Before you read any further, if you don't want to hear a grown man gripe about kid's footwear, then this isn't for you. But if you're still curious, my family and I went to Billy Beez in Sangertown Square yesterday like we have many times before, but this time came with an added hurdle for grownups. Turns out that the company recently adopted a new policy that stated everyone (even adults supervising from the sidelines) needed to buy a pair of their brand socks at $3 a pair in order to use the facility. The funny thing is that if it was an extra dollar I probably wouldn't even be writing this. But I digress...

The previous store policy has always been that guests had to wear socks which makes sense from a sanitary standpoint, but here we were ready to pay the normal entrance fees with our socks in hand and were being told that suddenly we had to pay extra and that we couldn't come in if we didn't do so. Naturally, this caught us off guard so I immediately hopped on my phone to see if I could find an official announcement from the company, but couldn't find anything. Curious. I even called other stores and they confirmed that this was a brand new company-wide policy.

Upon pressing the associate (who was also the store manager) as to why this was happening, she said that kids were slipping and falling on the floor, so they made buying a pair of their socks mandatory because they had little non-slip pads on the bottom. So to clarify, a store builds a kid's play place on waxed floors, then requires socks on top, then are surprised when kids run, slip and fall and then says hey, you've gotta buy our non-slips now. Why not just upgrade the policy to allow ANY non-slip socks or even lay down those interlocking foam pieces on the floor instead after noticing the error? Seems fishy. There is a spot of good news though, you can reuse their socks on your next trip because who's gonna wear socks that make your feet look like bees normally, right? Don't answer that. There's more...

Photo: KJ

We decided to leave, but then ended up returning because this was the event of the day for us and the kid's hearts were pretty set on playing at 'Slide City'. Now, to add insult to injury, after paying I was informed that they were out of adult socks and was offered kid's socks instead. So, I did my best to fit my man feet into the last pair of youth larges, but then as I ventured further into the complex with my new yellow-and-black footwear, I observed half-a-dozen or so other guests that had somehow gained entry with their own socks. I asked them how they were allowed in and was told that they had run out of some sizes, so they were allowed to wear what they brought. Great. Imagine what this did to my already raised eyebrows. Either the store associates were lying to me or they were absolutely clueless. That's like a boat tour having a life jacket policy and then allowing guests on board anyway without them, just because they're paying.

Taking a step back, this does make for a rather comedic sight: Groups of parents (some of which could've probably bought the store had they wanted) throughout a kid's playground complaining to each other about having to pay an extra $15 in admission while their kids are zipping all over completely oblivious to the drama, enjoying their cool new Billy Beez socks. But, I think as adults we can tell when we're being herded and we were collectively calling BS on a company who knows they have us by the short hairs, forcing us to buy a product of theirs that I can't imagine was selling that well before two weeks ago. Now, we could've just taken our whining kids to PINZ or something like that and not paid a cent, but my guess is that's really not what Billy Beez wants.

Upon leaving and to her credit, the store manager did say that she called her DM to ship more properly sized socks and that I was welcome to trade mine in when I returned. Nice gesture, and if this policy sticks, I'll have to take her up on it, but that still doesn't alleviate the underlying issue.

This all comes down to positioning. What they should've done is reframed the whole thing simply by raising their admission slightly and just including a pair of 'complimentary' Billy Beez socks instead, counting on the fact that almost all of their customers are return traffic. Aka, they'll make bank. This helps the company accomplish their revenue and so-called safety goals and we don't have to feel like we're being railroaded. 'Free socks with admission' sends a whole different message than 'our socks or else'. And if you end up running out of your required safety gear (or the foresight to prevent that,) disallow admission on account of being at capacity or something. Or, how about this: don't enact poorly conceived policies in the first place and then enforce them inconsistently and expect smooth sailing.

Okay, #rantover