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WOW! Fantastic Customer Service

Yesterday, we went to Berlin, New Hampshire for TheWife’s Hawkinson (and all the other 100 or so other ways you can spell the name) – family reunion.

We had a GREAT time, got to see a lot of Mary’s relatives and had some good conversations.

We had talked about going over to North Conway earlier in the day, so I could go to the Pearl Izumi Outlet Store if we had time. After it was over and we were ready to head back to Maine at about 4:00 PM. So we checked to see what time they closed (7:00 PM), the wonders of being able to access the Internet while on the road and drove over to North Conway from Berlin.

By the way avoid going to North Conway during peak hours – traffic sucked, it was backed up almost to the Mt. Washington overlook and took about 40 minutes to get from there to the PI store – about 3-4 miles.

I have two brands of shoes that I really have liked a lot this year, Skechers and Pearl Izumi. I run well in both Brand’s and I love PI’s clothing lines, so the trip to the Outlet store was for a couple of reasons.

  • Even though I asked questions/complained about the issue/concerns with my N1 Trails on social media sites and wrote about it on  my blog, I never got any response from Pearl Izumi (shows how popular my blog is 😉 ) and no one who read my blog or on my running shoe group seemed to have a big problem with grit getting inside of the shoes. I needed to know if the issue I had with the N1’s – was just me.
  • See if they had any great deals on running stuff.

Enough of the prelude.

Pearl Izumi Outlet Store, North Conway

Pearl Izumi Outlet Store - North Conway, NH

Pearl Izumi Outlet Store – North Conway, NH

When we got there, we were helped by Dan B. and I told him the problems I was having with grit and stuff getting in through the gap between the tongue and the upper (yeah, I know that all shoes let in a certain amount of stuff, but the amounts I was getting in was excessive and uncomfortable).  I just wanted to look at the N1 Trails they had in stock, to see if they were made the same as my shoes or not and look around at the clothing.

The conversation I had in the store and summarizing below is not meant to be a exact record of the conversation we actually had, but are simply my impressions of what was said, but not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

While I was looking at some the new N1 Trails, we talked about my experience with them and he asked me if I had the shoes with me.

I just “happened” put the N1’s in the car that morning and went out and got them.

We looked them over and compared my N1’s to the new ones on the shelf and it seemed to me as though the tongue was about the same.

Then he said “I am wearing N1 Trails and I haven’t had any issues with too much stuff getting in the shoes, but I don’t run in sandy conditions or on a lot of dirt roads in them”. We looked down at his shoes and when he flexed his foot, bingo – there was a gap about the same size as the one on my shoes between the tongue and the upper (his was on the other side of the tongue).

We talked a little more and he asked me if I wanted to do an exchange for a new pair of in stock PI running shoes.

I really wasn’t expecting to exchange my shoes for new ones or anything else – that wasn’t my intention.

Really, the only reason we stopped at the Outlet Store, (besides drooling over some of their running clothes and accessories), was I just wanted to know, if my N1 Trails were defective or if the concerns I had were what I would consider a design flaw.

After looking at the other N1 Trails, from my perspective, it was a design flaw, that could have been avoided by using a gusseted tongue, but they didn’t. But who to hell am I to be telling the professional designers, engineers and all the other people at Pearl Izumi, who are a lot more successful and probably a lot smarter than I am, that they have a design flaw.

Oh stop it, this old fart is saying just that here. 😉

All I can reasonably say is that the N1 Trails let in too much grit for the way my feet work in that shoe and leave it at that, because I really love these shoes other than that fatal to me – flaw.

If Pearl Izumi gussets the tongue or other makes other design changes to minimize or eliminate the gap between the bottom side of tongue and the upper when the shoe is flexed on the next version of the N1 Trails, it will be a shoe that I will buy again, because they were a GREAT shoe for me except for that flaw. If they do not, I will move on.

However, I will keep getting their running clothes, because they are “da bomb”

Exchange Time

However, at the Outlet store, I didn’t say that to him, he was too nice and attempting to be helpful to me, that dissing the product to him would have served no purpose – he didn’t design the shoes and I didn’t want to act like an arrogant ass, they get enough of those in there I am sure.

So I told him that wasn’t necessary to exchange the shoes, that my N1 Trails were pretty old and had quite a few miles on them (I checked 280.1 miles).

We talked some more about Pearl Izumi shoes and how much I had originally loved the N1 Trails and I told him had two pair of N2 Roads (I was wearing one pair, which he had noticed earlier), he told me that Pearl Izumi has a GREAT warranty program and wanted their customers to be happy. If I wasn’t happy running in their shoes, he wanted to do something about it to make it right.

Again he offered to exchange my old N1 Trails for a comparably priced pair of new PI shoes from his shelves.

Wow.  I really was not expecting that kind of customer service, especially at an Outlet Store.

At first I felt a little guilty about it, hell I had almost 300 miles on those shoes, even though they did look almost new, but I got to thinking that if it wasn’t for that issue I would probably still be running in them as my primary trail shoes and I would not have gone out and bought another pair of trail shoes last month, which I still do not like as much as I did the N1 Trails (even with their problem). The more I thought about it the more I began to think – why not.

Decision Time

I said okay.

Now this put me on the spot, because I wasn’t ready for this generous offer and didn’t know which PI shoes I wanted.

I thought about getting a pair of N1 Roads, but I really, really like my Skechers GoMebs and GoRun Ride 2’s for road running and I still have two pair of N2 Roads that are in good shape. So I really didn’t need another pair of road shoes.

Based on what I saw in the N1 Trails, it didn’t make any sense to get another pair (even though I was tempted) and I know how stiff the N2 Roads are, so I didn’t really want to break another pair of N2’s, even if it was the trail version.

Then I saw that they had a bunch of Peak II’s. Yes they are the previous generation of trail shoes from Pearl Izumi, but I had read a lot of positive reviews about them in past and when I put them on, they felt comfortable, once I sized up to a 9 1/2, (we have a foot size, not a shoe size).

Pearl Izumi Peak II

Pearl Izumi Peak II

I did notice that just walking around in them, they were more flexible and not as firm as either the N1 Trails or N2 Roads I have worn, so I chose them. Hopefully, they will be a good trail shoe for me.

Extra Credit

We went to finish up the exchange and he told me, you still have about $20.00 in store credit, what do you want to do with it.

Since the PI Outlet Store is over 3 hours from the house and we do not get over to North Conway very often, I decided to use it and ended up getting a really nice PI running hat and a pair of socks. I was impressed – he could have simply of done the exchange and not said anything about the extra store credit and I would have still been very happy. So there was a very high level of honesty, which was nice to see.

The reality is that

Visiting the PI Outlet Store gave me a chance to compare other N1 Trail models to mine. Unfortunately, based on what I saw, the N1 Trails on the shelf appeared to have the same issue – a gap between the bottom side of the tongue and the upper when the shoes were flexed.

Which was really too bad, because I thought the N1 Trails were one of the best shoes I had EVER run in, until the weather warmed-up and I started getting grit, small rocks and other stuff inside of my shoes. Which made runs range from slightly annoying to having to stop to empty out the shoe, because it was painful to run on the small rocks that were getting inside.

Four take-aways from going to the North Conway Pearl Izumi Outlet store were:

  1.  How great I was treated. It was more like I was a long-time customer, who had an issue and they were going to take care of it right away, than some strange guy off the street, who was talking out of his ass.
  2. The store employees showed a higher level ofexpertise and customer service than I am used to from the stereotypical Outlet Store store employee.The two staff  members (I hate that descriptor) who were in the store, went out of their way to be friendly, put my wife and I at ease inside of a store that I don’t go to that often (I have been there maybe 3 times in 5 years), and ensured that I was happy with my Pearl Izumi gear.

    They could have just as easily done a shoe exchange, easily short-changed me and got me out the door at 6:00 PM on a Saturday night, instead they were honest and took the time necessary to make sure that I left as a satisfied customer, who will be back.Oh yeah, when the guy gave me his card – so that if I had any more questions I could ask him or if I was looking for more Pearl Izumi products I could contact him, I found out that the guy who was helping me was also the Store Manager, which made an even bigger impression on me.

    He never talked down to me, gave me that WTF do you know attitude and treated me right. He took the time to find out what was going on, talked me through my trying explain what I was experiencing with my shoes and didn’t make me feel like I was bothering him at any time.

    Thank you Dan for your time and expertise.

  3. My experience in Conway, restored my positive attitude towards the Pearl Izumi brand, after my questions/concerns had been ignored by PI on social media channels, but were addressed at the Outlet Store.
  4. It will be interesting to see how the previous generation Peak II’s feel/perform compared to the new EM line.

Based on this experience, I will definitely go back to the Pearl Izumi Outlet Store, after all I do have to go to Berlin and Lancaster, New Hampshire every so often, it just means that it will be routed through North Conway, even if it means going a little out of my way to get there.




  1. Sounds like a great experience.
    In 2012 I went to the New balance outlet store in brighton mass and they sold me walking shoes when I told them i was running boston.

    • Yeah, that is my usual experience with Outlet stores and when PI’s outlet provided me with that kind of service I wanted say how much I appreciated it. 🙂

  2. Yeah, outlets are normally crap these days – there have been articles about how they have become second-retail streams for many companies, totally different than original intent.

    But it is awesome how they treated you! That is rare, but great way to gain customer loyalty or at least a positive impression.

    I look at the picture and wonder what that USED to be … it has probably been 10 years since we were in North Conway (took long weekends in the area taking the kids to Storyland when they were little) …

    • That is why I wrote the post, it was a vastly different experience than I have had in most outlet stores 🙂 I like the PI’s, but the N2’s are stiff and firm. I did like the Peak II’s this morning for a quick 1.0 miler with Bennie, but they feel a little to wide in the midfoot/heel cup area.

      This store has been there for a long time, I remember going to it back when Mary and I first got together (we did spring vacation over there four or five years in a row. The clothes were a bit pricey and still are, but it is high quality. Plus I think one of the guys that was there yesterday has been there for a long, long time. It is in that little mini mall behind Dunkin Donuts. 🙂

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