How to make a company you don't work for smarten the hell up?
September 10, 2018 1:10 PM   Subscribe

What to do when a product you love and need is made by a company that frustrates you with its incompetence at every turn? Also, can you recommend a quality "barefoot shoe" that isn't made by VivoBarefoot?

So, I love Vivobarefoot's shoes. They are without doubt the best shoes I've ever owned. At present, I have 11 pairs (sneakers, hiking boots, "water" shoes, dress shoes, slip-ons, etc.).

BUT... they have literally fucked up every single order, but one, that I've ever placed with them.

For instance:

- charged me for expedited shipping and then shipped them standard (and in fact insisted to me on the phone that I couldn't have chosen expedited shipping in the country I was in; I had to send them screen grabs to prove it)
- told me an order was cancelled when it wasn't (and shipped the shoes and charged me)
- told me a pair was shipped when it was in fact out of stock (and discontinued)
- told me they'd refunded me for a returned pair when they hadn't
- twice told me a pair had shipped when it hadn't (causing me to wait two days to sign for a delivery that never came)

Today I found out that the referral code I've been giving to friends and strangers I talk about the shoes with hasn't in fact been giving those people the discounts they're supposed to get (and obviously not giving me my discount). I had assumed, wrongly, that they just hadn't made a purchase. Two people have told me they got no discount -- I have no idea how many others made purchases that I don't know about.

Any other company I would have been gone after just one of these infractions. But I have not found a better minimalist shoe (and refuse to go back to "regular" shoes).

So, I have two questions:

1. If you wear minimalist shoes that you love, who manufactures them? (I've tried Xero and they're dreadful; and one other company whose name escapes me right now).

2. How can I get whoever owns this company to fire whoever runs their customer service department and replace them with someone as skilled as their shoe designer so that I, and presumably every other customer who's ever bought from them, can shop without frustration or self-hatred?

(Note: I often see complaints about their customer service from other people on the company's instagram account so I am not alone.)

posted by dobbs to Shopping (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like your issues may well be with an incompetent order management system (or fulfillment department), not necessarily customer service. Unfortunately those issues can be more complex than just hiring someone with better people skills and I don't know that one customer will be able to influence the brand to invest in that where they clearly haven't. Personally, I'd keep patronizing the brand you love but do it through a company with better logistics like Zappos, assuming they ship to your country.
posted by mosst at 1:18 PM on September 10, 2018 [8 favorites]

fire whoever runs their customer service department
You don't really know who in this company is to blame for this, so don't start here. Ask them to fix the problem(s) and leave the method up to them. Elliott Advocacy has a page here with good info on escalating a complaint.
posted by soelo at 1:20 PM on September 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

I really like Kigo barefoot shoes but their production is merely occasional.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:57 PM on September 10, 2018

I hear ya - I sent them a question over email the other day, received a reply that completely failed to answer my question. Asked them again and they said my query was being referred to a manager. Haven't heard back (it was really not a hard query).

Anyway. If it's any help, when their website ran out of stock earlier this year and they told me it wouldn't be restocked for months, I was succesful in going directly to the London VivoBarefoot store - emailed them and they were super-helpful, had the shoes I wanted in stock, let me phone with credit card details, charged me a few quid for postal charges and sent the shoes straight out. And then when they were too big, I was due to be in London anyway, so took them in and they exchanged them and were again super helpful. Not sure where you are, but if you want the email address, memail me.
posted by penguin pie at 2:21 PM on September 10, 2018

Can't help you on the "fixing someone else's company" front—I expect there's not much you can really do there—but I adore my Merrell Trail Glove 4s. Ultra light and airy, super confortable, grippy as hell, durable (by the standards of ultralight gear, anyway; these aren't steel-toed workboots), and reasonably priced. I wear them all day every day, indoors and out. I wear them in the office, I wear them on the roof, I wear them on the trail. They rock.

If they are still too much shoe for you, the Vapor Glove is even more minimal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:31 PM on September 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

I've heard mixed things about Lem's shoes, and good things about Softstar.
posted by box at 2:37 PM on September 10, 2018

My husband and I both adore our soft stars. Really confortable and well made, and the customer service is great. We both get lots of compliments on them too.
posted by john_snow at 3:13 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I’d email a link to this MeFi post to their CEO.
posted by suncages at 3:24 PM on September 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

Funny you posted this. I myself valiantly tried ordering a pair of shoes from their website several weeks ago, received an error message twice, and then gave up. As far as I was aware, the order did not go through. Again, this was several weeks ago.

Last week my credit card company called me about a suspicious charge on my account - Vivo. After wracking my brain about what this could be, I remembered. I explained what happened and cc company declined the charge.

So, I know that normally just an anecdote without an answer to the question is frowned upon here in the green, but I think suncages has the right idea, and I wanted to add to the post in case you do forward this link along.
posted by queensissy at 3:52 PM on September 10, 2018

I have a pair of those Merrell Trail Gloves and they are super comfortable.
posted by chocolatetiara at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’ve never tried Vivos - I’m a Trail Glove fan - but your zeal for them will make me give them a try next time. I’ll buy them from REI or a local shoe store, though, so I don’t have to deal with their support. Is that not an option where you are? Maybe Zappos?
posted by a halcyon day at 5:54 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got Lem's to have a work-appropriate-ish minimal shoe and I love them.

I would say that barefoot shoes are minimal, not minimalist.
posted by medusa at 7:09 PM on September 10, 2018

I love my Lems Nine2Fives and Primal 2's. The Mariners are just a little longer and don't fit quite as well, though they're still wearable. And I'm a big fan of my SOM sneakers (the Briquette); the only downside there is that they're a bit loose in the heel on me, but if you're male you probably wouldn't have that issue.

I really like Xero's Jessie sandals, which have a great nearly-barefoot feel. But they do feel a little too much like flip-flops since the toe area only has a strap on the big toe and nothing holding the shoe to the little toes. I haven't tried anything else from Xero since a lot of their shoes are just too casual-looking and/or ugly.

Other brands I've tried are:
- The Drifter Leather - offers by far the biggest range of stylish/normal-looking options of any minimalist shoe companies. Plus, my order took much less time to arrive to the US from Greece than I was expecting (about a month from order placement to receipt). Downside is that the fit is entirely dependent on the accuracy of your foot tracings, so you need to be very careful with those. My shoes fit but are a bit tight on my right big toe. I plan to place another order and request more room in the big toe area.
- Vivobarefoot - the toe box doesn't feel wide enough for me. But at least I didn't encounter any customer service problems with my order!

For more barefoot/minimalist shoe options, this list is incredibly comprehensive, and Correct Toes has lists of "approved" shoes here. For discussion of these shoes in general, /r/BarefootRunning seems to be the most active forum, though a large percentage of threads naturally focus on barefoot running.
posted by LNM at 7:47 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two pairs of Vivobarefoots that I bought from Sierra Trading Post. I agree; I love their shoes. I also agree; Xero sandals sucked. The soles were too flappy and the toe posts made hamburger of my feet.

For other minimalist shoes, I've had good experiences with Bedrock Sandals (specifically the Classic). I fell in love with the original Merrell Trail Glove. When Merrell revised them I bought six pairs of First Generation Trail Gloves from Sierra Trading Post (in truly regrettable colors) and I've slowly been working my way through them. I'm down to two pairs still in their boxes, so I've been scouting the revised Trail Gloves and they look promising.

Disclaimer: I work for REI with a couple of other minimalist shoe people, and we sell Merrells and Bedrocks. However, I don't work in the shoe department and have no specific axe to grind.
posted by workerant at 8:17 PM on September 10, 2018

I also really like SoftStars for leather "dress" shoes (and toddler shoes!), and Merrell for sneakers, although Merrell really frustratingly changes their product lines without warning, so I own two pairs of the sneakers I like and cycle through them to even out wear.
posted by permiechickie at 8:36 PM on September 10, 2018

I hate to suggest this, but people get results from Twitter-shaming these days...
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:27 PM on September 10, 2018

Response by poster: Just got an email from another friend who saw this thread -- said she didn't get the discount and adds "Delivery has been another issue – still trying to track the package. They tell me it arrived in Canada Aug 29 – but I don’t have it as yet."

Thank you everyone for the comments here in this thread, as well as the recommendations for other companies. Gonna check them all out.
posted by dobbs at 11:05 AM on September 11, 2018

Response by poster: Update: So, I ordered a pair of these shoes in red from The Drifter Leather, which involved sending them a trace outline of my feet.

I got them just before the snow so I was only able to wear them for about 5 days before the winter weather had me put them away. Without a significant amount of walking, it's difficult to speak definitively on their quality but they feel very well made to me. The fit is *perfect* and the shoes are extremely comfortable.

The sole is a 6mm Vibram sole whereas VivoBarefoot is a 3mm custom sole. I prefer the Drifter Leather sole. There is a 1mm "cushion' which is nice but I suppose you could request it wasn't there if that's your preference.

One huge benefit is that the Drifter Leather shoes can be resoled, which is fantastic. I've thrown out numerous pairs of Vivos that are perfectly good except for the sole. This is not great for the environment or one's pocketbook.

Vivo has a few higher-end shoes that they can resole but that involves sending them back to the company (and is not available to North Americans) whereas tDL says any competent cobbler should be able to do it.

I'll also say that after just 1 walk, Vivos show wear on their soles. Not the case with tDL shoes, though tDL's will show wear on the uppers as the leather seems more natural and capable of taking on a patina. Of the 5 days I wore them, the soles look completely unused. (I often walk 10 to 15 miles a day.)

I will definitely purchase more from The Drifter Leather. The only negative is that none of the shoe designs they offer are super casual. Some are perfectly casual, but none are casual enough for, say, skateboarding or wearing to the beach. I probably will do these things with them regardless because I really don't give a damn what people think I look like but the more fashion-conscious may find they're not casual enough. None look like they're meant for running or hiking and such. They're city shoes.

Dealing with the company was a breeze with one caveat: they shipped my shoes as soon as they were made whereas I would have preferred they confirm the address and ask if I wanted to purchase anything else (extra laces, shoe polish, etc.). I was heading to California for 2 months when I got the "they've shipped" notice, and had they contacted me first, I would have redirected them to my LA address and worn them around California for those 2 months. Instead, they sat for 2 months waiting for me to return to Canada. Pretty minor quibble but something that you might want to take into consideration when ordering (keep in mind they can take a month or two to create a pair, which is why an address may change).

The only thing I would change about this model of shoe is the tongue is a little long for my taste (a few mm). No biggie.

I appreciate the answers people gave to this question and once the snow leaves I may try a few more companies, but so far I feel confident suggesting The Drifter Leather to anyone else who's had similar problems with VivoBarefoot's terrible customer service.
posted by dobbs at 2:41 PM on January 26, 2019

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