Hi All. I signed up to share my experience with acquiring my first two pairs of AEs.
The Nordstrom sale has pushed me over the edge to giving AE shoes a try. I've always loved the look of the Walnut Strands and I was in need of a better quality black dress shoe so naturally the Park Ave fit the bill.
I tried them on several weeks ago working out my size (9.5D), but by the time the sale rolled around they only had a pair of the Black Park Aves in stock and unfortunately it had glue or something on a part of the welt stitching so I had them ordered to my home along with a pair of the Walnut Strands.
The shoes arrived pretty quickly, maybe 3 business days later. The Park Aves were clearly new as they had never been laced and they still had the tissue paper in the toe box. I gave them a look over and they are in perfect first condition. The Strands on the other hand had definitely been tried on as there was some scuffing on the soles and the shoes were laced. Additionally, the toe medallion wasn't completely punched and some of the edges on the leather brogueing were rough and were sticking out away from the shoe face. It looked like the stitching was a bit off and that caused the problem. Almost certainly shoes that someone had returned. Anyway, fairly disappointing for what should be firsts.
I returned to my Nordstrom store, pointed out the issues I saw, and they happily returned them and ordered a new pair for me. Again the shoes arrived quickly, but it was also clear that these were also likely returned shoes. They had some strange burnishing on the right shoe toe cap and the welt stitching was very off center and in one place nearly not in the welt at all. The stitching issue was very noticeable and so this pair had to go back as well. No problem again as Nordstrom lives up to their reputation of excellent customer service.
Given that I have three AE stores within 15 miles of me (Boston area) I decided it was time to go direct. I called up one of the stores and verified that they would price match Nordstrom. Yesterday I went over and was sized again as a 9.5D by a very helpful employee. They had just received a single pair of the Walnut Strands in my size that day. Sadly they had a strong dark burnishing line set back half an inch from the toe cap. I figured it would probably fade with some wear and polishing, but decided to roll the dice and a pair is being sent to me direct from the factory.
Despite the hassle in acquiring a pair of the Walnut Strands I'm still excited to hopefully have some to call my own in a few days time. The look is just awesome.
I plan to wear them with the Walnut Manistee belt and a grey linen suit to a summer wedding in just a few weeks.
TLDR - Nordstrom's got me a perfect condition pair of Black Park Aves, but through two separate orders I ended up with what I strongly suspect are returned Walnut Strands with various issues. Decided to go directly to an Allen Edmonds store and now have a pair coming directly from the factory.
Regardless of going directly to a store or buying over the phone - my advice is to ALWAYS work exclusively with the manager, and insist they personally inspect the shoes before wasting your time to pick them up or have them shipped. This also goes for managers who order firsts to be shipped from AE to you. They should have them shipped to the manager first for his personal inspection before sending them on to you. Yes, it is an extra step and extra shipping on their part, but given you (and others) have had bad experiences, the manager will certainly agree to his/her pre-inspection.