A tale of two countries

It boils down to shoes.

A lot of people asked me what it feels like to be an Italian in the USA. Books have been written, pictures have been taken and videos have been shot, so I feel I should spare you the details on getting Italian ingredients (you can get everything here), wrapping our heads about pounds and gallons (seriously, what were you guys thinking?) or remembering to have a full tank before hitting the outdoors (and a bear-proof food container if you plan to camp). Also, we are talking about a country that spans several time zones, so if there is no point trying to lump things up.

I do however have a story for you and I believe it pretty much sums up our experience in the Pacific Northwest, the corner of the States we have been lucky to dwell for the past four years.

A few months before leaving Italy, I needed new shoes. Nothing fancy, just an easy pair of loafers for the summer. I went to a shopping mall nearby, found what I wanted in a mid-level shoe store, paid up and off I was on my merry way. After a couple of days my new shoes split wide open, a tragic structural failure that had me limping home and later to the store to voice my disappointment.

They asked to see the receipt. They wondered if I did something weird with the shoes (though I don’t exactly look like I’m into parkour), they had me request to speak with the manager and finally they offered to repair, not reimburse – not replace, the offending shoe. They took their good time and after a few weeks I picked up a hack job of hot glue and amateur stitching that of course found its way to the trash bin shortly thereafter.

Fast forward a year or so, when I found another pair of loafers in a middle-of-the-road outlet store in North Bend. I liked them, tried them on, bought them and off I went. In a few weeks a small elastic band ripped off: it didn’t impair functionality, it was mostly cosmetic and a minor issue altogether. I didn’t bother going back to the store and actually kept that particular pair as my go-to shoes for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I still had those shoes on when I was back at the very same store almost a year later.

When the store clerk approached me, I told him I really liked the shoes I bought a year before, and I was wondering if they had something similar. He took a look at my feet and immediately asked what happened as he noticed the small rip in the fabric. I told him it was no biggie at all, but he insisted on seeing the shoe, asked when I bought it and told me in no uncertain terms that he was going to replace it under warranty. I told him I didn’t have the receipt, and he just asked for the credit card I used for the original transaction.

Minutes later I was driving home in my new free shoes, both me and my wife stunned at what just happened and commenting how good business sense, trust and, more generally, a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world. We love this place.

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