Argentina Buenos Aires

Retail Inefficiency

I admit that I’m a bit obsessive/compulsive when it comes to efficiency. I don’t see any point in expending more time and energy than is required to get a job done. This appears to be a city, country, culture (not sure how far it goes) built on inefficiency. I’ve gotten used to what appear to be lazy waiters but who actually cover far too much of the same ground over and over. He (always he) saunters over expectantly to our table to greet us without a menu just to have to go back and fetch one – just one. Then, depending on how we feel, sometimes gets sent to fetch another for the other of us. But, it’s not just the waiters.

Planning to come to BA for only a month this time, I did not pack my hiking boots (nor many other things that I quickly came to need). And, although I had fully intended to pack my running shoes – I forgot. Thus, the only decent pair of walking footwear I had were my Birkenstocks – very comfortable but not entirely appropriate for winter walking in a city where nobody (but me) wears Birkies (especially – heaven forbid – with sox!) any time of year. I ended up wearing out a pair of stylish flat boots, getting sore feet and even experiencing referred pain up my legs and into my hips and lower back. (The good news is that pedicures and reflexology treatments are inexpensive so I recovered quickly). I walk a lot here – I love to walk here – and I know how important proper footwear is for overall health. But, I also have ‘efficiency’ issues when it comes to spending money – especially when it comes to buying something I already own – even if it resides in another country. It was painfully apparent that I needed (not only another pair of boots but) some decent walking shoes.

I looked around with resistance for several weeks until finally, last week, I found the perfect compromise: not a runner (have those), not a hiking boot (have those) but a hiking shoe. I tried them on in my suspected size but they were a tad roomy in the toes – not much of a problem especially after suffering the discomfort of pointy boots for the past three months. I didn’t have my Visa card with me so intended to return the following week to purchase them.


Today I returned to the store and thought I would try on a half size smaller if they were available. Even a whole size smaller might work better.

“Do you have these in 7½?”

He goes to the backroom to check and I sit down to wait.

He comes out, walks past me to the desk where he pulls one shoe out of the box and brings it to me. It’s the wrong shoe.

“I only have it in this colour,” he says and he walks back to the desk.

I sit there, NOT trying it on. I don’t want them in brown.

He returns and asks me how it is. I tell him I don’t want that colour.

“Do you have the blue one in size 8 or even in size 7?”

He goes into the backroom, returns with one box, walks past me to the desk and brings me one shoe. It’s blue but it’s a size 6½.

“That’s too small, do you have a size 8?”

He goes into the backroom, returns with one box, walks past me to the desk and returns to me bearing one shoe. I try on the size 8 while he goes to the sales desk to answer the phone and ring up a sale – even though there are several staff members milling about. I wait. He looks over and I nod. He brings me the other shoe so that I now have an entire pair. This way I can actually walk, not hobble, around the store to see how they feel doing the job they were designed to do – more or less.

Just to be sure I confirm with him, “So, you have this shoe in size 8 and in size 6½ but not in size 7 or size 7½. Is that correct?”


He disappears while I walk about. The heels fit snugly, the toes offer plenty of wiggle room. I figure it’s the best I can do, I’m tired of looking and I have set a goal (long overdue) of having proper walking shoes by the time I make my day trip to Colonia tomorrow. I go to the sales desk with my intended purchase, pulling out my Visa card and ID. While I’m standing there waiting, my salesclerk reappears from the backroom. He has exactly the shoe I asked for 20 minutes earlier. What a surprise. I try on a size 7½ and they fit perfectly.

This is not the first time this has happened to me in a shoe store here. I’m not sure if there is some hidden sales agenda, a secret retail tactic, that they use – having you try on all the wrong sizes &/or colours before the shoe you originally asked for magically appears. Maybe this is the way we are taught to appreciate our purchase so much more. I doubt that’s what it is.