The Many Lives of My Friends’ Shoes, Monetized

The Many Lives of My Friends’ Shoes, Monetized

Aug 29, 2019 · 9 min read
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Yesterday I had a great chat with a dear friend of mine about shoes. Let’s call her Madison. I asked her: How she shops for shoes and clothes? How often? Why? What triggers the purchase process to begin?

She responded first with a caveat — “I’m not like most women when they shop for shoes. I have a minimalist, highly organized, highly methodical, analytical, highly efficient lifestyle so when I’m on the train coming into the office — on days I’m not working from home — that’s when I check out what’s new on the shoe scene with my phone.”

Ok. Sounds good, I said.

Madison frequents fashion retailers like TJ Maxx and Nordstrom’s Rack (whose off-price retailing Macy’s is now officially trying to copy). She also subscribes to the shoes that fit her set of variables and filters.

(Some say Nordstrom Rack which “now operates 239 off-price stores and 122 full-line stores in the US and Canada” is the winner despite it’s increased cost (Business Insider)). Others claim that TJ Maxx will take the day. “The future of off-price retail may not be as rosy as the last few years. Amazon is now the country’s biggest online apparel retailer, and even Wal-Mart is making strides in the space with acquisitions of ShoeBuy, ModCloth, Moosejaw, and potentially Bonobos…and despite Nordstrom’s better sales per square foot metric, TJX is the much bigger of the two and has unbeatable profits with an operating margin of 14%. That spells opportunity for Nordstrom, though, as its off-price brand could lead the stock’s comeback (”

“Last year, the department-store chain rolled out self-service systems in its shoe departments nationwide, designed to let customers serve themselves instead of finding a salesperson to retrieve shoes. The model is similar to those at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack (Business Insider).”

So, I then asked Madison, you look at what they send you — if it meets your variables, and you receive their emails?

No, she said. They never have enough filters or variables, like if they have the quality that’s ideal for me, the price is too high; if they have the price I’m looking for, they don’t have the quality I need for resell — I need a certain heel height to wear what’s trending (2 inches); a fabric that is not too irritating — some fabrics make shoes look beautiful and bug your skin so it’s a trade-off. Then, I try and buy what’s currently in style (pointy-toed shoes, with heels — ballet flats are not in style now, they were a while ago — loafers are comfortable and in style which is rare to find)— then I look at the quality of the brand being offered; will I be able to resell it on eBay as I often do and get a return of at least 50% of what I paid for those shoes?

Ok. Ok. I’m with you, I replied…but how do you know if the shoes you buy will fit?

I always buy two pairs just in case my size doesn’t actually fit (this is actually a common practice among women shopping for shoes online). The pair that doesn’t fit my feet just right, I sell on eBay for more than 50% of what I bought for them, or I simply return them and buy another, different pair of shoes.

Size 8 Is the New 7: Why Our Feet Are Getting Bigger By Sorcha Pollak

Ok. Ok…but doesn’t eBay charge insertion fees (when you list an item for sale) as well as final value fees (10%-ish)?

“Who cares?” was her immediate response. “Shoes stay in style for a certain amount of time — that’s the time when I need them. Other women might want the shoes for a slightly lesser price and buy them from my eBay store as they slowly become less trendy. When I sell them I’m already moving on to the next trendy type of shoes, and the cycle repeats itself.”

She apologized again for not being on the average segments of the distribution curve where, she believed, most women’s shopping behavior lies.

Later that evening I asked another friend of mine, Naomi, about her thought processes for buying shoes. Quality? Brand? Fabric? Frequency? Resell value? Staying trendy?

She told me that she buys shoes that are comfortable — but only at the point where her previous pair of shoes are no longer able to provide the support she needs; same for clothes; wear them until they are worn out.

And after that, try and resell them?

No. I donate them to thrift stores.


Can the thrift stores use them if they are kind of worn out?

Maybe. Sell them for less, or a lot less, or the thrift stores could donate them to a country that needs more clothes or has been hit by a natural disaster.

Ok. Ok. I’m with you. And then you file the donation on your taxes?

If I remember, which I usually don’t.

Ok. Sounds good. So what about quality, trendiness, all that?

I don’t really follow the trends — I’m really just looking for comfort and support, like for jogging or yoga class.

Ok. Do you subscribe to TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack or other retailers, so you can find out when they get new inventory that meets your criteria, your filters and variables?

Not really. I browse a bit but I’m not really a fashion follower, like I don’t try and be trendy like everyone else is because I don’t really understand why I should pay more money to buy clothes or shoes that will help me…look like I have more money, ya know? I’d rather not pretend to be something I’m not, like if I made friends based in part on what I’m wearing, how would I know if they would want to remain friends with me if I stopped buying the trendy clothes?

Ok. Ok. Sounds good. So where would you think your shopping methods might be found on a normal distribution curve of who women shop for shoes?

Uh…probably the far left. I’m not really a trend-setter. A friend of mine (not Madison) buys two pairs of shoes when she shops online, just in case the sizing is wrong. She gave me her extra pair of sandals that were trendy , whcih didn’t fit her. They maybe lasted a month. Maybe I’m hard on shoes or just not good at wearing expensive sandals.

No worries. Thanks for your help!

So to those of you reading this, where do you think you and your friends’ shoe-shopping methods might be found (below)?

Then, coolest of all, I interviewed Tina, a Generation Z person.

Do you shop for shoes online?



I don’t know.

Where do you shop for shoes?

Wal-Mart, Goodwill, clothing drives, my older cousins dump all their old shoes and clothes to me that they’ve outgrown. Some aren’t really my style and some I wear just to bother my friends. My dresser is overflowing and I Can’t shut my closet door but hey, it’s nice.

Ok. Ok. I’m with you. What do you do with shoes after you’ve worn them? Resell? Donate?

They usually just disappear…my Mom takes them to the attic so my little sister can wear them when she grows up.

Ok. Ok. Sounds good. When you’re at Wal-Mart or Goodwill what makes you pick the shoes you buy?

THey have to be comfortable BUT if they look really good or I really like them, I’ll buy them even if they aren’t super comfortable.

Yes. There’s alwasy a trade-off, I’ve heard, in women’s shoes. What about buying shoes that are trendy?

Um…if I see a type of shoe that’s stylish, trendy AND I like it, then I’ll look a little harder for that type of shoe but if I don’t like the trend, I’m just going to ignore it. I don’t go to fashion shows in Paris every month. My friends don’t either. They like to wear comfortable clothes, and nothing else.

If you could use Homemaide to buy shoes or clothes you sawm would you want to do that?

Yeah. Totally! That would be so useful. Then I wouldn’t have to pretend to like the dumpster fire clothes my cousins dump at my house.

So where would you think your shopping methods might be found on a normal distribution curve of who women shop for shoes?

I’d say a little bit to the right of Naomi but nowhere near Madison’s tracking level. I don’t have that much time to put into shoe shopping.

Sounds good. Is your preferred way to shop online or in the store?

It’d be easier in-store but if the phone or Homemaide could tell you local stores that have the shoes or style you’re looking for, it’d be simpler to find what you want and to get your size. Different stores have different sizes.

Ok. You’d rather drive, after getting gas, car repairs, fighting traffic, and wait lines at the store, if they’re not out of inventory rather than just buying shoes on your phone?

Yeah. Good point. It’s just — when you’re in a store, you can try on many different clothes and shoes. You can’t do that with a phone and I’m not going to buy two of everything I need. I’m not going to send one back if it doesn’t fit or resell it. So, yeah.


Homemaide lets Madison, Naomi and you monetize each of those articles of clothing, throughout each generation of the shoes, shirts or pants lifecycle. For example:

1st Generation: Manufacturer purchases raw material (cotton, etc.) from producer. Employees of the manufacturer take pics of the cotton and upload them to social media. Friends of those employees purchase cotton sheets, blankets, shirts, clothes, towels and those employees earn a commission from each one of those purchases.

2nd Generation: Retailer purchases in bulk the finished product (shirt, pants). Companies like Overstock purchase some of the bulk product that has small defects. Employees of the retailer and the slightly defected-product purchaser take pictures of themselves at work or at a company picnic,(since they take pride in what they do and enjoy themselves at work). The retailer’s employees and friends of the defect-product purchasing company earn a commission each time their friends purchase an item from those uploaded pictures.

3rd Generation: Madison’s coworkers take pictures of their kids wearing the new brand-name clothing, and upload those pics to social media. Their friends see the pics and buy the same shirt, pants, shoes for their kids — this earns Madison’s coworkers a commission from every one of those purchases.

Those clothes are given to Madison.

4th Generation: Madison then takes pictures of herself and her kids wearing those clothes and shoes. Then she uploads those pics to social media. Madison’s social network of friends see the pics and buy the same shirt, pants, shoes for their kids — this earns Madison a commission from every one of those purchases.

Those clothes are then given to me and my wife.

5th Generation: Naomi then takes pictures of herself and her kids wearing those clothes and shoes, and uploads those pics to social media. Then Naomi’s social network of friends see the pics and buy the same shirt, pants, shoes for their kids — this earns Naomi a commission from every one of those purchases.

Those clothes are then donated to a thrift store.

6th Generation: The thrift store makes money selling the clothes.

7th Generation: The people who buy the clothes then take pictures of their kids wearing those clothes and upload those pics to social media. The purchaser’s friends see the pics and buy the same shirt, pants, shoes for their kids — this earns the purchaser a commission from every one of those those purchases.

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