent and that mailing agent is in Livingston. I’m wondering if the boots have somehow found their way from Massachusetts to Livingston even though we did not give Livingston as a shipping address, and the address where they were shipped is not even correct.
I call Escapees, our mailing service in Livingston, Texas; and, yes, they are holding a package for me from Massachusetts. I asked them to hold onto the package and REI would be calling to let them know how and where to send it. I then phone Linda at REI Dallas. She has no idea why they were sent to Livingston but assured me she would have the boots sent to the store.
Another week slips by and again I hear nothing from REI. I call REI Dallas and explain the situation to the sales rep that answers the phone. She cannot even find evidence that I ever purchased the boots! She looks through our membership and cannot find them. I assure her that the boots have cleared our bank account but I have never seen them. She puts me on hold while she asks for assistance. Shortly I hear Eric, a REI Dallas manager, asking if he can help me. I reply yes, did he find my boots? He did not know what I was talking about so once again I explain the entire situation of the MIA boots. I am put on hold while he searches for information. He returns to the phone and informs me the boots were sent from Livingston back to Massachusetts! Eric apologizes and offers me any boot in the store and I would not have to pay the difference. The Vasque Bitterroot boot sells retail for $200; I purchased them on sale for $120. Hmmm…any boot I want? Yes, any boot, let’s just resolve this and get on with normal REI business. After a moment of temptation I choose not to betray my beloved Vasque boots. I explain to Eric that even if I received a $400 pair they would not be the same as Vasque. “Vasque fit me” “Vasque don’t give me blisters” “I wear my Vasque boots everywhere!” Thank you for the generous suggestion, but I’ll wait for the Vasques. Eric claims he understands and says he will contact me when the boots arrive in Dallas.
Several days later, I give up on REI ever calling me. Stephen and I decide to go to the store and check on the current location of the boots. No, the boots are not in yet. And Eric has been out sick with the flu. No, we don’t know where the boots are. By this time, I am getting really frustrated. I decide to try on boots. Maybe I will take Eric up on his offer of any boot in the store. While I’m shopping , the sales rep searches Eric’s desk for any clues of the MIA Vasque boots. Success! She finds a whole file! All related to my Vasque Bitterroot boots! “It seems”, she says, “these boots are cursed.” Because of the ice storm in Dallas, the boots could not be delivered to the store. They are sitting in a warehouse in Mesquite, Texas, about 45 minutes from Dallas. Now I feel like I am on the old game show Let’s Make a Deal. Should I walk out of the store wearing a brand new pair of boots valued at $300? Or wait for the much anticipated, but possibly cursed boots. I leave Dallas in 10 days. The sales rep really does not know when the boots will arrive. The UPS is delayed because of the ice storm and so many Christmas deliveries. I have waited this long; we leave empty-handed.
Three days later, finally a call from REI! The boots have arrived! I can pick them up at my convenience! Are you kidding? We go right away! My stomach is quivering with nerves! What if they don’t fit? What if they are not the boots I ordered? What if one is a size 6 ½ and the other is a size 7 ½? The boots are still in the delivery box. I take them to the shoe department and the shoe guy opens them for me. They are beautiful. And both are a size 6 ½. I carefully try them on, lace them up, and walk around a bit. I climb up the fake rock thing. I climb down the fake rock thing. Are they too big? Typically I wear a size 6 shoe, but I know that a hiking boot should be a ½ size larger to allow for toe room while descending trails. Maybe the boots will fit better with a brand new pair of SmartWool hiking socks. Maybe the left one should be laced differently. Finally, an hour later, we leave REI Dallas with my new Vasque hiking boots, two pairs of SmartWool hiking socks, and dreams of many, many miles of blister-free, safe scree scrambling, brave bouldering backpacking.