I launched OddShoeFinder.com in 2007 after becoming aware of the millions of people around the world who must buy two pairs of shoes at a time or one shoe because of severely mismatched feet, an amputation or an injury. I envisioned users selling pairs of mismatched and unused shoes stuck in their closets to those with similar problems, but complementary shoe sizes. After six months, fewer than 150 single shoes and pairs of shoes were posted, leaving me discouraged about the future of the site.
I received an unexpected e-mail through the Web site a few weeks ago offering to sell me thousands of new, name brand mismatched shoes at one dollar each. I felt this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to populate the site, make matches with users more likely and keep thousands of shoes out of landfills.
Around the same time that those shoes were being delivered I received another e-mail from someone else offering to sell me thousands of new, name brand mismatched shoes to me for ten cents each (if they shipped them) and free if I could pick them up. I realized that this was a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity that just happened to come within weeks of the first of the offer.
Before I had a chance to make shipping arrangements for the second batch of shoes, I received yet another e-mail through the site from a shoe manufacturer asking if I was interested in taking 3,000 shoes off their hands. It was becoming clear to me that new, mismatched shoes are an extremely common problem in stores that sell shoes – especially self-service stores and thousands of these shoes are being thrown away each year.
How do stores end up with so many mismatched shoes? Sometimes, people open more than one pair of shoes to try them on and unintentionally put one of the shoes of each pair in the wrong box. Some of those people come back to the store when they realize their mistake but others do not. Perhaps more common is people with mismatched feet intentionally switching out shoes to get one in each of their sizes, leaving a pair of mismatched shoes the store cannot sell.
With most chain stores, the mismatched shoes are sent to a central location. In some cases the chain itself sorts through the shoes and makes as many matches as possible to return to their stores and take whatever they can get for the shoes that cannot be matched. In other cases, the chain just sells the entire batch of shoes to salvage companies, who sort through the shoes to find matches to sell at discount stores.
Mismatched shoes are worth very little to shoe stores, but are potentially worth a lot to those who normally have to buy two pairs of shoes at a time. Until now there has not been an efficient way to match the shoes with those who need them.
OddShoeFinder.com is the first searchable Web site that matches otherwise unwanted shoes that would normally end up in a landfill with those who can use them. It offers business opportunities to some and low-priced shoes to millions. While it was launched for people with mismatched feet, there is no reason for users not to post their matched pairs of shoes. It costs nothing to post shoes on the site, and there are no commissions.
OddShoeFinder.com started as a very simple site. People registered with the site and posted their shoes and others clicked on “buy this shoe,” triggering an e-mail to the seller including the shipping address and contact information of the buyer. Buyers and sellers decide pricing and shipping and payment methods. Users are encouraged to give feedback on the site and enhancements have been developed based on their input.
Some users complained of the inability of to communicate with each other prior to a sale, so a messaging system was added. If they decide to complete the sale then we recommend they use the “buy this shoe” button because it removes the shoe from the listings and helps the seller and Webmaster keep track of sales.
Realizing that many people may visit the site repeatedly to search for shoes in their size, only to find nothing new, we installed a feature that allows users to receive an e-mail each week to when someone posts shoes in their size(s).
A few users asked for a means of rating sellers and buyers such as those found on eBay and Amazon.com. While we have not reached that point yet, OddShoeFinder.com now has a forum where people can post information about their experiences – or anything else (in good taste, of course) they want to talk about. Many users of the site suffer or have suffered from similar health issues and we hope the forum provides a place for them to find each other for advice and comfort.
Our plan is to help the site reach critical mass by purchasing and posting mismatched new shoes so that everyone will have the opportunity to purchase an inexpensive pair or shoes, a mismatched pair or a single shoe in the perfect size.
(c) 2008, Odd Shoe Finder. Reprints welcomed so long as the article and by-line are not changed and all links are made live.