Story time at the WesterBlog. Gather ’round …

I run. Not real well but I run nonetheless. On Wednesdays I run with a group of triathalonians and ironmen. It’s something of a brutal self abuse regimen. I run because I can’t work out in any other way. I’m uncoordinated and have been banned from most sports involving a ball and I would rather drink paint thinner than sit in a weight room.

I digress! I also like running because I can think about things like … my blog posting. For reasons like this running has become more and more important to me. Recently my old running shoes started cutting my Achilles. So I brilliantly surmised that it was new shoe time.

My favorite shoe store now is Running Wild here in Coralville. I say ‘now’ because did I go there when my shoes first gave out? No. I’m a cheap SOB and I went to Kohl’s for $35 Nikes. They looked cool. But they started squeaking and squishing when I ran. I returned them but the other pair did the same thing. Basically, these shoes suck and you would be hard pressed to call the staff at Kohl’s helpful on resolving the matter. So my shoes suck and I decide to just wear them until I’ve gotten my $35 out of them (it’s been a couple of weeks — I think I’m almost there).

Around this same time my wife got me a running hat for Father’s Day from Running Wild. In the bag was an invite to their Sunday morning runs. A group meets at the store and runs as much as 16 miles or so. They’ve got maps, water along the route, and bagels and juice at the end in the store. But that’s where the magic happens. That’s where I got to hear their expert staff sell shoes.

“Well, these are my old shoes …”
“Ah … I see. It looks like you’re right handed …”
“… and you run on the outside of your foot.”

All of that by looking at the old shoe! Maybe this isn’t reading tea leaves like I think it is but compared with my Kohl’s experience …

“These shoes make a weird sound.”
“Did you try on another pair?”
“Yeah. They make the sound too.”
“Uhhh … I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Can you recommend another pair?”
“I don’t usually work in this department. Sorry.”

Compared to that it was like hearing a mystic tell the future. (Instead of reading palms he was reading feet!) I made a decision then and there that this would be my new favorite shoe store and my replacement ‘new’ shoes would come from here very soon. This experience showed me that expert advice is worth paying full price for. It is also a perfect case study for how to add value to the customer experience.

And how about that weekly run? I’m sure that’s a decent-sized amount of money and labor for a small business. Water, bagels, juice, opening the store up at 7:00 a.m. But it got me to the store and let me see something that you can’t put on a sign that you can see from the highway. Ironically they have a sign in the window that I have seen from the highway that says ‘Expert Advice’ but never paid attention to it but when I witnessed it in person … Wow.

There’s not copy to describe something like that. It’s something you have to experience. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what you’re buying from a store like Running Wild. Not shoes or running gear but the experience of getting these commodities from a learned expert. Bravo.