The Devil I Don't Know is Still a Devil
October 11, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Another breaking up question, not from a relationship but from brands. Help me decide when to switch from a couple of consumer products, when the alternatives may not be any better than the one I currently use.

I have recently become increasingly dissatisfied with 2 things I use on a regular basis, an airline and a brand of running shoes.

I fly the airline for work 2 to 3 times a month (driving is not an option) and have watched customer service deteriorate over the past two years to the point where 8 out of 15 recent flights were cancelled or severely delayed. Customer service blames the passenger whenever possible and the airline in general doesn't care about its customers, just profits.The airline flies me directly to where I need to go, no one else does though there are alternative airports. The one airline I would consider switching to is undergoing a merger and in the long run may not be any better than what I would leave

I have been wearing the same brand of running shoes for 15 years. over the past three years I have seen the overall quality of the shoes decline, the amount of cushioning in the sole got less and less, and the price of shoes went up by $30 a pair. Last year I had an orthopedic condition and needed surgery for the first time in my life. I would consider switching shoes but that might be a daunting task of trying on several different kinds and purchasing something only to return it after using it a few times. I know the brand I currently use fits every time.

Like a personal relationship, I tell myself at times that the products are something I "can live with" without defining what that really means. Unlike a personal relationship I don't have the option of going without these products and being "single'.

I have a severe distrust of online product rankings as we know little of the preferences of the ones doing the ranking. i realize that consumer reports exists but that doesn't help me make the actual switch

How have you successfully switched brands of consumer products? Have you ever switched and gone back? How did you do it?
posted by Xurando to Grab Bag (25 answers total)
Can't you just switch for a few times--try a flight on the other airline, steel yourself for the hassle of trying on shoes--and see how you like it? At worst you get the same crappy performance on the new product, in which case you can just switch back.
posted by serelliya at 1:51 PM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Part of the airline switchover problem is switching loyalty programs and starting from scratch with no miles on the new airline. I know the new airlines quality is the same or better than what I fly now. What I don't know is whetherit will stay that way after the merger.
posted by Xurando at 1:59 PM on October 11, 2014

Stop thinking in terms of limits and think in terms of abundance. Trying the new airline or the new shoes will not set limits on the enjoyment or utility of the old.

In other words, just test driving a Toyota doesn't suddenly make the Honda suck.

You are large, you contain multitudes. Try everything.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:01 PM on October 11, 2014 [17 favorites]

switching loyalty programs and starting from scratch with no miles on the new airline.

The miles you'll lose from a few test flights will cost you less energy than you're spending just literally reading this post. Seriously. Just try things out. Abundance, not limits.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:04 PM on October 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

Airline: for the most part, in my experience, all airlines suck equally. If you switched brand loyalties, here, what's it really going to get you? The same number of headaches, probably, unless you find that with routes and flight times you're swimming upstream so to speak and there's an airline that serves your destinations better.

Shoes: one of the troubling things about adulthood is that your body stays largely the same, but clothes change. It could be fashions, or sizing, or technology/conventional wisdom, or the quality or lack thereof of your favorite brand. I really wish we lived in a world where you could get your favorite jeans sorted at 23 and just roll with that until you die. Alas, yeah, it seems like every few years the stuff I like changes and I have to find new stuff. I would go into your friendly neighborhood running shoe place and have them do the thing where they help you find the right shoe for your current needs. Even though this should be a no brainer and you should be able to just buy this year's model of the shoe you like.
posted by Sara C. at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Given that you should change running shoes every 6 months, anyway, it doesn't seem like a bad idea to experiment. In this case, though, I would go to a specialized running store and talk to the sales people about what your preferences are-- specifically that you prefered a previous model of your old running shoe brand-- and they can probably match you with another brand that works well for you.

It sounds like you're worried about making a mistake. Don't think of it as a "mistake." Think of it as "research" and "experimenting."
posted by deanc at 2:18 PM on October 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Can you ask the new airline to offer you a status match challenge so you're not so much "from scratch"? That might make the effort to experiment a little more worth it.
posted by olinerd at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Trying new things is a great excuse to talk to people. Buy a ticket on the different airline, chat with fellow passengers (if they're amenable), pay attention to whether people seem satisfied, gauge that against your own opinion. (I do the same thing with movies: stand by the exit at the end and watch people's expressions as they come out.)

It sounds like you don't trust your own opinion or your ability to try something new, even if it's a wash.

I'm totally in agreement with Cool Papa Bell here: Trying new things isn't wasteful. It's just a different way to experience the world. Heck, you may end up with something you like more, and if you don't, you have the satisfaction of knowing yourself a little better. Living in a society where we have choices and can shape experience through all these choices, good and bad, makes everything so much richer.
posted by mochapickle at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess my overall read on this sort of reframes the question. Given that the current state of the American capitalist system is to produce a product for as little as possible cost and to charge as high a price as the market allows, is there any real advantage in switching brands?
posted by Xurando at 2:55 PM on October 11, 2014

Response by poster: Also, I have considered a status match. I would have to do it soon. Next year will be an interesting year for airline loyalty programs and it is hard to tell now if in 2016 you will be able to tell one program or airline from another.
posted by Xurando at 3:00 PM on October 11, 2014

You are over thinking this.
If you not satisfied with the current brands/providers, just change to another. If you don't like that one, there are plenty of others to try.

Seriously, don't waste any more time worrying about it.
posted by tonylord at 3:04 PM on October 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I like the idea of loyalty programs, but I try not to get too locked in, especially when I'm dealing with convenience and price. So I have a shit ton of Delta Miles and twice as many American Miles. Sure, it takes longer to get an award. But I don't travel often enough anymore to achieve any kind of status and even if I did, I couldn't compete with Delta Diamond Medallion or whatever because being in Atlanta, I'm competing with those folks who fly every week. Let 'em have it. I'm okay in Economy Comfort anyway.

Flying sucks no matter which carrier you use. I will say this though. United is the absolute WORST! Miserable employees, miserable customer experience. So if you're on United and thinking of going to American, oh HELL yes, do that. You won't be sorry.

But if you're thinking between Delta and American...meh. It doesn't matter, keep you miles and status.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:37 PM on October 11, 2014

Best answer: Given that the current state of the American capitalist system is to produce a product for as little as possible cost and to charge as high a price as the market allows, is there any real advantage in switching brands?

No. Maybe. Basically you have to figure out what your priorities are. I have many priorities that amount to "Low hassle" and am happy to do that thing even if there are other Bad Things about that setup. I have other priorities that are "Low cost" and will seek out lower costs even when there is a lack of quality/caring there. I have other priorities that are "Buy local" even if it's a hassle and expensive. For most people, different things fall into different categories and knowing yourself is part of this.

My feeling re: capitalism is that there are different brands that are further along the decline path than others. I find, personally, that older airlines are supremely terrible at stuff whereas newer (or sometimes non-US) airlines still make an effort at. But none of them are optimal for what I care about. Some airlines have more nickle and diming you about stuff (United is famous for basically putting markup costs on seats even when they have a half-full plane, everyone is sitting in the back, so terrible). Some have easier to use websites. Some have better "loyalty" programs. A direct flight has a lot of value, to my mind. I know it sucks feeling like they've got you over a barrel but this is a personal problem and not an airline problem.

As far as sneakers, you basically get to "Is fit more important than your dissatisfaction with the quality decline?" and you can go from there.

I believe there are still some quality brands or brands where the decisions they have made are more in line with my values. However, this is a thing that needs constant re-evaluating and sometimes a brand slips and doesn't come back. Sometimes it slips and gets its ass handed to it by the marketplace and starts making an effort again.

Ranking systems will only give you an idea of a thing's general quality level in the broadest of ways. This won't matter to you if you need special sneakers, but if you went to Zappos and read through a lot of reviews about how shoes fit (one of the many things people comment on), it might help you make a more educated decision.
posted by jessamyn at 3:37 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Quality of stuff changes. As your Nikes start to suck, try a pair of New Balances once. If they suck too, try Reeboks. Fly on Southwest a few times and if it is a lot better, switch. It isn't that tough.
posted by k8t at 4:05 PM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can only speak to the running shoe thing, but a lot of brands have a thing on their website where you input your current shoe and they spit out their closest model (and Runner's World has a universal advisor!) Between that and a real shoe store where you can try out fit and feel, you won't be quite as blind. Also, inserts can be a lifesaver. Your body has changed over the past fifteen years; your shoes should have as well. This is definitely worth experimenting with.
posted by punchtothehead at 4:15 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think, at least with the shoes, you are way overestimating the importance of brand. Look for a shoe that works for you, not a brand of shoes. There's no reason to think one brand of shoe will be uniform across its product lines in terms of how well it wears; or how comfortable it is; because those variables shift with the minutest change in style and fit. Just… go to a real running shoe store and tell them the issues you've had and see what specific pairs of shoes they recommend you try.

You have nothing to lose here -- so much so that this is a very odd question. Just try on some new shoes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:34 PM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think part of what you're missing is acceptance that there are a set number of choices you have, and you have to pick one or quit running / flying. It sucks that these brands were better in the past and are going downhill. There is no perfect brand. There may not even be a good brand. But you have to pick an adequate one or quit participating in these activities (or start your own shoe-and-airline company). Try reframing your choice as fly vs. not fly and the crummy airline will look a little better.
posted by momus_window at 6:45 PM on October 11, 2014

Given that the current state of the American capitalist system...

Stop. Just stop. You're overthinking.

We're talking about shoes.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:17 PM on October 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


Go to a running shoe store/REI, try on shoes, buy shoes.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:46 PM on October 11, 2014

As someone who has switched beloved running shoe companies for a variety of reasons, the relief from getting a pair of shoes that makes your feet feel awesome again is totally worth it. This is especially true if you are recovering from surgery and adjusting to differences in your feet. Go to a specialty store and get fitted; a good running store will let you try shoes out for a jog around the block to test them out properly. If you're worried about spending money on something you won't love, you can usually buy earlier "editions" of shoes more cheaply, although there are changes, sometimes drastic, between releases. There are a number of online outlets for this. (This might explain why you've grown dissatisfied with your current pair-- it might not be quality, it might be a deliberate change to align that line with different preferences.) I've cycled through everything from New Balances to Asics to Brooks to my current loved Mizunos just because my running needs and stability needs have changed. If you do end up with a pair you don't love, congrats, you now have a rainy day/painting/walking/spare pair for trips/getting coffee pair of shoes.

It is 100% possible to purchase decent, well-made running shoes in America!
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:16 PM on October 11, 2014
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:20 AM on October 12, 2014

Best answer: So, I'll try my hand at the existential crisis side of your question, instead of the practical side.

If customers never stopped using poor companies, no existing business would have reasons to change profit-generation strategies, and starting a new business would be virtually impossible.

So it's in consumers' best interests to stop spending money on bad stuff, despite the facts that it requires less effort to stick with the known option, and there is no guarantee that any other company's current profit-generating strategy entails setting lower prices and employing better quality/service.

At the same time, most large consumer-oriented companies won't go under if they lose one customer, or even a hundred. Losing you as an individual customer won't impact the overall bottom line.

I think you probably know all this already, and the reason you are overthinking is because you forgot to consider that your actions are part of a greater whole.

The more a company can count on customers to remain despite poor treatment, the more poorly they can treat their customers. Sure, there's a limited number of airlines, but if customers started moving from company A to B in droves, you can bet company A would react to stem the tide and entice some back. By staying, your individual actions are delaying the day this change will occur.
posted by lesli212 at 11:18 AM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Running shoes differ substantially from each other and feel different depending on the individual. The market that shoe companies sell to can vary from "people who will accept 'good enough' at a low price" to "niche runners who will accept only the best."

Airlines are in a contant state of economic flux and their quality can vary wildly at any given time. Some will be better than others. (Generally, airlines seem to compete on price until cost and service cutting gets so bad at an airline that customers start leaving, and then the airline figures out a way to reorganize).

Is your issue that you are trying to find a brand/company that you can settle on and never have to switch again? I am not sure that is possible. Things change. Heck, your needs and preferences change.
posted by deanc at 12:13 PM on October 12, 2014

The problem with asking strangers instead of trying it yourself is your priorities are not ours. For example, there's been a lot of hate for United airlines in this thread, but I refuse to fly anyone else because their mobile app is so great that all the other problems - which, to me, all airlines have - don't matter because I can manage so much of my travel on my phone. So depending on who you ask, United is either the lowest quality airline because their focus on the customer is awful, or the highest quality airline because their focus on the customer is the best and their app is clear evidence of that. So you really have to try these things out yourself.
posted by Tehhund at 6:18 PM on October 12, 2014

Go to a running store and get fitted for shoes there. You should be able to tell for yourself if they like the brand they suggest for you.

If trying on shoes is too much trouble, then don't switch brands.

Part of the airline switchover problem is switching loyalty programs and starting from scratch with no miles on the new airline.

You can try a new airline for a flight or two and still use up the miles you have on the old one. You don't have to have just one airline, they don't care if you fly with someone else.

Given that the current state of the American capitalist system is to produce a product for as little as possible cost and to charge as high a price as the market allows, is there any real advantage in switching brands?

This isn't really the existential question you are making it out to be. Choose the product that meets your needs the best.
posted by yohko at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Always read the fine print   |   Definitive guide(s) and resources for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.