ShopNewBalance.Com Customer Service

Back in November 2010 I bought on clearance a pair of New Balance MT910 trail-runner shoes.  I don’t run much, but take frequent long walks and my gaudy pair of Addidas trail-runners no longer provided adequate support and cushioning.  Some years ago I had a pair of 800 series New Balance trail shoes, and the first weekend I had them, I got lost in the mountains of West Virginia (a 40 minute ridge-hike turned into a 10 – 15 mile endurance test when I took a wrong turn; I followed the power lines out).  Not a blister on either foot did I get.  It was a great shoe.  I recently had another pair I threw out (at least I think I threw them out) after eight or nine years.  So I was pleased to find the 910 trail shoe on clearance at

My Left Shoe

My left shoe - if you look for it, you can see the top right lace eyelet-ribbon has pulled loose. Also, I still double-knot my shoes.

The pair the company sent out had an orange trim (although the company call’s it a “yellow” as opposed to the more “tangerine” color it calls orange), and I’d expected yellow.  I also expected these shoes to have a Gore-Tex lining (based on a couple of reviews at that product page that mentioned a Gore-Tex lining – what happens is that the customer reviews both the water-proof and basic versions of the shoe cross-post).  I was disappointed, but quickly adjusted to the orange trim and the fact that I’d been mistaken in my expectation of waterproofness.

To the good, however, this narrow-fitting shoe provided the best support and sure-footed grip of any non-boot shoe I’ve ever owned.  I absolutely loved the shoe.  Back during the winter, I even ran on trails wearing these shoes, although running hasn’t really been my thing.  On the other hand, why not run a bit?  Also, the shoe is a bit long in the toe.  The extra space in the toe felt odd at first, then I got used to not having my toes bashed by the end of a casual office Friday or a long, long walk.

Pulled-Out Eyelet

There you can see what a long ribbon they used for the lace eyelet

Finally about three, four weeks ago now, I realized when I’d gotten home from a shorter neighborhood walk that the left shoe felt odd when I reached down to untie it.  Only after I took it off did I see that the top right eyelet ribbon had pulled loose.  At first I thought some stitching had come loose, but only after I reflected on the length of the ribbon did I realize it must have been poorly secured at probably the point where the sole attaches to the upper, maybe just with glue as opposed to any stitching at all.

Here’s a copy of the online review I posted at ShopNewBalance – yes, as I revisit it, it does strike me as lamentably, um, whiny, and for that I feel a little ashamed.  However, in the interest of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth even if it makes me look more than a little foolish, it appears below.  I had it formatted with paragraphs before pasting it into an online textbox, but the SNB comment software removed the graphs leaving one unwieldy block of text; I have restored the gripe’s formatting below:

Christov10   2 out of 5
Although I marked above that I’ve run 0 – 5 miles in these shoes, I’ve walked probably upwards of 60 miles in them (Editorial comment – more like 125 or so miles). My intent in purchasing the shoe was to begin running on dirt trails near my house, building up some running strength and stamina during my regular four to five mile fast walks. I purchased them in November 2010 on sale through ShopNewBalance.Com thinking (because I misunderstood a review on this site for this shoe) they were Gore-Tex lined, and experienced some dissatisfaction during the first couple of weeks when I found I’d been mistaken in my assumption.

On the other hand, my satisfaction with this shoe’s comfort and total foot – not just arch – support was at an all time high for any shoe I’ve owned until one of the lace eyes on the left shoe pulled completely loose during use on a three to four mile fast walk in dry weather about three weeks ago. The loss of the eye significantly reduces the shoe’s ability to support the foot during a long walk, and, although I haven’t tried it so don’t know for sure, probably renders it well-nigh useless on a run, as well.

New Balance boasts in its online sales copy about computer-designed laces with special twisting surface to prevent them from coming untied during use, but that feature is of no use if the lace isn’t properly anchored at all necessary point. I’m very disappointed in this quality failure – it’s the sort of thing I’d expect from a Nike shoe – looks and feels great for a couple of months until real use destroys the shoe.

I’m left with that nasty, ripped-off feeling that comes of spending money on a product I had every reason to expect to be of high quality only to find that it has quickly failed and become unserviceable, but only after the exchange period has expired.

I’m also left wondering where to look for a quality shoe that fits and supports as well as this one did up until the point it disastrously and annoying failed. Nike? Be real. Addidas? Yeah, maybe. New Balance again? Yeah, maybe, but my expectations are going to be a lot lower.

Clever Device

Here you can see the bumps above the uprights of the "N" that correspond to the ribbon beneath the shoe's skin. On the left upright you can see the slits through which the eyelet ribbon cleverly passed over the plastic logo device before it pulled free. At right, you can see the arrangement intact.

The caption on the photo above doesn’t mention the “N-LOCK (R)” print, but I think that refers to the “computer designed” laces that are designed never to come untied during ordinary use.  Of course, the N-LOCK(R) is of limited value if the eyelets through which the laces have been, well, laced should fail catastrophically.

Ribbon Slit

Here you can see the slit on the inside of the rightside lip through which the ribbon passes leaving a loop for the lace

I was left with a nasty, ripped-off feeling.  Best shoe ever became a great annoyance because, while still wearable on a casual office Friday (like today) the pair is ruined for serious long walking and running is definitely out of the question.  I’ve been able to wear them for easy two-mile walks in the neighborhood, but I could probably walk two miles in flip-flops.

When I tried to find an alternative pair of shoes in the town where I live, I could find nothing that suited.  Finally, although I thought there was not much point in it, I telephoned the customer service line at ShopNewBalance and explained what had happened.  The woman, named Molly, who took my call was extremely helpful and, in spite of the fact that I bought the shoe on clearance, agreed pleasantly to ship me a new pair at no cost and arrange free return shipping of the defective pair.  This is the kind of customer service that, in conjunction with good products, will hopefully keep New Balance in business for many years to come.

Amused at a Hulu Sponsor’s Expense

Our computer and entertainment system filters out Hulu advertisements, although our viewing pleasure is interrupted by the commercial breaks, we don’t have to watch the ads.  Hulu posts the following message on screen as if the viewer deems the lack of ad content a problem.  Hardly.


Elk River Upstream: Dabbs Ford Bridge to Rutledge (not Patterson) Ford Bridge

NOTE:  If you are offended by religious reflection, quit reading after you get the word “pretty” a few paragraphs down.  I offer no apology.  Not any thing that I can think of to write about is all about one thing and nothing else.  I’ve also included a little political commentary.  It would be a mistake to think of this space as primarily a paddling blog.

(4/25/11) Also, this is the second of these “NOTEs” in as many blog posts, which strikes me as annoying. 

Finally, after looking at a satellite image of Patterson Ford Bridge, I realized it could not have been the bridge up to which I paddled on Friday because the bridge at Patterson Ford is really two bridges for four-lanes of traffic, and the bridge I recall seeing was only a narrow concrete two-lane.  A closer look at Tennessee Landforms showed me a couple of things:  a) I paddled as far as Rutledge Falls Ford Bridge, only about 4.5 miles upstream from my put-in; b) I never did make it as far as Bluebell Island and so my two previous blog posts about paddling this section of the Elk River above Woods Reservoir contain mistakes of fact that I’ll have to get around to correcting.  Until I can get around to making those corrections (lack of time), this extended editorial note will have to do. 

Rutledge Ford Bridge

I’ll try to get a topo-map image of the bridge at Rutledge Ford (satellite image, instead, above).  In the mean time disregard the image of Patterson Ford Bridge below. 

I hadn’t paddled since November 2010 when a friend and I put in at Normandy Lake.  This year my free time has been occupied in parenting, yardwork, and school work.  I’ve spent weekends plug-aerating, liming, fertilizing, hoeing, seeding, mowing, as well as playing outside with my son.  I have been strength training again, mostly pushups, chin-ups, pull-ups, dips using an Iron Gym I got  for Christmas, as well as dumbbells for biceps (shoulder’s still a bit weak for overhead shoulder and triceps work), and medicine ball for abs.  Also a lot of walking.

Thursday evening I sorted out my paddling gear and got it ready for Friday morning.  I wasn’t able to find my blue hat or my small yellow drybag with spare car-key, but everything else I got ready.  I even had a lunch handy because Thursday afternoon I’d had lunch with a friend from work, so I was able to repurpose my sandwich and generic fig-newton cookies.  Friday morning I got up early and dressed for paddling, sprayed down with Deep Woods Off, loaded the gear bag in the trunk, Campsis Radicans on Thursday’s roof, and forgetting my camera and wallet, took off.  My put in was the bridge where Prairie Plains Road crosses the Elk River above or upstream the confusing maze of islands that end of Woods Reservoir – Dabbs Ford Bridge, according to the topo map easily accessed at the Tennessee Landforms website (name not shown below, but near top-left of that image).

Starting Point

The road is roughly paved leading down to the put-in, but I was able to keep the 850 from bottoming-out carefully avoiding some ruts and potholes.  A gold 1990s model Nissan Sentra sedan was already parked below, but no other vehicles.  I nodded and waved at the thin-faced man who was smoking a cigarette behind the car’s wheel, pulled up to the packed-dirt ramp and unloaded boat and gear.  As I backed my car out of the way and parked it, the man in the Sentra drove off.  I figured he’d been up to no good.

It took me a couple of minutes to get the rudder rigged because I’d forgotten how I’d left things back in November.  Inflated bow and stern floatation, put my keys and cell-phone in my larger emergency drybag (stuff in there like towel, light anorak, extra gatorade-type drinks, etc.) in the stern, sealed the stern, arranged junk on the decks making the boat look like something paddled by a hobo, and got into the water.  Cold, surprisingly cold with a perceptible current right away there below the bridge.  Usually don’t encounter a current until much further upstream.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately, but I don’t think we get snow melt – our so-called mountains around here are hardly Alpine. 

I was happy about the current but annoyed because I’d forgotten my camera.  The current made me happy because I knew it would make for a good workout, and I thought with that much water flowing, the water level would be higher and I might get farther upstream without having having to get out and tow the kayak through shallows.  A couple of years ago, I paddled this stretch and had to drag the kayak over deadfallen trees blocking the river.  I had no real idea what to expect this time.

While paddling, I thought about fitness, and that one of the best reasons for maintaining fitness is so that I can do things few other people do and have experiences few other people have.  I thought about the President of the United States of America and that he is incapable of doing the things that I can do, although I could probably manage the work of presiding over this nation’s executive branch tolerably well.  I thought about that film, Chariots of Fire, and thought that my Creator may be indifferent to my aquatic activities.  But as I had that thought I heard the wind moving through a hundred treetops like the voice of God declaring that not even the thought of a man on a boat in a largely unknown river in Middle Tennessee goes unnoticed by him even though he doubtless has other interests.

As it happened, the river was clear as far as I was able to paddle.  The current was constant and swift enough in places that I was happy I’d read books by canoe guys explaining hydraulics (I think is the word) and why it’s better to paddle upstream in zig-zag patter and how to use eddies to make better progress and to rest.  A lot of people think of longer kayaks with no rocker as useless for paddling rivers, but I think they are mistaken.  My Pouch E-68 is 16.5’ in length and did just fine.  I wouldn’t have made much progress at all in a stubby rec-boat or the average, short wooden-shoe-looking kayak designed for river or creek paddling.  In places the current was not too strong at all, and in others I had great difficulty making headway.  By the time I reached Patterson Ford Bridge, I was tired.  The river there was narrow and water moving very quickly downstream had a gnarled, ropey-looking uneven surface.  Possibly what is meant by ‘swiftwater.’


I wished I’d had a laundry marking pen or a can of spray-paint to make my mark upon one of the generally unseen concrete pylons that support the bridge as a means of proving that I’d reached that point in my journey.  This because I’d forgotten the camera.  I settled instead for picking a sprig of purplish wildflowers growing on a muddy bank near where I’d dragged Campsis Radicans out of the water.  They were a bit wilted by the time I gave them to my wife, but still pretty.

Paddling back downstream was easy until God sent pollen from those hundred trees and a thousand others to humble me.  Still, I was grateful for a hyperactive immune system and the fact that germs, pollen, and sundry bits of crud don’t stand a chance against the biology with which God endowed me.  Clearly, I have failed to learn the lessons of humility.  Paddling a wood-framed kayak with wooden paddle at cross-ways is the most Christlike I will ever be, but in my pride and the pleasure I took and generally take in the roughly cruciform activity, I fall far short in Good Friday remembrance. 

Michael Willis on Facebook today (Saturday) wrote that today we commemorate probably the most frightening and disorienting day in history – the day after the Christ suffered unparalleled humiliation and total failure achieve this-worldly aim of restoring the nation of Israel to rule by YHWH through judges and to change the governance of the inhabited world by instituting the governance of God in Israel and through Israel the nations.  Sunday will be here before you know it; the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ changed the world and instituted the governance of God in ways that continue to defy the expectations of his elect.


Teachers and Communists

NOTE: I started writing this before Japan was struck by earthquake and much of its coastline inundated by tsunami resulting in a human and technological crisis unlike any we have seen.  In addition, since I began writing this, the Wisconsin legislature and Wisconsin’s governor have succeeded in their attempt to curtail union power in their state.  I’ve left this post half-written for weeks, now.  I’ll give a quick read-over and maybe add a couple of thoughts before publishing it, knowing it isn’t one of my best efforts, but knowing also that the subject matter merits even inadequate treatment.


My wife works as a public school teacher.  It is the only remunerative employment she has ever held, except for part-time work in high school and college.  The formulae applied as a result of the disastrous “No Child Left Behind” legislation and now the equally absurd federal (I think it is) scheme of “Race to the Top” indicate some schools are lagging because, already at or near the top, test scores do not indicate much in the way of gains.  It is additionally absurd to expect any amount of competent classroom instruction by highly qualified teachers to offset the effects of bad parenting, absent parenting, or organic intellectual/developmental disabilities that in many instances (except in cases of birth defects attributable to the actions taken by the parent or parents) have nothing to do with quality of parenting.

Diatribe, Rant, or Something

Lately, conservative talk-radio hosts and people who strongly agree with their talking points have been at odds with socialists, advocates of government social-engineering through compulsory education in the public school system, and educators over something referred to by political conservatives as “collective bargaining.”  From what I’ve been able to gather by reading interactive discussions, listening to talk-radio, and talking with conservatives is that there is no place in a free-market economy for collective bargaining, and that this is especially true regarding government workers among whose number they count public school teachers.

The crux of the matter is, according to a friend I respect and like, that government workers, among them teachers, waive their rights to associate with one another to lobby or bargain for their mutual interests.  I disagree with that assumption.  Perhaps it is or should be true of elected officials but arguably not for those who exchange their time and expertise for salaries and other benefits.  No one would seriously argue that teachers and most other government workers are recipients of unearned taxpayer funded benefits like, say, the average welfare recipient.

I think all workers bring something to the market in the form of time and varying degrees of expertise or competence.  It is self-evidently absurd to suppose an economy that only factors “manufacturer”-as-employer over and against consumer of goods and/or services.  In a truly free market, of course, all education would be privately funded or purchased by parents, tech-school, and college/university students.  Education would unavailable to those unable to pay for it unless provided as a matter of voluntary charity by groups of citizens that would doubtless include religious groups.  In that world, no one would seriously argue that teachers should be denied the right to associate by forming unions to lobby for their interests or attempt to leverage better pay and working conditions.  Well, the people who seriously argue that employees have no citizen-rights in the workplace would keep making that argument.

In our society, all citizens are free to associate with one another informally or formally for reasons that may include carrying out non-criminal aims shared among members of the group.  I understand that in some states worker citizen freedom of association is curtailed by the requirement that, in order to maintain various sorts of employment, the citizen must associate with a particular group/union.  For instance, when I was a kid growing up in California, it was a matter of common knowledge that in order to work as a supermarket cashier, the worker was required to join something I think was called the Retail Clerks Union.  If you wanted to work on the docks, you had to join the Longshoreman’s Union.  Are some union contracts or terms thereof absurd and do they, to use a hackneyed expression, fly in the face of fiscal reality and responsibility?  You bet.

But what I’m wondering is why the employer does not negotiate a better, more realistic contract?  Right to work legislation, I would guess, should address on a state by state basis, the closed-shop problem that gives unions more negotiating leverage than seems reasonable in a free society.

If the fight were about relegating unions representing exclusively the interests of recipients of unearned taxpayer funded benefits (basically, the Democrat party and the mainstream GOP) of the ability to impose their will on the taxpayer, I would be all for it.  But teachers and government workers, er, work, for pay and benefits that very frequently don’t begin to compensate them adequately for effort expended.  Sure, “nobody’s forcing” anyone to serve as a public school teacher or a government employee, but is that a serious argument in an economy in a free fall that can be traced to the greatest twin horrors visited upon the American wage earner, NAFTA and temporary employment agencies?  Seriously, people who have jobs are holding on to them.

Everyone with the cognitive horsepower of, um, a horse knows that job security is ultimately an illusion.  Everyone with about that much sense knows that times of feast will not last, and are punctuated by times of famine, to put the matter in biblical terms.