This title has nothing to do with any place of worship but is to do with a rather important and expensive brand name for shoes. Church! Remember the €900 Valentino handbag made of a vulgar split I found at an airport duty-free shop last year? Again, in my opinion there is no need to pay almost a thousand euros for a basic handbag or several hundreds of dollars for a good pair of shoes. Furthermore, as we’ll see, a high price doesn’t automatically mean good quality. Quality in terms of raw material, in terms of resistance against wear and tear, quality in terms of service.

I looked on the Internet and found some Church men’s shoes for sale. The cheapest pair I found was the Fairfield model which sells at US$395 and the most expensive I have come across was the Shannon model which goes for a cool US$879 over the counter, a real bargain! These are shoes that one on-line retailer heralds as ‘Very, very well made shoes. Church’s hark back to a time when English shoemakers were world leaders, with beautifully crafted men’s shoes made from the finest leather to classic designs. Look after a pair well and they will last you a lifetime.’ This Limeblast will take a closer look at the last statement: ‘they will last you a lifetime’ and also what happens when that promise doesn’t come true.

A friend of mine bought a pair of these wonderful shoes at a renowned retail shop in Geneva and paid SwF800 for this so-called marvel of old English craftsmanship. After wearing the shoes for two months, my friend experienced some discomfort and went back to the shop. It appeared that a small nail had come through the in-sole, apparently a small imperfection at production level. Nothing serious, just bothersome.

One presumes that removal of such a minor problem is covered by guarantee and by the reputation of the manufacturer and his retailer and offered as a courtesy to the client. One presumes only, because that’s not how the shop saw it and in fact presented a bill for the repair of SwF200, or 25% of the original cost of the shoes.

Just imagine that removing a nail (a manufacturing defect) from a Church shoe costs SwF200 (US$110)!!! My friend refused to pay and after some haggling, which would have been more appropriate in a flea market than in a refined retail shop, the bill was cut to SwF100, which according to me is still robbery, especially when it concerns a matter that should have come under the manufacturer’s guarantee.

Moreover, the nail was just the beginning of the story of these shoes that should have lasted a lifetime. After another nine months of normal wear the shoes were reduced to the condition pictured. The upper of the both shoes had cracked; the finish of the lining of the right shoe had come off at the heel.

My friend is not a construction worker, neither is he a coalminer. Nor does he play football on the street with his Church shoes. He works as an officer in one of the many international agencies that are present in Geneva, hence the heaviest job his shoes

perform is getting him from home to his car, then from his office parking lot into the elevator and to his desk, where he sits down for a large part of his working day. He is of normal height and normal weight, neither a Sumo wrestler nor a basket ball player.

My friend went back to the retailer and expressed his dissatisfaction with the quality of his famous Church shoes, which after less than a year of normal wear were reduced to garbage. After examining the shoes the retailer told him, that he had used the shoes ‘too much’ and that the shoes were damaged by walking in the rain. Isn’t that fantastic!

Defective shoes that should have lasted a lifetime were judged not eligible for reimbursement or replacement under guarantee after less than a year of normal wear because they were used too much! On top of that, the aggravating factor was that the shoes were damaged by rainwater, hence Church shoes can be worn sporadically and only in the Sahara, or maybe that’s even not possible because it might be too hot and too dry for these delicate master pieces of English craftsmanship.

I wonder at this point if the English gentlemen who buy Church shoes ever wear them, because England does have once in a while a tiny spell of rainy weather! They probably keep their Church shoes in a cupboard at home and that way they cannot be accused of using them too much, nor of wearing the shoes in the rain. Maybe that’s the reason why Church shoes last a lifetime: you don’t wear them. They are museum pieces, to be kept unused at the right humidity and at the right temperature.

Something doesn’t add up. It is obvious that my friend was just unfortunate in buying a pair of defective shoes. This can happen anywhere anytime and with the very best of the line. Even Rolls Royce turn out the odd car that is not as it should be, but then Rolls is known to airlift spare parts and effect overnight repairs to satisfy their customer.

What is truly amazing in the shoe case is that a classy retailer who sells top brand shoes is totally unprepared to give a minimum of service. This Geneva retailer has done the Church reputation no good at all. My friend, who is prepared, contrarily to me, to put SwF800 on the table for a pair of shoes, will definitely buy another pair of expensive shoes but will be very careful to avoid both the shop where he bought his first and last pair of Church shoes.

One would have expected the retailer to be smart enough to protect his own and his supplier’s reputation by making the first repair free of charge and when after a year the shoes were returned to him in this distressing state, by replacing these shoes with apologies for the unfortunate event.

This episode shows that even if you pay a hell of a lot of money, you don’t always get quality and you don’t always get service, nor do you get the guarantee which one expects to be included in the price. So it may be better to become wiser, take certain statements of quality and design with a grain of salt and buy cheaper shoes and simply throw them away after a year or so. You can still buy several pairs of good quality shoes for SwF800 that will last a reasonable period of time even if they are not Church’s.

Sam Setter