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On a rare free afternoon last Thursday, my daughter and I decided to be proactive and shop for basketball shoes. Basketball season doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving, but Sadie is fourteen, wears a size 11 shoe and has a very skinny foot.  We’ve learned from previous experience, shoe shopping is not always easy.  The real trouble is there are not many women’s basketball shoes, and with a size 11 foot Sadie is usually stuck with a men’s shoe. With a very narrow foot we are looking for that one anomaly, a narrow men’s shoe.

This time we started at Stateline Sports figuring they would have the best selection for her to try on. Nope, actually none.  Stateline no longer carries basketball shoes because the big companies will no longer sell their shoes to small independent stores.  As a matter a fact, the big guys are moving to the model of Consumer Direct. Don’t know what that is?  Neither did I. It means that they only want to sell their products online—no stores, no middlemen, just you and your credit card.

 I guess I can see that working if you are looking to buy a vacuum cleaner.  I can read the specs and research through consumer reports before I decide, but for a growing teenager’s basketball shoes?  Am I supposed to order five or six pairs in various sizes?  Am I supposed to charge and then return shoes?  That could mean charging over $1,000. on my credit card every time my daughter needs shoes, picking them up from the post office and then returning the ones that don’t fit and keeping it all straight.  I can’t imagine.

And what about the small stores, how on earth will they stay in business if they aren’t allowed to sell what consumers are trying to buy?  It isn’t the big chain stores or the internet sites that can offer correct sizing or advice about fit.  Is that no longer something consumers demand?

It is true that at least for now, big chain stores still carry some basketball shoes.  Here in our area Sadie wasn’t able to try on many shoes because they didn’t have her size.  Of course, those stores also offered to let us buy from their online division.  I am stubborn.  So Sadie and I will make the trek over Thanksgiving break down to the outlet mall in Kittery where all of the big athletic shoe brands have outlet stores.  At least that way we can try before we buy.  Next year who knows?  I will stick with the old way for as long as I can—but like cable TV— I’m afraid Consumer Direct will get me too…but not without a fight!

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