I stink at rock climbing, or, spending money wisely

I have horrible balance. I recently recovered from a broken foot – my second broken foot in the past two years – and decided that I needed to pick up an activity to improve my balance. Enter rock climbing.

My friends Richard and Rose introduced me to the sport not too long ago, and with their encouragement, I became a member at an indoor climbing gym. The problem? Climbing equipment is expensive. Very expensive. To the point where I considered jerry-rigging the equipment myself (before common sense took hold).

I ended up buying my equipment at REI. The cost? 40% more than prices I found on the internet. But being financially saavy doesn’t mean that you should always go for the cheaper price. Service matters. Quality matters. And in this case, a great return policy really matters.

Climbers require shoes that cause their toes to curl. The idea behind this is that unfilled portions of the shoe won’t give them the ability to support themselves. Thus, smaller shoes are better. A climber I spoke to yesterday wore shoes 2 full sizes down from his regular fit.

So I bought a pair at REI at the 40% higher price. But after climbing in them one day, I decided that the shoes were too small for me. I placed the shoes back in the box – still covered in chalk – and headed back to return them.

“Why are you returning the shoes?” the attractive saleswoman asked.

“They seemed too small. Can I have a half-size bigger?” I said.

“Sure”, she answered.

And that was it. I went climbing later on and was completely satisfied. A 40% increase gets you great customer service, an excellent return policy, and guaranteed satisfaction. In a parallel universe where I purchased the shoes online, at worst I would’ve ended up keeping them due to a terrible return policy, and at best would ship the shoes back and wait a week before I could climb again. Too many companies (and people) put too much emphasis on cost. But if you evaluate purchases based on value, you might walk away even happier.

This is not me. Taken from Wikipedia.org

This is not me. Taken from Wikipedia.org

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