We won’t blame you if Urban Outfitters (UO) isn’t your first thought when it comes to sneaker shopping.
Millennials appear to be the American chain’s target demographic, and if you’re not a part of that group it wouldn’t surprise us if you haven’t even heard of the company. UO focuses on the hyped brands that trendy teens and twenty-somethings clamour for, which results in its brick and mortar locations having an immature vibe.
Don’t let that discourage you from checking out its wares. The truth is that UO’s buyers have a somewhat eclectic taste, which is good news for habitual sneaker shoppers because it occasionally results in a welcome surprise – particularly when you shop UO’s online store.
We were recently enticed by a few shoes that aren’t widely available and decided to give the UO online shopping experience a try.
The first caution when visiting UO’s website is to make sure you’re using the right one. If the prices look to be too good to be true, you’re actually viewing the U.S. edition. It’s an easy mistake to make; just click on the “Shop the CA Site” box at the top of the web page to bring those bargain prices back to reality.
Something else to be aware of: In-store pickup for online orders, which is an attractive option for some people, was at the time of this review only available to American customers.
Browsing through the men’s models, we were a little astounded to find out that UO offered the Puma King Avanti Legends Pack. Few retailers had even carried the model, and they were mostly sold out, so we were happy to bag a pair as part of this test drive. The King Avanti is an absolutely sublime model – particularly for football fans – and for us the white and light blue colourway we ordered represents the cream of the crop.
The ordering process was as simple as online shopping gets. Everything was straight-forward and easy to navigate; however, there was one small surprise. In an era of free deliveries from large online retailers being the norm, we weren’t expecting to be charged for domestic shipping. The flat fee of $9.95 for basic shipping wasn’t a deal breaker – it could even be considered reasonable if you order a number of items – so it’s not really something to get upset about.
It wasn’t until after the order had been placed and the tracking data became to trickle in that it became obvious our order was actually being shipped from the United States. If you spend a lot of time reading the fine print at websites you would have known this before us; the information can be found on the website’s SHIPPING page. Still, had this been made clear during the ordering process it would have made the delivery fee less of a talking point. The revelation did raise a different concern though: would we about to be nailed for custom fees and extra taxes?
It turned out that there was nothing to worry about. UO seamlessly handled the shipment and those less attentive might have assumed it had only been sent cross town – on the back of a snail.
The delivery time was glacial. Put into perspective, we’re not an impatient and impetuous group and hadn’t expected Amazon Prime speeds (often same day). Even though UO clearly provides a seven-to-ten working day delivery estimate, we didn’t imagine it would actually be stretched to full term. It took every single one of those ten working days (fourteen days in total) for the shoes to arrive at our Toronto address.
Again, this isn’t something worthy of complaint, but the internet generation has a reputation for impatience, and waiting two weeks for a pair of shoes might be a great source of irritation for those accustomed to instant gratification. At the opposite end of the spectrum, our recent order from adidas arrived 23 hours after we placed it, and shipping was free.
Tracking for our order was provided, and there were no less than twenty-five updates during those two weeks, and yet not one of them told us when we could expect the shoes to arrive. We would have traded all of those nuanced reports for one arrival estimate. Having some idea when a package will be sitting at your front door has become an important detail at a time when neighbourhoods are frequently cruised by porch pirates.
Our shoes arrived in a bright pink plastic bag. Cute. There was a degree of trepidation as we cut open the bag since the shoebox had not been protected in any way. It’s something that sneaker neophytes – and inexplicably, most retailers and manufacturers – still don’t appreciate, the fact that shoeboxes are an important accoutrement for most sneakerheads.
Packing a shoebox so that it’s impervious to damage by heavy-handed (sometimes footed) delivery personnel is not an easy thing. Double boxing, when done correctly, is an effective solution. The problem is that some don’t double box correctly, and then there are companies such as UO that just put the fragile shoebox in a thin bag.
What UO did at least do, and it’s not something that we can recall having seen before, was to secure the lid of the shoebox with a rubberized band. This addresses another common sneaker shipping issue of the shoes being able to bounce around and sometimes spill out of their box.
As it turned out the Puma shoebox arrived in less than pristine condition with a few dents and dings, which was acceptable, but it could have easily been a lot worse.
What wasn’t acceptable was how the shoes were packed.
To be fair, this is something that isn’t always within a retailer’s control. The shoes, which were no longer correctly wrapped in their protective paper, were in direct contact with each other inside the box. We’ve seen shoes become marred when shipped in this manner; the protective paper they’re wrapped in by the factory is there for a reason, but too often it’s nothing more than an annoyance for those who want to examine them.
Who was to blame for this? Was it someone at UO’s warehouse who had dug out the shoes to verify they matched the label on the box? Or was it the act of an indifferent customs officer? They are notorious for the contempt with which they handle items being inspecting.
Given that the pink plastic UO bag was permanently sealed and had not been opened, it would appear that the fingerprints on this crime belong to the company we ordered our shoes from.
On close inspection our newly arrived King Avanti trainers proved to be more than satisfactory. Unworn, and not even tried on (yes, such shoes can get shipped when you order online), they were factory fresh Pumas that were even more spectacular in the hand than they appeared online.
Overall, we were equally satisfied with our online order from UO. And now that our expectations have been tempered by experience, we wouldn’t hesitate to order from UO again. However, successful orders only tell a part of the story. The true measure of any company is how it handles things when an order goes wrong, which fortunately is something that we can’t attest to this time around.
|ORDERING||Website was easy to navigate – some details could be made more obvious|
|SHIPPING||$9.95 (11-14 days); $29.95 (5-9 days)|
|PACKAGING||Rubber strap around shoebox that was shipped in a plastic bag|
|FULFILLMENT||Model, size, and colourway as ordered|
|OVERALL RATING||Would order again and recommend to others|
(1 = unacceptable; 2 = below average; 3 = average; 4 = above average; 5 = excellent)