Keep your SHOES off the furniture: go barefoot!

  A group of friends wanted to go to the local Jordan's Furniture one evening for dinner and ice cream, located in the Big White Monster that looms over I-95 in Reading.  I hadn't been to that place in some time, so to try and get out ahead of the inevitable problem I decided to give the Jordan's corporate offices a call and ask about footwear policies, if any.  And to propose the sensible abolishment thereof, if needed ... after all, it's a *furniture* store.  You're supposed to feel like you're comfortably at home in their showrooms as part of the shopping process, so I had a hard time coming up with why they'd have any problem with bare feet.  And really, when the kids invariably jump around on the couches and beds, shoes are likely to cause far more damage to the display goods!

So I reached out to their corporate headquarters, hoping to find some sort of customer advocacy department.  I had a brief discussion with someone who wasn't sure what the official take on feet was, and agreed with my suggestion that possibly the best way for me to present my case was via email that could be forwarded around internally, and gave me an address.  In my subsequent message I encouraged independent research and big-picture thinking.

Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2016 11:02:54 -0500
Subject: footwear questions

Thanks for your time on the phone this morning.  To clarify the
resources I was mentioning, that detail the many benefits of
"barefooting" and emphasize the lack of laws, regulations,
health codes, etc against it as regards retail establishments,  is a great starting point as they have
lots of information available and also point out to many other
sources.  My own personal take on it is also online and reflects
a lot of the sensible thinking that accompanies adoption of a
largely barefoot lifestyle:
Those two and what they link out to should be plenty of reading!

If Jordan's can make favorable social progress in this area I think
it would be a big boost to community relations, especially in light
of all the ancillary attractions you add to the stores.  Some of
those even *require* bare feet, such as the trapeze setup, correct?
Otherwise it should really be left to personal choice throughout
the venue.  I'm sure you could spin it into a really positive press
release or something, and once it all gets explained to your legal
people they should have no problem with it.

I'll also mention that your neighbors down the road a little, REI,
are barefoot-friendly by corporate policy.  They've clearly thought
these things through long since.  The community is hoping that the
right kind of directed advocacy can make others fall in line.

Please advise on any progress that happens ... no hurry, obviously
these things don't change overnight but I'd love to see those
"bare feet at customer's own risk" sorts of signs eventually show
up at the doors!

No reply emerged before our dinner outing arrived, so with no official word one way or the other I decided to wing it and test matters live on the ground.  I walked in with most of our group, and without shoes.  We paused to clump up just inside the entrance, and it didn't take too long for the greeter to spot me ... and start sort of spluttering, "sir ... sir ... you .. do you have shoes?"  I tried to wave it off with "nah, I'm all set, thanks" but said greeter clearly wasn't scripted up to handle this and evidently believed she had an "issue" on her hands but above her pay grade.  I politely explained why I was doing nothing wrong, and waited while she raised her supervisor on the radio.

To summarize the next several minutes [while I waited around for them to thrash their way through this], the super called the general sales manager upstairs and reported back that she had said to "just let it go".  So I was cleared, but asked for a reasonable clarification: did she say that because she wanted a situation with one transient nutcase off her desk, or was she speaking from a sensible policy standpoint?  The super seemed horrified that I'd even postulate the former, and hastened to assure me that no, it was an amicable, reasoned answer.  What was better, she seemed generally and genuinely interested in the topic herself.

I popped out to the car to grab an informational flyer for her.  This and my prompt debunking of the typical myths she mentioned seemed to have her really intrigued; I pointed out the website links and how there was all this new knowledge around the internet about barefooting benefits, and it seemed like her eyes were truly opened.  Where she'd originally said she would pass the flyer to the general manager, now she wanted to hang onto it and do more reading.  We had quite a cordial discussion around this, and I was evidently home free -- even heading into the Fuddruckers for our burgers.  [To qualify that a little, Fuddy's is set up as lines of order and pickup counters, such that the counterpeople really can't see down far enough to customers' feet.]  But I was prepared to go through the whole mill again if any of them objected, and could now cite the words of the apparent operations head of the whole facility, but nothing untoward happened. 

We enjoyed our burgers and ice cream without further incident, and noted that the trapeze-school setup has been replaced with a sort of modular "ropes course" which involves relatively little rope per se and incorporates a "sag-free" zip line sort of thing.  Its operators want closed shoes but say they've got these little rubber booties they can loan out to people who come in with flip-flops or otherwise blatantly unsafe footwear; I took one look at their rig and offered that it was the perfect sort of thing that one *should* play on barefoot for much better control, agility, proprioception, etc.  The operator guy said that was out of his hands as it came from the main corporate entity, but in response to another couple of technical questions he spent ten-plus minutes describing how the modular parts all truck-ship and bolt together so easily, showing me the fall-arrest hookups and little roller sleds.  The system is interesting in that the patron never has to unclip or transfer, as the entire safety anchor rolls in a central track and directional decisions can be made by simply pulling it toward one side or the other of any Y-junction.

But really, what fun is a zip line that *doesn't* bounce and sag some?  This particular installation is obviously more geared for kids, but the Ropes Course website shows some larger installations that look more challenging.

The day after this little localized triumph I still hadn't heard anything back from the corporate side, so decided to poke them again and offer to recount the previous evening's experiences.

Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2016 09:02:34 -0500
Subject: followup

Hi again -- did you successfully receive my previous msg?  I have
an update for you, if you're interested, and I'd love to know if
you made any progress on the corporate side.

But Ms. Silviera continued to remain silent, so rather than land on her phone again I decided to consider the matter closed and that this particular Jordan's location, at the very least, is fine about feet.  This was tacitly confirmed a couple of weeks later when we went back for a quick ice cream visit, and nobody said a word or even looked down.

_H*   160803

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