Friday, November 16, 2007

0 Running Apparel Tip #7: Review of Online Running Apparel Retailers


Straight off the bat, I'm going to tell you what I think about -- They've got a lot of good products but their online store & catalog need to get their act together. So I'm going to give them a mixed review. Here are the details:

I'm going to have to return the (below) waterproof jacket I just recently bought from because it actually DIDN'T have a hood, contrary to what the sales rep lady told me on the phone.

Arrrgh. I should've known. The description of the item online didn't mention anything about a hood, but she assured me that it did!

I hate having to pay shipping for items which were misrepresented by the catalog or their reps, so I'm going to see if I can get a shipping credit to ship this item back. After all, why should I have to ship something back that I wouldn't have bought in the first place, provided I'd gotten accurate information from the catalog. Grrrrr.

IMHO, a waterproof jacket is rather useless without a hood. Even if you're wearing a waterproof hat to compensate, the water will just drip right down your neck!

Also, even though it looks really nice in the picture, it's actually rather short & boxy, & not flattering to my form at all.

Oh well. However, I did really like the other item I bought at this same online retailer:

It's called the "Sugoi Womens Mistral Running Top." It's made of a mid-weight fabric with wicking properties, fits well, & is very comfortable & warm. You can get a better look at it here.

Or maybe NOT, because they don't allow you to see close-up views of their items like almost every other online store. ;-) But atleast you'll get a description. Or somewhat of a description. Don't expect much detail or exact measurements though. Those type of requests apparently take 48 hours to process. Yikes!

Alright, time to sound off even more about what bothers me about this catalog company. Yes, there are more issues.

First of all, let me state for the record that they do have quality products. However, their customer service & computer databases could use a major overhaul.

As I mentioned above, they don't have very detailed product descriptions, & the rep I spoke to obviously wasn't very knowledgeable about their product lines.

Also, disheartening was the fact that she had to manually browse through the catalog to first find the item before she could tell me any more information about the product. That's right. No computer database, just a pad-&-pencil type of system. Yikes, some of these companies just haven't entered the 21st century yet. And it's not like they're a big outlet store trying to keep costs low to pass on the savings to the consumer. Atleast not that I could tell. I bought the jacket at the full price of $99!

And when she finally got to the product page, she couldn't tell me specific measurements for the jacket, so I could make sure that it was going to fit me. She said that a request like that would take 48 hours before someone could get back to me with more information. Hell, I wasn't going to wait that long. Molasses could move faster. I'd just as soon as buy it from an online retailer that could give me the information at the time I was requesting it! What decade are we in anyhow, the nineties?! :-)

[Yes, I'm your typical techhead in overdrive. The techies of my generation are the snappy movers & shakers of the digital world, & are the typical embodiment of the "speed is everything" mentality of the Computer Age. Snap, snap, we need it now! ;-) Plus, I've got a busy life & don't have time to wait for companies to get their act together. Also, with the lousy weather we've been having, I needed that waterproof jacket, like yesterday! ;-) ]

Even the online outlet, Sierra Trading Post, has a better system than that. I found their customer service much more helpful, although they still had a generalized system of measurements (which doesn't always correspond to specific vendors). You can't beat the prices of a lot of their merchandise, so it's well worth the extra time to sift through their site & then talk to the sales rep to get further product information.

In addition to Sierra Trading Post, here are some other decent online retailers from which I've bought sports/outdoor goods in the past: (Bought a jacket here, which I ended up returning (but only because I didn't like the style of the jacket when I saw it in person), but I'd still buy from them again. Their customer service was excellent & they had a good range of high-quality products & brands.) (Bought Smartwool socks here.) (Bought multiple items here.)
Essential Apparel (Bought Smartwool socks here.)
Sock Company (Bought Smartwool socks here.) (Bought Champion C9 apparel here.)

Here are some good online retailers, in which I've had positive buying experiences in their store locations, but have yet to purchase items from their online store:

And here are a few that I haven't bought from yet, but have gotten good reviews:
ExOfficio (I did buy one ExOfficio item from REI, which I really liked, but have never bought directly from their online store.)
R N J Sports
Roadrunner Sports
Triathlete Sports

Hope this helps! If anyone would like to share your personal buying experiences with any of these online stores, or provide additional resources for good online running apparel retailers, you're welcome to leave a comment here. I'd love to hear from you! You can also post your responses to our BlogCatalog running group, "Runners, Runners, Everywhere!" It's a very active group. If you are a runner, or want to learn more about running, I encourage you to join.

Whether you're seeking training advice or information/opinions about an upcoming race, or have got questions about running products & would like feedback from those who've tried them, you'll find lots of useful resources & friendly people who are willing to share information freely about all sorts of running-related topics. We also talk about fitness, cross-training, strength training, nutrition, & running-related health concerns. So stop by for a visit!

As a general note, I encourage you to join Blog Catalog, (whether you have a blog or just like to read blogs!), as I've found it to be one of the most useful & friendly social networking sites. Unlike many other blogging directories, it's a really well-developed, well-thought-out, well-executed site, and is so much more than just a sundry collection of people's blogs. It's free to join & the people there are incredibly nice (unlike some other social networking sites & blogging communities I've tried, in which members verge on creepy & stalkerish!). It's a great place to make friends, meet interesting people, & learn new information.

I'm certainly not getting anything to endorse their site; I just happen to like it a great deal & think it's worth mentioning!

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