Asking for What You Want, Part 1: The Flip-Flop Chronicles

Do you hesitate to ask for what you want?  Is there a voice in your head that says doing so is pushy or selfish or unreasonable? (Yeah—me, too.)

Recently, I posted about how Being My Mother’s Son manifests in the realm of bulk purchases.  While that post was about breakfast cereal, there’s another place it shows up: flip-flops.  Lots and lots of flip-flops. I just did an informal inventory and I currently have approximately ten pairs. From $1 cheapos in my gymbag to fancy leather-soled models. A flip-flop for every occasion!

There’s a particular style of Sperry flip-flops (yes, the preppy boat shoe company—don’t judge) that I fell in love with years ago. They’re sturdy, supportive, comfortable, and easy to match. They’ve survived more than one Burning Man. For a long time, they’ve been my everyday footwear workhorse. And they last—typically two years per pair before the centerpiece gives out.  They cost about $50.00, but they’ve always been well worth the investment to me.

And then, without even consulting me, Sperry discontinued them. (GASP.)  I went online and found a couple of extra pairs from resellers and put them away in my closet.  A year later, when my then-current pair went lame, I pulled out one of my back-ups. Ah, Bliss—that new flip-flop feel and smell.

But my joy was short-lived. After two months, curiously, I noticed the right one feeling a little looser.  And then—THE HORROR—I experienced a full-on Catastrophic Flip-Flop Failure (CF3).  The side piece pulled out of the sole. Two months of wear, which meant they cost me, basically, $7.25 per week of use.  

I hadn’t bought that pair direct from Sperry; to be honest, I wasn’t sure where I had gotten them, or when.  But it was definitely more than a year ago, which meant any warranty claim was dubious. In my head, this all added up to a whole lot of FAT CHANCE of getting any help with this.  So, I just retired them to a corner of my room where I would see them periodically and ruefully shake my head.

And then, last week, nine months after the blow-out, I decided to try.  I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  I went to the Sperry website and filed a defective product report.  I told them the story of my love affair with the Santa Cruz, my bulk purchase when it got discontinued, and uploaded a picture of my wounded comrade. I told them which current model would be my preferred replacement. I acknowledged that it was weird situation timing-wise.

I ended by asking if there was anything they’d be willing to do try to keep me as a customer. And then I submitted it, without attachment to the outcome. I figured if I was lucky, I might get a discount coupon for a new pair. Though it was more likely that my message would end up in a Deleted Items folder somewhere on the other side of the globe.

And then this week, a brand new pair of $60 flip-flops showed up at my door. I have another two years of journeys ahead of me and Sperry has turned a loyal customer into a raving fan.

To do it, I had to get past the discomfort that someone on the other end might think I was stupid for asking, given the circumstances.  (You see, I have a lot invested in seeming reasonable. More about that in Part 2.) And I suppose, there was a slight concern that the company might alert local law enforcement about an unstable flip-flop fetishist in the community.

And I did it in a spirit of authenticity and good will.  I didn’t approach the task from the perspective of I’M MAD AS HELL AND YOU’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. I just laid out the case as best I could, with particular attention to how happy I’ve been with their brand.

But I truly would have been okay if nothing came of it. I didn’t invest a lot of ego in it, or make success a measure of my self-worth.  And now I have a new pair of flips. Gravy, baby, or what we in Louisiana call lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap).

And I also have a new dilemma.  Because while doing some internet research for this post, I stumbled across the fact that a department store about an hour away apparently still has THREE PAIRS of the original discontinued model in stock. In my size.

My maternal DNA is S.C.R.E.A.M.I.N.G.