Nike Employee Store

$10 says these cost more than my car.

After ten minutes I reached the head of the line, and a young receptionist in a grey T-shirt with ‘RUNNING SUCKS’ emblazoned across it waved me up to her desk.

“Welcome to the Nike Employee Store!” She chirped. “How can I help you?”

“Um.” I said.

Her question struck me as odd: The only way to get into the Nike Employee Store was to wait in line for a receptionist to verify that you were either a Nike employee or a guest of a Nike employee. The only help I needed was help getting into the store without being tased by security.

“My name is Truman Capps,” I ventured, handing her my driver’s license. “I’m on the guest list.”

“Great!” She chirped – and yes, I know I said chirped earlier, but this woman was chirping all over the place. As she went about processing my guest pass, she looked up and chirped, “Have you ever been to the employee store before?”

“Nope.” I said.

Her eyes lit up. “Oh, wow! Are you excited?”

And for a second, I thought she was joking, and a laugh got halfway up my throat before I saw the committed glee on her face and realized that, no, this person was dead serious. She thought that going shopping for shoes was the high point of my day. She was not aware, obviously, that I find the pursuit of shoes to be about one of the most boring and perverse endeavors in the fashion world, which I consider to be pretty damn boring and perverse to begin with.

I don’t care about shoes. If you asked me to make a list of things I cared about, shoes would beat out yoga and Puerto Rico to sit pretty at the absolute end of the list. I don’t see the point in putting a great deal of personal and financial investment in the article of clothing that, statistically speaking, runs the highest risk of getting covered in dogshit in day to day life.

So no, I was not excited to visit the Nike Employee Store. It wasn’t Conan O’Brien’s house. It wasn’t the Redding Liquor Barn. It wasn’t Build-A-Battlestar workshop. It was a big room full of shoes – goofy looking, brightly colored shoes optimized for athletes, a caste of our society to which I do not belong. Unless there was a brand of Nikes in the store that were filled with Jack Daniel’s or could make Christina Hendricks stop being married, I didn’t regard this opportunity with a particular amount of merriment.

But, since I didn’t want to be a dick to the nice lady, I said, “Yeah! Sure!”

A friend of my parents’ worked at Nike for long enough to retain her Employee Store privileges after she retired, meaning she could still get her non-former employee friends into the store, giving them access to essentially a warehouse full of discount top of the line sporting apparel. She offered me a guest pass so I could pick up some good shoes before my departure, and I took it, because as much as I hate it, I do need shoes, if only to provide a buffer from the sun baked, dirty needle laden streets of Los Angeles.

It mystifies me that one of my roommates had between half a dozen and a dozen pairs of Nikes. My philosophy on shoe shopping is this: Your old shoes have fallen apart, so you go to the mall, find the cheapest pair of sneakers you can, pay for them, and then leave the store, because you now have a new pair of shoes and mercifully don’t have to waste any more of your life thinking about shoes.

My current shoe shopping landspeed record* is six minutes from the time I walked into the store to when I walked out with a $45 pair of white New Balance sneakers, which all of my friends told me looked like the sort of thing their grandparents wore when they went mallwalking.

*Depending on your definition of ‘shoe shopping’, I shattered my own record when I wrote one of my roommates a check for a pair of his Nikes when the New Balance wore out and I didn’t want to go to the mall.

At the Nike store, though, I made a point of trying to study on every shoe very carefully and think my purchases through. Some of this was because I was trying to lay in a supply of good sneakers for the foreseeable future in hopes of not having to buy shoes with sales tax in California, and some of it was because I was aware that passage into the Nike Employee Store was somehow akin to being allowed to roam around that warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark and, as such, was not to be taken lightly.

This just in: Most Nikes look pretty fucking terrible on me. I have clownishly large feet; I’d rather not draw attention to them with lime green accents or neon laces. I don’t want to make a bold fashion statement with my shoes – I want them to be just good enough so that they’re not noticeably bad, but not noticeably good, either. I want my shoes to be as inconspicuous as possible, so people don’t notice my shoes and assume that I’m the sort of guy who cares enough about shoes to put a great deal of time and energy into picking trendy ones that look super cool.

Eventually, though, I settled on two pairs of shoes that I felt worked for me. On my way to the cash register with them, I glanced at the price tags out of morbid curiosity and just about puked – one of the pairs cost $60, the other one cost $85. Flight of the Conchords materialized in my head:

They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers,
But what’s the real cost?
‘cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper…

Not only had these shoes been manufactured by Indonesian toddlers, as is the Nike way, but I was getting them at the lowest price humanly possible – and all this in the same week that I’d spent three figures on fucking sunglasses. I’ve already become a name brand wearing, spendthrift LA doucheburger and I’m not even there yet.

Gazing sullenly at the price stickers on my shoes while waiting in the checkout line, I noticed something else. Off to the side of the sticker, in small print, was the suggested price for each shoe. The suggested retail price for the $60 sneakers was $130; the price for the $85 shoes was $180.

Does that make me feel better about spending what I did on those shoes? No. Honestly, it makes me feel worse about mankind to know that people in this world spend $180 on goddamn shoes.

Truman Capps hopes to counteract any douche-cred he’s earned with recent purchases by continuing to drive The Mystery Wagon.