Open Letter to Mountaineering Boot Manufacturers

Dear Mountaineering Boot Manufacturers,

Before I tell you what’s really setting my hair on fire this morning, I should probably thank you for partnering with W.L. Gore to bring consumers the best shoe warranty on the planet. I recently sent them a pair of Sportiva mountaineering boots and a pair of Vasque trail running shoes. Both were Gore-Tex lined, but after 5 years of heavy use neither were waterproof anymore. In fact they were the reverse of waterproof. Water got in and never went back out, creating an unpleasant swimming pool inside my shoes.

Since buying new shoes could cost upwards of $400, I figured it was time to test Gore’s “guaranteed to keep you dry” warranty. After a day in the testing lab, a really nice customer service rep, Bill Acklin, called to confirm that the shoes do indeed leak and that all I had to do was email him the make and size of my preferred replacements. He would take care of ordering and shipping them to me. (Is it just me or does it feel like I’m getting away with something?)

Now onto the point of my letter: Since I didn’t have to replace the shoes and boots with the exact same model, I gleefully opened up my browser this morning to start “shopping.” After roughly 30 minutes of browsing mountaineering boot manufacturer websites, I want to ask just one question: Do you drive around in a van at night picking up rocks and then put them in front of a computer at the office and call them marketing specialists?!

It’s the age of the Internet people, and not having a website is unacceptable. (Yes, Millet, I’m talking to you.) I want to see your entire product catalog in one place, so I can pick the appropriate shoe for my endeavors and then go find the shoe at a retailer. I don’t want to be forced to go from retail site to retail site just to piece together a partial catalog.

And speaking of a complete product catalog, it is entirely unhelpful when the only thing you put on your website is your winter collection of ski boots. Garmont, I know you sell other things besides tele boots because they’re in stores, and not just on closeout either. You’ve lost two potential sales because I don’t know what type of mountaineering or approach shoes you make.

Also, please don’t make your readers download a PDF just to see your product collection. Yes, your graphics people did a nice job on your print catalog, but using it as your online catalog, as well, is Just. Plain. Lazy. Web design has advanced a long way since 1994; it’s time you started using the technology available to you.

Garmont and Asolo, you also need to hire someone who actually speaks English to translate your website. It’s funny and cute the first few times you read “to be outside in the mountain,” but where do phrases like “none this shop for the nation” come from? Subject-verb agreement is not rocket science. Neither is using the same tense throughout an entire sentence. In English, only proper nouns are capitalized, not every noun. I don’t mind the occasional mistranslated word, but hire someone who understands the basic fundamentals of a language so you don’t look like a provincial Italian company who just woke up to the idea that people outside your country buy your products.

And lastly, for CRYING! OUT! LOUD! Asolo, when you make more than one type of shoe, help us differentiate between them. What the upper and lower are made out of, what type of lasting board is inside, and what type of foot bed my tootsies will rest on is basically the last thing I care about. But you decided that that’s the only way you were going to describe your shoes. WTF? I want to know what pursuit this boot was designed for, how it is better/worse than the next boot at kicking steps, at taking a crampon, at climbing technical rock, at moving over rocky, snowy, sandy, rocky-sandy, snowy-rocky, and sandy-snowy terrain. Failing to include this basic information shows you have a fundamental gap in your understanding of what your customers are interested in and how your customers pick a product. Here’s a free tip: we don’t pick a boot because the accent color matches our jacket.

Outdoor boot manufacturers, you seem like reasonably intelligent people. You have, after all, designed some pretty amazing footwear that has helped take me and many others to some of the most beautiful places on earth, all while keeping our toes warm and dry. I would like think that I can continue wearing your products instead of resorting to this barefoot fad. Or perhaps running and hiking barefoot is the response to your crappy marketing efforts – paralysis in the face of blind decisions has lead to no decision at all. Something  to think about.


6 comments for “Open Letter to Mountaineering Boot Manufacturers

  1. Joanne
    February 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I have the same Sportivas which have also lost some of their Gore-Tex-ness. I didn’t even know about the warranty. Do you just send your shoes in for testing and they offer to replace if they think the boots are legitimately leaky?

    Agree that a lot of outdoor gear manufacturers must have folks who are apparently better climbers than web marketers 😉 But then, I aspire to be a better climber than marketer.

    • Carry
      February 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      You need to go to Gore’s website and follow the instructions for warranty issues (i.e. contact them, get an R.A. #, ship them to the right person, etc.). They test the shoes and tell you if they are under warranty or not. If they are too abused and beat up, it’s not likely they will replace them. Good luck!

  2. February 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I hate it when you beat around the bush. Why not tell them what you really think??

    • Carry
      February 15, 2011 at 9:55 am

      Thanks for the link, Gilbert. I wonder if it would be possible for the Italian site to link to the US site…

      • February 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm

        That would be too easy. 😉 Even the Fiat World site has a link to the US Fiat site.

        Oh, I like the Vetta Lite, but I found it harder to fit to my feet than the Trango. Well worth it considering they are almost a half pound lighter per foot. But they don’t fit crampons too well.

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