ECCO Shoes, Transaction Costs, Reputational Norms, the Limits of the Legal System, and Internet Disintermediation

On October 15, 2007, at the recommendation of my wife, I bought a pair of ECCO shoes at what, for me, was an ungodly amount to pay for a pair of shoes. The reason for the investment is that we live in a city now, and I do a lot more walking. (For comparative purposes, I buy all of my shirts from Lands’ End, and my pants are whatever Dockers – pants for the bigger butted man, as my daughter Arielle and Dave Barry say – are on the table at Costco. So buying shoes at a chi-chi store on Newbury Street was an unnatural act.)

About six weeks later, I happened to notice that the heel had worn through. I wear these shoes a fair amount, but it didn’t seem to me that a pair of shoes at this ungodly price should wear through in six weeks. You can’t just take shoes back to the ECCO store, however. You have to order a prepaid bag from customer service, and send the shoes away to an outsourced “warranty service,” which makes a unilateral judgment whether ECCO will do something about the problem. I duly packed them up and send them away.

The warranty service received them yesterday, and the following is now posted online under my repair ticket: “WEAR IS NOT A DEFECT NORMAL WEAR NO DEFECT.”

From time to time, I teach contracts! I think there’s at least a fact issue whether a sole wearing through in six weeks of relatively normal wear on a pair of $190 shoes constitutes a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under Section 2-314 of the U.C.C. I channeled Ronald Coase a few minutes ago, and he told me that in the absence of transaction costs, clear default rules, and freedom of contract, the initial allocation of legal rights as between ECCO and me would be irrelevant to an efficient outcome. And when I channeled Frank Easterbrook, he referred me to Hill v. Gateway 2000, and told me I was bound by a warranty disclaimer that was available on the ECCO website if I had read the sales slip and clicked my way through to find it before I wore the shoes.

I am not finding either of those results particularly satisfying at this minute. But wait! I also channeled Lisa Bernstein who has studied diamond brokers in New York City, and they don’t rely on formal law. Do a deal, say “mazel v’broche” (luck and blessing), and reputational norms will do the rest. Hmm. I wonder what that means, if anything, in a world of internet information disintermediation. I’m kind of a “you pays your money and you takes your chances” on this kind of stuff anyway. Personally, that’s the last pair of ECCO shoes for me. But you can make your own decision.

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22 Responses

  1. I bought a pair of ECCO boots several years ago, and had them nicely broken in but still in great condition when the soles were worn down. I tried to take them to get re-soled, but apparently most modern shoes are not manufactured in a way that allows them to be re-soled. You’ll have to look long and hard to find shoes that are compatible with environmentally-friendly reuse. So I won’t buy ECCO again either, but for a different reason. Sorry, I couldn’t channel any cases that would have helped this situation.

  2. Nat says:

    Try posting/email The Consumerist ( : wide distribution & I think they’ve had a pretty good success rate at helping consumers with such issues.

  3. David Meyers says:

    If there was a short interval between purchase a your warranty claim you may have a good claim here. Take this to small-claims and disclaimer or not you can’t lose. Be sure to name both the retailer AND ECCO. The retailer is not going to be too happy and certainly doesn’t want to go to sc court. There is case law and there is small-claims court. They are not the same.

    Despite the small amount the issue makes ME angry. It would be an interesting exercise for you if you have the time.

  4. One quick counter point on the evolution of brands (and companies): I bought a pair of Ecco shoes (from a shop on Charles Street, as a matter of fact) about 12 years ago. Still have ’em, still love ’em, and many pairs of shoes have come and gone during their “useful lives.” Jeff’s experience is much like my own with recent shoe purchases, though. . . .

  5. Bill says:

    I’m surprised that ecco didn’t just replace ’em. I have 2 pairs of eccos–one is 3 years old, the other is 7 years old, and the soles in both show no signs of quitting.

  6. John Schinina says:

    On September 2007 I both a pair of ECCO sandals at the Nostrom store in the international mall in Tampa, Florida. My experience has not been great. The construction and quality is very poor. I have repaired the straping a number of times and the material the sole is made of, marks my flooring when wet. I expected better, since the price for the sandals were not cheap. I have many different brands of sandals that I still wear and have never repaired. Sorry, John Schinina

  7. Richard Ahern says:

    I recently joined the ranks of the ECCO-amazed as I watched the heels on a pair of black dress shoes disintegrate in a single day. On taking them back to my shoe dealer (Richey Shoes in McClain, VA),I stood in line as the customer in front of me told the salesman that the soles on a pair of hers had just done the same thing. The salesman observed that it was an issue with most of the ECCOs he sold and produced from the back room prepaid bags that ECCO apparently provided to send the shoes out for “possible repair.” When we asked why he continued to sell a product when he knew this was a problem, he simply shrugged and smiled. We left the store amazed; and ECCO and Richey’s lost two more customers.

  8. Fredericka says:

    I have (or, “had”) a pair of Shakers. They were not worn much, and they were very well cared for. The soles showed zero sign of wear. The tread was fully intact. I had looked at them top and bottom no longer than one month ago. One day I wore them and noticed something flapping suddenly. I picked up my foot and discovered a whole chunk of the sole was missing. I looked at the other sole, and a chunk (a large chunk!) was missing there, too. These soles did not “wear out,” they disintegrated – suddenly. The shoes went to Nu-Shoes and came back: “out of warranty” and “new soles will not bond to the shoe.” They sent me a $25 voucher/discount thing for my next purchase of Eccos!!!! Ha ha ha!!! I have now called Ecco back at 800-886-3226. They suggested I send the shoes to them at 16 Delta Drive, Londonderry, New Hampshire 03053 – after they gave me an RMA number. They would not pay for shipping. The woman I spoke to said that $25 was their standard compensation for a shoe out of warranty. This shoe should have easily lasted 10 years. The horrible thing is, these are the most comfortable & perfect-fitting shoes I’ve ever owned. They had about 2 years’ worth of wearing, tops! Next I’m going to talk to a higher-up. I got her voice mail, and she sounds tense and harried … no wonder. I want to know what’s really going on. Are they still making shoes with this defect or not? If they’re not, and if they’ll refund the full purchase price, I MAY buy another pair eventually, although the fit and materials seem to have cheapened since a bought this pair. A friend who bought his last April is having the same trouble, so it’s NOT because mine were older.

  9. Ecco Homo says:

    I owned several pairs of Eccos, dress and casual (Cross). The soles on a couple pairs disintegrated, even when I hadn’t worn them for several months. I thought it was my bad luck so I bought new pairs of the same line. Seeing the same problem again, with other shoes this time, I took two of the pairs to Nordstrom’s, where I bought them. The sales person there told me that Ecco shoes have a problem wherein the latex (or is it the polyurethane?) in the sole disintegrates even when the shoe is sitting on the shelf; they sent it in to Ecco and after speaking to them a couple times, they are sending me replacements.

    My question is: are the replacements (i.e., new shoes/models) any better than the old ones? Are they as likely as the old to disintegrate even while just sitting on the shelf? Has Ecco fixed the quality problem or am I going to have to confront this issue once again in the next several months? What has been your experience?

    Ecco the company simply has lost all credibility with me.

  10. Brandis McLaughlin says:

    Seeing as how Ecco prides itself on being “environmentally friendly,” there may be method in the madness: After a certain amount of time, the synthetic components in the shoes break down and decompose, returning to the earth rather than clogging up landfills. You’ve unfortunately experienced a premature initiation of the biodegradable failsafe! 😉

    Or not.

    But seriously – for Ecco to get into a contract/warranty argument with you over a pair of shoes that probably didn’t cost that much for Ecco to manufacture in the first place, that’s just not good business. There’s a point where bean-counting and legal maneuvering start to cost more than they save with respect to continued sales and customer goodwill. I think that’s what your friend meant by “reputational norms.”

  11. rc says:

    Several years ago I bought a pair of ECCO shoes on the recommendation of a friend. They were well made and comfortable and fairly expensive, around $125. Since I have many pairs of shoes I do not wear the same pair very often. After about 2 years the soles of my like new ECCO shoes began to come apart in large chunks. I contacted them and sent them in for inspection and a few weeks later they told me to order a new pair of shoes free of charge.
    Well that pair is now about 3 years old and worn very little, and AGAIN the soles started breaking apart. This time when I sent them in for inspection I was told that they were ” out of warranty” and would not be replaced! I will be buying many more shoes for myself and my family in the coming years but rest assured that they will not be ECCOs!!
    P.S. I have many pairs of shoes that are much older and a lot less expensive than the ECCOs in question and not one of them are coming apart! SCREW ECCO.

  12. M. Rosenbaum says:

    many years ago i bought two pairs of ecco shoes on sale. i didnt wear them for months. when i did i found the soles to become “mushy” and pieces to stick to the floor. Imagine walking in shoes that keep sticking to the floor and sidewalk. I reported this to ecco. they told me to go to a shoe store and find something of theirs to replace them. I found a pair of $200+ hiking boots. the soles had a thin yello skin on them that wore out on the second hike. the rest of the soles crombled within a dozen hikes. I wrote to ecco and they said they wouldnt do any more about this. I called the better business bureau and they said that the company is based in denmark and so they are out of the bbb terrain. I have tried to find someone to help me with this but no goverment agency responds. If you look up ecco on the web you find a lot of entries for them. they are cleaning up!!!. this is an outrage. they keep making money and ripping people off. I still have the boots and a few pairs of shoes I bought in thrift shopps-all with the same problem.I hope someone can expose this company.

  13. m. Rosenbaum says:

    here I am again. I have the pair of boots mentioned above and about three pairs of shoes which i bought in thrift shops. I fantasized that someone would read my notes above and say” I’m taking them to court let me have the footwear for evidence.” but that didnt happen.
    311 was no help. Cuomo’s office doesn’t do referrels. Ill try DeBlasios office. If noone helps me Ill throw them out.
    I bought the first two pairs of shoes about 15-20 years ago!! They have been ripping people off this long!!!

  14. Mark Horridge says:

    Just Google
    ecco soles fall apart

    to learn more about this cynical and unscrupulous company

  15. karim omar says:

    I have a serious problem with ecco shoe 2 in 2 men , i went to ecco branded shop few days i got it , but they did not solve the problem however the shoe wounds some of the toes .

    any idea about escalation putting in consideration that i sent twice emails in their Customer service with no reply ,

    i will send soon the full story .

    any ideas ?


  16. Tom W says:

    I had the same problem with my Ecco shoes. I bought them several years ago but wore them only infrequently and for dress occasions. The tops are excellent, but the soles and heels are absolute junk. I considered complaining to the company to try to get redress but after reading the blogs about how difficult it was I decided to not go this route but just add to the long list of complainers. I do not understand why Ecco and the companies who carry the shoes are apparently not doing much of anything to resolve the problem and give an iota of satisfaction to the buyer. Again, the shoes are stinkers, won’t last, heels and soles will fall apart with only minimal wear, impossible to have traditional repair (shoe Shop), and no help from company or sellers.

  17. Paula says:

    Upon noticeing black rubber flakes on floor,I removed my Black Ecco sandels. What the..The soles near the heel had completly split all the way up to the top. On both shoes.The flakes were the insides of the shoe sole. Yes they were about 4 years old.I wore them about 20 times.Never had a shoe do this even cheap ones. I first thought the kids had been playing with them and had broke them. Now I know its a problem. Have sent them a Email with photos of the shoes. Will see what they say.

  18. Joyce says:

    I bought a pair of ECCO shakers a week ago and wore them to work today for the FIRST time. As I was walking back from the coffee area, I noticed something flapping on my shoe. I immediately thought my Newfoundland puppy chewed my shoe even though I had them in my closet. I turned both shoes over and discovered the soles are coming apart in huge chunks. I am so disappointed since they are extremely comfortable. I purchased many ECCO shoes over the years and never had a problem.

  19. Cathy says:

    I bought a pair of Ecco sandals (not Cosmo) about 4 years ago and have worn them infrequently (perhaps 20 wearings total). I put them on this morning for the first time since last summer and both heels disintegrated after about an hour’s wear. There are bits of disintegrating black rubber all other the office rug. I’m wearing the sandals right now with the heels attached with duct tape until I can get home and toss them.

    I’ve been a big fan of Eccos over the years, but after the cancellation of my favorite style (Cosmo) and this wardrobe malfunction, I don’t think I’ll be buying any more.

  20. Ross says:

    My husband and I have had 3 pair of Ecco shoes disintegrate! When the 3rd one disintegrated, I complained and was sent a bag to send my shoes in for review. They held them for 2 months and I finally emailed to see what happened. They said they were too old and no longer under warranty but they would send a 50% off coupon for shoes on their website. I received it yesterday and found I have only 2 weeks to use it. there were no shoes on the website available that I liked in my size. I can’t believe a company is so irresponsible!

  21. Paul Young says:

    Returned dress shoes after 2.5+ years of constant wear due to cosmetic piece between sole and upper becoming loose. Sole and upper in great shape. Received a credit card for full $ amount. Great shoes, very good warranty.

  22. Richard Lee says:

    I have two pairs of Ecco shoes, one pair bought six years ago and one pair bought last year. The older ones I have worn daily,and just now the soles are beginning to break down at the heels. The newer ones show a little wear, but to me the wear looks normal.

    The shoes are very comfortable, and I was thinking of buying another pair, rationalizing that they are worth the cost, based on the use I have obtained from the first pair. Now, after reading about the problems of others, I plan to look at other shoes first.