Poor UX: Shoe Retail Checkout Process

Published: 06/24/2020 / Updated: 07/10/2021

Note from the Editor: This is an older post, but it felt like something that fit within the new format. It is not a full review, merely an observation of what I considered a poor user experience. Observations will be less detailed than a case study, so I will be able to post them more frequently. _W

Shoe retailers have a UX problem. A major UX problem. Instead of selling the exact number of shoes they have in stock, they create a virtual queue (first come, first serve) that allows several dozen (if not hundreds) of people to line up and wait to purchase a shoe even if they are sold out. I am assuming they do this because they know X% of people will dropoff during the final steps of purchase and missing out on a customer will lead to a decline of sales. It is better to sellout than hold onto dead stock, but the current process leads to frustration and a poor UX.

My First Jordan Experience

Nike was rereleasing the greatest Jordan Shoe of all-time, the Jordan XI (low cut) Concords. I had waited 20 years for a chance to buy them. I logged on rather late in the morning (I thought the shoes went on sale at 10 am), so I fired up my machine at 9. Hopped on twitter, scanned a few tweets - when it happened, images of people unboxing the new Jordan's were lighting up my stream! Quickly, I typed in footlocker.com to see a rather slow attempt at loading the site. In my mind, I was too late. The 20 year wait for the Jordan XI, would be extended.


At this point, I call my sister and ask her if she was able to purchase a pair. She didn't attempt to buy but informed me that I should keep trying to add the shoes to my cart. Apparently, shoe retailers will let a small amount of traffic trickle in (the virtual queue) and let them add the shoes to their carts at any given time (for arguments sake - 1000 people every 30 seconds). Knowing this and out of morbid curiosity, I kept slamming on the Add to Cart button and what do you know?! After 15 minutes of trying, the shoes were added to my cart. Nothing could take the excitement (or shoes) away from me. Nothing, except for this:


The wait is now 20 years and 40 minutes. At this point, I redial and ask my sister if this is normal. She proceeds to tell me that this is how all shoe stores sell high-demand shoes now. Trickle in traffic, let them add to cart and then have them wait in a queue of sorts (the virtual queue) to purchase until stock runs out. That's not all, though, she tells me there's a chance they will SELL OUT before the timer ends. My cart says I have the shoes I want, but really it says I am in line to buy the shoes... but I don't know how many will be sold, how many have sold and what number I am in line.

This entire practice of selling shoes is beyond awful. My biggest gripe is that it seems like these problems have been solved. Mondo sells posters within minutes and does not make me wait in line and they are not anywhere near the size of Foot Locker, Foot Action, etc.

Once you get to a point of paying, they make you wait in what seems to be a never-ending queue. Paying should be the easiest and least painful part of the experience.

Quick solutions

Show a meter of how many shoes are available per the sizes available. Users should not see a size, or should see a disabled size if it is not available. United Pixelworkers does it well:


Don't let users add shoes that are sold out or if the queue is larger than the inventory. You can prevent this by allowing everyone into the site at once. This may require more servers, load balancers and a bit of work. The goal is to give everyone a fair shot and not waste their time. If a user adds a shoe that's out of stock, let them know all shoes in that size are in carts, then encourage them to try again after a minute or two. This is what we mean by proactive from our Review Principals. Here we want to protect a user from wasting their time. Ticketmaster does this with tickets.

Don't let users wait 40 minutes for shoes they may or may not have in their cart. That is irresponsible and out of touch with consumer needs. This should not even be an option.


To wrap up, my order went through. However, two days later, I received a message that my shoes are on back order for at least 2 weeks. Four days later, I received another a note that my shoes were on their way to my home within 3 days.

The 20 year and 40-minute wait is over.


  1. I've always wanted to say that, but I am definitely not an editor. Hack writer at best.

  2. Yes, I realize the time is 21 mins in the screenshot, I took it after I realized I could write about this.

  3. Hey, it's the internet, do it right!

  4. If you do not want to implement the best system for a great customer experience, what's the point?

  5. I am not privy to why this was the chosen option, but I would guess inventory trackers are a bit slow when it comes to processing thousands of orders at one time]

  6. Another post?

PS: Nike is now piloting a lottery system. Progress!