Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the horns of a dilemma.

I believe in capitalism.  Not the Gordon Gecko, how much can we extract, squeeze the workers capitalism...but the more simple Adam Smith dream world where the Invisible Hand makes everything correct itself.  In my dream world, there are no Boeskis, no AIG executives, no Madoffs.

In case you didn't catch it, I know it's a fiction...that real capitalism is a great concept, just as real socialism is a great concept.

The one place I think capitalism works best is in the micro form, where we all choose, every day, where we decide to put resources (time and money).  We try to influence the world by reinforcing good behavior by giving business to local, well-run businesses that are sustainable, and we avoid reinforcing bad behavior by not giving business to poorly-run, nonsustainable businesses (i.e., Walmart).

The dilemma comes when there is a single source for a product that is very desirable, but is so small a niche that there is a virtual monopoly, and the business that produces this product is poorly run and customer-hostile.  Such is the case for Steger Mukluks in Ely, Minnesota.

I have owned five or six pair of these fine, fine footwear.  They are well-made, and work better for snow and cold than any other footwear I have ever owned.  The picture of the mukluks above are NOT Stegers, but you can get the idea.

So I have a pair of their Arctic expedition mukluks that I have had for years, replaced the uppers cause I wore them out, and generally have worn them every day all winter until yesterday, when I finally wore through the heel.  These are well-made, mind you.  Excellent product.

The trouble is that I don't want to give Patti Steger another dime of my money.  She is customer-hostile.  She knows she is a monopoly, and knows it.

The story is that she mis-shipped a pair of mukluks to a friend.  Wrong size.  Friend called her and said that she sent the wrong size, and would she send the right size, free shipping, and he'd keep the wrong pair and pay for them too, as they were his mother's size.  Patti said "No, we don't do that."

So let me get this straight -- her mistake lead to a potential sale of an additional pair of boots.  She was going to have to pay for return shipping anyway, then pay shipping to send out the right pair of boots.  Instead, she pissed off a customer, who made her send a call tag, and cancelled his order.  TWO pairs of Steger Mukluks...and she got zero and lost $20 for a call tag.

From my discussions with friends from northern Minnesota, this is not an isolated incident. 

Someone tell me why she is still in business.

I have temporarily solved my dilemma.  Aquaseal and some small leather patches have allowed me to postpone ordering another pair for the rest of the season, Lord willing.

Anyone want to start a mukluk business?  The customer service bar has been set pretty low, we should be able to dominate that market by just being cordial.

Respectfully submitted,



Gulland said...

OK, I'll start the mukluk business.


You think I'm kidding, right?

canoelover said...

No, I don't think you're kidding.

I'll donate a pair so Karen can deconstruct them.


canoelover said...

I also have good sources for canvas (Duluth Pack) and leather (one a dozen tanneries in the Milwaukee area). This is do-able. We just need the compound for the soles.

Binner said...

I got you covered CL! Go to:
and be taken care of! Kevin and Beth Kinney own the business, work out of their garage and live in Duluth. I have 2 pr of his boots, as he has had several models over the years, and the best part- they can be resoled!! Many Beargrease Sleddog mushers wear them, I've had mine for yrs and can't wear them out... I also have a hole in the heal of one of my Stegers and use them for chores in the woodshed...
Enjoy their website, they have customer service that is the TOPS!

Binner said...

FYI: that UrL I gave you has a "htm" at the end, looks like it got cut off...

canoelover said...

Yeah, Binner, I'm glad they can be resoled. I asked PS if I can get mine resoled: "Don't be cheap, just buy a new pair" was her response. Lovely person.

Do you think Kevin and Beth would like to come to Canoecopia? I'd trade them a booth for gear. :-)

Binner said...

All you can do is ask! I bet they would! They are very generous. You should see the parka they gave me after I was DX with cancer... ha, the first one was Pink!, but they let me trade it in!ha Did you check out their website!? Nice, eh?