Trying On, Selling and Stealing Sneakers, One Shoe at a Time

Michael Wilson, New York Times, July 10, 2015

Never has buying, selling or stealing a pair of sneakers in Brooklyn been this complicated.

The cat-and-mouse tactics between sneaker store managers and sneaker thieves have escalated to new levels of complexity. Theft prevention has changed just about everything involved in the transaction of buying a pair of sneakers–even the simple act of trying them on for size.

As a result, thieves–at least in Bushwick–have changed their tactics, resorting to stealing the lowest-hanging fruit: the unguarded, single sneakers on display shelves.

“They go here and they steal a left shoe,” explained Dayshorn Mickens, 24, a manager at a Foot Locker on Broadway, standing in a room lined with shelves of left-foot shoes.

“Let’s say it’s a 9 and a half. They go to Jimmy Jazz”–another sneaker store two blocks away, where the display shoes are all right–“and steal the right.”

Over at Jimmy Jazz, a clerk, Wesley Mejias, 22, confirmed the unlikely bond between the two stores. “That’s true,” he said. “They’ll get the right here and the left at another store.”

{snip}

Once upon a time, stealing a pair of sneakers was a play in two acts: 1) try on sneakers, and then 2) run away.

Mr. Mickens and other managers at Foot Locker and Jimmy Jazz stores have since embraced a rule to prevent their sneakers from running out the door.

The one-shoe policy.

When a customer wants to try on a pair of sneakers, a clerk will hand over the left one. If the customer wants to try on the right sneaker, the clerk will ask for the left one back before handing the right over. The customer never wears two new sneakers at the same time in the store.

“If we give them both,” Mr. Mejias said at Jimmy Jazz, “they run with it.”

{snip}

On June 9, just before noon, a group of young men entered the Foot Locker in Bushwick. A different manager, Jay Barns, 20, greeted them, and they asked him to bring out several pairs of shoes to try on. “Ten or 15 people,” he said. He was suspicious and told them he didn’t have those sizes.

“One of the boys was like, ‘This is nothing funny. I’ve got money. We really need these sneakers.’ ” So Mr. Barns relented and brought the shoes up.

He handed the men left shoes. One said, “I’ve got two feet,” Mr. Barns recalled. “I’m telling them no, this is part of Foot Locker procedure. ‘Give me back the left and I’ll give you the right.’ ”

As other customers became impatient, Mr. Barns saw members of the group stuff some T-shirts into a bag and head for the door. Flustered, he handed the men the right shoes.

The men–many wearing one sneaker and carrying the other–ran out the door.

“I was outnumbered,” Mr. Barns said. The police say the suspects remain at large.

{snip}

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