Okay, Internet, I need help. I need help wrestling with a pair of shoes. Specifically with my Merrell Moab Adventure size 11s. They’re looking at me with Stoic indignation and tagging me for moral sloppiness.
So first of all, sorry: this isn’t a fabulous little report of something like our trip to Victoria or the start of the annual Race to Alaska. I meant to write those up, but didn’t get around to it. Didn’t get around to a lot of things.
But one thing I did get around to was pinging Merrell about my shoes. You see, on my way down to Antarctica a few years back, I bought a pair of Merrell Moabs, and they were the best freaking shoe/boot I’d ever had. It quickly got to the point that they were the only shoe I even bothered to bring south with me on the icebreaker. Or hiking. Or up to the farm. They were comfortable, handsome, waterproof and damned near bulletproof. They gave great traction and protected my feet while still being light enough to maneuver on a rock scramble.
After four or so years of constant service, though, they were close to worn through, so last November I figured I’d replace them with a new pair. The fine folks at Merrell helped me locate this year’s model and my new pair fit me like a pair of foot gloves.
Except. Except that last month I noticed the rubber on the toe peeling away from the leather. No problem: a dab of Shoe Goo, and it was good as new. Except. Except that last week I noticed a similar delamination by the heel – this one was big enough that I could slide my finger in under the rubber all the way around to the bottom of my foot. Still no problem: a bit more Shoe Goo would fix that, too.
Still, the previous pair made it through four years of brutal service without this problem – I shouldn’t have to be repairing this one after six months, should I? So I emailed Merrell with pics and they told me that they’d be happy to send me a replacement pair.
I was assuming they’d ask me to send the old pair back, and was more than willing to do that. But their requirement was more efficient and clarifying than that: rather than returning the defective pair, I just had to send them a picture of the shoes with the tongues cut out.
And I can’t bring myself to do it.
Intellectually, I know that if I were to send them the defective pair, they might get glanced at, but would just get thrown away. So there’s no practical difference between me destroying the shoes and the folks at Merrell doing it, other than that their method saves the time, money, packaging and fuel of shipping a pair of derelict shoes across the country.
And I can’t fault them for wanting the old pair of shoes destroyed. They say it’s for “liability reasons,” but honestly, if they didn’t insist on the old pair being made unusable, they’d be opening themselves up to scammers trying to score free shoes around the clock.
But I look at these otherwise beautiful, sturdy shoes that can be fixed with a few dabs of glue, and I can’t bring myself to turn them into landfill.
It feels strangely hypocritical, laying bare a polite fiction that covers some moral laziness. It feels like the same thing that lets us be outraged by stories of feedlot conditions, but not think twice about picking up a drive-through burger. It’s that thing in our brain that allows us to enjoy the benefits of all sorts of objectionable behavior, just so long as it happens out of our sight.
Again, I can’t blame Merrell for their policy – they clearly make excellent shoes. Somehow something went wrong with this pair and they’re eager to make it right in the most efficient way possible. And if I were happy to send my defective pair back (presumably for them to destroy), shouldn’t I be equally happy to destroy them myself?
And still I can’t do it.