I got my first pair of Allen Edmonds – black Park Avenues – in January 2014 after doing a lot of research about dress shoes. I bought them online and paid full price, which at the time was $345. When I got the shoes and put them on, I noticed an issue with the leather behind the ankle – there was a small, very stiff, hard piece protruding that cut through my socks and was cutting my ankle (Achilles area). My guess was that it was a little rogue piece of leather that was supposed to have been glued down, but for some reason it wasn’t, and the glue had dried and made it very stiff and hard. Rather than sending the shoes back and waiting for another pair – I needed them for work and my size was not in stock, so it would have been another 4 weeks – I decided to macgyver the shoes. I took a straightedge razor blade and cut the tiny piece of leather off. The result made the shoe look unprofessional, but it was in a hidden spot so I could accept it.
I liked these shoes and decided to expand my wardrobe to include dark brown Strands. I bought them online again and paid the same price as the Park Avenues - $345. I received the Strands with no issues and they were lovely. I wore both pairs happily for over a year.
After about 18 months, I noticed the black PAs had a hole worn entirely through the sole to the cork. The hole was slightly larger than the size of a quarter. I also noticed that rain water had infiltrated through the hole and discolored the leather upper (white lines on black leather upper). I researched AE’s re-crafting service and decided to go ahead. I dropped the shoes off at a local retail store, who asked if I wanted the “professional” package, which comes with polish and shoe trees. I asked if the shoe trees were specific to my last, and was told they were. I paid an extra $25 for this package (total $150).
I received the shoes back from re-crafting after a couple of weeks, and they looked good, except that the shoe trees that had been forced into them were too large, and there was scuffing on both sides of both shoes where the trees had bulged out the leather and the leather had rubbed against something. At that point, I looked on the AE website and discovered that AE’s own small size shoe trees do NOT fit my size – 6.5D. I was disappointed that this detail had been mishandled – that the sales person with whom I dropped the shoes off did not tell me the shoe trees that came with the service did not fit my size, and that the folks at the factory had shoved them in nonetheless, resulting in the newly re-crafted shoes bulging and being scuffed. I let it go because I needed to wear the shoes and didn’t have the energy to pursue it, but I was very unimpressed with the service.
In the meantime I purchased my third pair online – Merlot Park Avenues that were on close-out. This time I paid $297 instead of the then-regular price of $385. As soon as I opened the box I noticed some unusual lines running lengthwise on the front of the shoe. In retrospect, I wish I had sent them back immediately. I had hoped the lines would diminish or at least not become exacerbated, but unfortunately that’s not what happened. Although I began to really love the merlot color, and how it complemented my wardrobe in a way neither the black nor the dark brown did, after a few weeks I could not ignore the thick unsightly creasing and cracking that formed where the shoe bends on top - lines stretching both the length and width of the shoe. I was sorely disappointed and was considering getting in touch with customer service about these shoes. I was not looking forward to doing that, because in general I have found dealing with customer service to be time-consuming and often fruitless. So in reality I was procrastinating and hoping the creasing would not get worse, but I became embarrassed to wear the shoes in my office.
Right after I got the Merlot PAs, I began researching AE styles with rubber soles, an effort to save my leather-soled styles from having to be re-crafted every year like the black PAs had to be. I discovered the University, which had the rubber sole I was looking for and a unique style I quite liked. I found a pair on the shoe bank for $299. The sales associate I called described the shoes to me and I understood if I didn’t like them or they didn’t fit (this would be my first pair on something other than the 65 last, and this style is not made in 6.5D), I could send them back for just $10 or the price of return shipping. I received the shoes and was happy with them and the service I received.
Now by this point, I’ve spent $1436 (plus tax) at Allen Edmonds in 18 months, and I got an email from AE asking me to write a review about my Merlot PAs. Looking at the other reviews on the AE website, I noticed that every time someone wrote a negative review, they were instructed to contact customer service. I thought I would go ahead and do both – so I wrote a 2-star review and emailed customer service. Within half an hour, I received a return label to ship the defective shoes back to AE. I was impressed. But the email was light on details – how long would this take? What were my potential outcomes? I wrote back to ask and received a canned email response that repeated the initial email – someone would contact me after the shoes were inspected. I thought I would call to follow up, since you can usually get more helpful information by phone. In this case, that was a mistake. I spoke to Doreen, who seemed annoyed to be speaking to me, and who told me not to worry about it. She seemed more interested in getting me off the phone than hearing my questions and providing useful information in response. She told me the shoes would be inspected a few days after they were delivered, but she would not say what any potential outcomes might be. I expressed concern because this was a close-out style and my size was not available online anymore. Again, she just said don’t worry about it. Realizing that I wasn’t going to get anything beyond vague assurances, I finally gave up and decided to send the shoes in, assuming based on Doreen’s answers that at least I’d hear something more concrete in about a week. When I didn’t hear anything, I called back and Doreen answered again. She was again uncaring. She offered to make a call internally, find out the status regarding my shoes, and email me back with an answer. Her email informed me that it takes at least 7-10 business days after the shoes are delivered for them to be inspected. Adding this 7-10 business days to the 3-4 business days it took for the shoes to be delivered, and the 3-4 business days for them (or another pair??) to be sent back to me, and for the first time I was being informed that I should expect to be without my shoes for 4 weeks – just for them to be inspected.
I am extremely frustrated that no one informed me of this timing in response to two emails and one phone call prior to sending my shoes in. Even more frustrating, although I now know the timing, I still have no idea what AE would regard as a satisfactory outcome. Are they going to refund my money? Make me a custom pair since this style is no longer manufactured and no longer available in my size? Send me the defective shoes back because they don’t think it’s their responsibility? Any level of engagement from AE customer service on this question would be better than what I’ve gotten so far – nothing.
I really enjoyed my 1.5 year honeymoon period with Allen Edmonds. I loved wearing seemingly high quality shoes to work and resting assured that if I had any issues I could rely on the reputedly exceptional customer service. At this point, however, I just want to get the defective Merlot PAs back and never have to deal with AE again. I will definitely not be buying another pair. Who else do you use for quality dress shoes?