Trying to buy sneakers today can be extremely frustrating. Sure, if you’re not looking for anything in particular you can head into a Foot Locker or Finish Line or something and try a few things on, but if you’re after the same shoe as tons of other people, it’s not that easy. A pair of limited Nike sneakers almost always sells out. Oh, by the way, “limited” usually means a couple hundred thousand pairs, at least. See, limited in this sense really just means that there are more people who want the specific shoes than there are pairs available.
For years, Nike has been the leader in their industry. They’ve been a household name for a long time; popularity has never been an issue. The culture behind their products has changed a lot within the past decade, though. A few years back, let’s say 2005 for example, if I wanted a pair of Jordan’s, I could walk into a store in the mall 2 weeks after they released and get them no problem. Online releases weren’t really something that happened often. Release dates for sneakers were set by the company, but they weren’t publicized. People found out that the shoe released by word of mouth. You’d see them in the window at the mall and call a friend to let the know, it was a domino effect.
Today, it’s quite the opposite. Nike has been flooding the market with sneaker releases, with no sign of slowing down, yet every drop still seems impossible to get your hands on. If you want a pair of sneakers in person, you either have to try to RSVP through Nike’s system via Twitter or line up hours, maybe even days in advance. Want a pair online? Good luck.
There are countless online retailers that you could try to get your sneakers from, but let’s focus just on Nike’s website. Over the past couple of years, Nike has had to modify their online release system multiple times. Every time they come up with something new, the consumers find a way to break the system. There are “bots” that can be installed as extensions to your browser that will add shoes to your cart automatically. After Nike combated that issue, people started making “Add to Cart” services. These people take your information: email, phone number, Nike account info, and the specific sneaker and size that you want, and have a program that adds products to your cart remotely. Nike is currently still trying to combat this.
Last night, Nike had what they call a restock. They tweeted at a random time a few links to pages with multiple sneakers on them. Something around 75 products were restocked last night. They all sold out, of course. This used to be a great way for people to get another chance at the shoes they want, but now even this has become an issue. While people know the original release date of a sneaker, a restock is supposed to be silent. Nike doesn’t announce these things in advance, publicly, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t find out.
I won’t say that Nike isn’t trying to solve these issues, but I will say that they’re not trying nearly hard enough. Every time I try to purchase a sneaker online, I’m prompted with a couple of things:
This is Nike’s Captcha system. When you visit a product page, select the size you want, and hit “Add to Cart”, you are prompted with this. As you can see, it says 1 of 4, because there are 4 prompts through this system. Nike has also used simple mathematical problems that you have to solve before adding the product to your cart. These are measures to ensure that you are human, but people have coded programs to get around this, of course.
You would think that once you pass that verification, the product will be added to your cart, but it’s not nearly that simple. Once you finish the Captcha crap, you’ll see this:
This loading screen is a tease. It could sit on your screen for two minutes or two hours depending on the specific sneaker you’re trying to get and how many other people are trying, too. Usually though, it ends in defeat and after a while, this will automatically pop up:
When you get to this screen, you know that your attempt has been thwarted. The shoe you wanted, or at least the size you wanted, is no longer available. I have seen this screen more times than I care to even think about, as it’s always upsetting and frustrating.
My issue here isn’t the consumer. It’s great that Nike is so popular and their products sell out. As a big supporter and frequent buyer of their products, I’m happy to see and contribute to their success. My issue is that, like I said, Nike isn’t trying hard enough. Along with the fact that they can’t seem to fix the issues of bots, add to cart services, amongst other things, their website constantly has issues with the traffic it gets. According to a quick look at Nike’s Wikipedia page, they made $25.3 BILLION dollars in revenue in 2013. If they can make that much money, they can surely hire a team of people to work on this. It amazes me that over and over again, Nike is outsmarted by their own consumers.
It’s truly a shame when something that is a passion, like collecting sneakers, turns into more of a chore rather than a hobby. The search for a sneaker on release day can go on for hours and often ends with either not getting what you wanted or spending more money than you wanted to buy the sneaker from a reseller. I know I’m not even close to being the only person who’s angry about this. I just don’t understand why Nike can’t fix the fucking problem.