I get this question from time to time:
I went online to look for a store that sells boots and mostly found that companies sell online, like through Amazon, or their website. The only place I found where I can go in and try boots on is the Harley Davidson store.
I prefer not to buy boots online and want to know if you have any advice on how I can find a retail store in my area.
I understand the concern — and the frustration — in not being able to find a store that sells boots you are interested in trying on. This situation is especially true for motorcycle boots. Few brick-and-mortar stores carry a full line of boots made by different manufacturers, and those that do usually carry junk made in China, such as Harley-Davidson branded boots. (See this past blog post: Don’t Be Fooled by American Icon Brand Boots Made in China.)
So what do you do in a situation where there is not a retail store that carries men’s boots near you?
While some motorcycle dealers and western stores carry boots, often their selection is limited and quality is questionable. The reasons why motorcycle dealers, in particular, carry Chinese-made boots is that most guys are cheap when it comes to clothing and footwear, and Chinese-made products are lower priced because the quality is poor and the labor to make them is cheap.
Unless you live in Texas, Oklahoma, or a few other western U.S. states where western stores are still in business and are competitive, then these days, pretty much the only option you have is to buy on-line. (Unfortunately, a retail boot store is not likely or magically going to appear through an internet search by your postal code.)
I have been buying boots quite successfully (for the most part) on-line for years. Here are keys to success, and also a few notes about things to be wary of, based on my experience:
1. Find the name of the manufacturer and the manufacturer’s style or stock number of boots you are interested in. Do this by visiting the manufacturer’s website. Reason? It is easier to do price comparison shopping when you can compare prices on the exact same boot across vendors.
2. Unless the manufacturer is the only source of that particular model of boot, then do not buy directly from the manufacturer. Why? Manufacturers usually charge full MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), while on-line vendors are more competitive and sometimes offer discount coupons or promotions.
3. For a list of boot vendors I have had success with ordering boots on-line — see the links on my website. Or, you can search on your own. If you do that, use more than one search engine to look for the boot by manufacturer name and stock number. Why? All search engines, particularly Google and Bing, allow companies to pay for higher rankings on search results. Just because a vendor comes up first in search results does not mean that it is offering the best price!
4. Do not click on any search results that are labeled “ad.” Why? See #3 above and also note that clicking on paid ads delivers more of those paid ads to you every time you use the ‘net. This target marketing by advertisers is insidious as it is omnipresent these days.
5. Use the “shopping” tab on search engines that provide it cautiously. Why? Results are not always the best price or the same model of boot. I have had not-such-good-luck with the “shopping” tab because more often than not, the results have been for a similar boot from a different manufacturer, and usually of lesser quality.
6. Once you find what appears to be a good price for the exact boot you want, then take a minute to do independent research about the vendor. Take the name of the on-line retailer, and enter that name plus the word “complaints” into a search engine. See what results appear. Beware: you will always find at least a few complaints about any on-line retailer. Especially because the internet allows people to write rants anonymously, the few who have a bone to pick usually write rants that come up in such search results. Ignore hyperventilation and raging rants. What you want to be looking for in this “complaint search” is for an unusually high number of complaints, as well as for consistency of complaints — such as for delayed shipments, wrong items being shipped, or bait-and-switch tactics.
7. Use the vendor’s website to look for information about the return policy. Why? Not all return policies are the same. Most reputable vendors allow a return for refund or exchange for new, unworn boots only for the cost of shipping. Most vendors also provide their own return shipping labels to facilitate returns. What you want to avoid is a vendor that either has no stated return policy at all, or a vendor that charges a “restocking fee” or a “nominal return or exchange fee.” You really don’t need to put up with such silliness. There are a number of reputable on-line vendors that do not charge restocking or return processing fees.
8. Also carefully check the vendor’s website for information about shipping fees. Why? Most vendors these days will ship boots for free, as long as a certain minimum purchase threshold is met. A few vendors, however, still charge outrageously expensive shipping fees. Avoid them.
9. Finally, before placing an order, make sure that the vendor uses secure technology to accept and to process credit cards. Why? You never want to enter a credit card number over an unsecure internet connection or by email. Never ever.
10. Hopefully after these simple and quick “background checks” are completed and the vendor appears to be reputable, then do one more thing! Check independently for a discount coupon or promo code. Why? Many on-line boot retailers offer discounts from 5% to 20%, depending on the season and other factors. Boots usually can be purchased in January through March and July at discounted prices, while fewer discounts are available for Spring, “back-to-school” (August/September) and for Christmas (November/December, excepting “cyber Monday.”) Some on-line vendors offer discounts to first-time buyers or to those who sign up for their email list.
11. Verify that the vendor has your preferred boot in stock, and place your order.
12. Receive your boots and try them on, preferably in an area with carpeting. Stand, walk, and wear them and determine how the boots feel and how you like how they look. Don’t be overly concerned if the boots feel tight, or if they slip in the heel a little bit. Those things will resolve once the boots are broken in. Only consider returning the boots if: a) they are way too big or too small; b) they were misrepresented (such as discovering that they were made in China); or you really don’t like them. Otherwise:
Life is short: Stand tall and wear your new boots with pride!