We were recently reminded of the value of good old-fashioned in-store service when gearing up for the great outdoors at Paddy Pallin in Sydney. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
The first time we went overseas – it seems like an eternity ago – we went on a six-week backpacking trip around Mexico. In those days, six weeks was an eternity for a holiday. A week or so before we left Australia we hit Kent Street in Sydney’s CBD, then home to a handful of adventure and outdoor shops, including Paddy Pallin. Now the road seems to be lined with the things!
Our main priority was buying a good quality backpack and out of all the shops we went to we most vividly remember the staff at Paddy Pallin, where we would eventually buy most of our gear. They asked us loads of questions about how we were travelling (plane, train, bus, etc), the style of travelling we did (hostels or hotels), how long we were travelling for, where we were going, and how much we were taking, even down to how many pairs of shoes.
Those backpacks we bought from Paddy Pallin lasted us many years and we always appreciated the fact that, based on their advice, we bought backpacks that were carry-on size rather than the huge ones you see people lugging around like pack mules, and that the straps could be tugged in and zipped away to create a smarter looking bag that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to take into a boutique hotel.
Not only did we never have to worry about our bags not coming around on the carousel, the carry-on size made us think about every single item that went into our packs when we travelled. Buying those bags was a great decision, based on great advice.
About five years ago when we were back in Australia for a four month-long trip researching guidebooks in the Outback, we returned to Paddy Pallin to get our wet weather gear, lightweight hiking pants and tops, and good, sturdy hiking boots. That gear has not only protected us in some of the most challenging conditions in Australia, but we’ve tested it out on hill tribe village treks in Thailand, wildlife safaris in Kenya, and exploring the deserts of Jordan.
Recently, we had an invitation to do a trip to Malaysian Borneo for a magazine commission that was simply too good to refuse. But our outdoor clothes and favourite hiking boots were in another bag in another state (a long story we won’t bore you with), and there wasn’t enough time to get hold of it. As a last resort, we went to Paddy Pallin for assistance.
To our immense relief, they kindly offered to outfit us with the gear we needed to get us through the trip: good walking shoes, waterproof jackets, and outdoor shirt and trousers.
We had thought about purchasing some gear online, but we’ve never really liked the idea of buying without trying — even when I buy a new camera bag I have to see it first – and I like to buy from people who care about what they do and are enthusiastic about helping you out.
We also needed to shop fast and shop smart – there was no time to return something if we got it home to find out it didn’t fit properly after all. Just like all those years ago when, armed with our first freshly-issued passports, we went to Paddy Pallin for our first backpacks, the staff quickly honed in on what we needed.
We loved our North Face and Colombia hiking boots but this time we went for something more low-cut, both settling on Salomon Exit 2 Peak shoes. The tricky bit was sizing and as we spend a lot of time in various countries with varying shoe sizes and standards, we weren’t sure what size we were in Australia, so the Paddy Pallin staff gave us a quick fitting.
We love the little ramp they have in the shop so you can check heel lift – one of the quickest ways to get blisters. We were also glad we spent time trying 1/2 sizes and finding a good balance between how thick our socks would be and the 1/2 sizes that the shoes come in.
If you intend doing lots of travelling and hiking and are only taking a couple of pairs of shoes (like we do), it’s so important to get the fit right as the last thing you want to do is have to abandon a pair of shoes because they never ever really felt comfortable.
It may be easier to shop online from home and you might find slightly cheaper prices if you shop around. However, in our opinion, if you’re gearing up for the great outdoors, nothing beats a good old-fashioned in-store consultation with experts like Paddy Pallin who know your needs and spend time helping you to try the gear out to find something that’s just right.
We see these sorts of purchases as long-term investments. Whether it’s a backpack or hiking boots, you’re buying gear that’s going to last you virtually forever. A wrong decision can make travelling far less enjoyable. And nobody wants that, do we?
Paddy Pallin provided us with some wonderful outdoor gear for our Borneo trip. They did not sponsor this post and the views above are our own, as usual.
Sandy O'Sullivan says
Sadly I had the opposite thing happen at Paddy Pallins a few years ago in Brissie. I rocked up there to get some gear and the guy couldn’t have talked me out of buying stuff more. He basically said, f-off, you’re too fat to backpack and they don’t make backpacks for women… which of course isn’t true and they had some in stock at PP at the time. I showed him them (had been looking around for an hour before he decided to walk over and try to make me leave, I mean serve me) and he looked as though I’d sneaked in the stock. Apart from being good for a story or six, I do have it to thank for me basically always going to Kathmandu now. The problems with Kathmandu are that most of their stuff is THEIR stuff, which is okay if that’s what you’re after… and my 75 year old mother is a die-hard Kathmandu-er with most of her clothes and gear coming from there. But I do confess I had a great time with the array of these sorts of shops in Covent Garden last time I was in London. I even (don’t make fun of me) went into Cotswolds and got some lovely walking shoes that are now the only thing I wear. Ever. I think I’ve found a life partner (except I also went in last year and got another pair)… a German brand that I just love and means I don’t fall over in snow. I so agree with you on the buying without trying stuff. I can’t do it for fitted stuff, and just don’t do it for anything other than absolute brand-known clothes. The Meindl boots I live in are a good example, I love them but they have only another year in them and the cut has changed on them, so the next lot I’ll still have to try to check. It’s just horrible having less than perfectly fitting shoes eh?
Having said that about Paddy Pallins, I’m glad that they’re the go elsewhere… I have fond memories of them being one of the only places like that connected to Town Hall station.
I would firstly like to thank you for taking the time to comment on your experiences with Paddy Pallin, and for drawing our attention to what must have been a very negative experience for you.
Though before my time, as the new manager of Paddy Pallin Fortitude Valley, I would like to sincerely apologise for this dreadful display of customer service and the negative memories it has left you with. I also sincerely hope and trust that the staff member in question is no longer with our store, if this was their normal approach to customer service.
As new store manager I have very high expectations of friendly, honest and professional customer service by my staff. I can also say with confidence that our current team members value the same principles and I would be very eager to receive feedback should they fail to meet your expectations in this regard.
I fully realise that no apology I may offer could change this past experience for you. However, I would like to invite you to come and experience our new store for yourself. I would also invite you to make yourself known to me when you come in, so I may offer you the best personal service and value on our fantastic range of outdoor equipment.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me directly should you wish to provide me with any further details of the incident. Paddy Pallin is committed to providing, not only the world’s leading brands, but also exceptional customer service. We therefore value your feedback and take every step possible to ensure constant improvement of service.
Completely agree about getting in-store service for these types of purchases. When I bought my backpack I went to Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis and was feeling very overwhelmed by all the choices. The staff was incredibly helpful and that bag has lasted me ten years. It’s faded in parts but no tears and I still love the functionality aspects of it that they sold me on years ago. When it finally does fall apart I’ll be so sad to have to get another. Although, maybe if I go Paddy Pallin to do it, I won’t be quite as sad. ;)
Lara Dunston says
We hear you! And look, there are definitely plenty of things that can be bought online these days. But we think outdoor gear, especially if you’re going to spend a long time in the stuff and especially gear that can cause discomfort if it’s ill-fitted, like hiking boots or a backpack, really should be bought in-store where it can be properly fitted and tested. Do check out Paddy Pallin and let us know what you think. As you can see from Sandy’s comment, she didn’t have a great experience, but it was wonderful to see Paddy Pallin respond to her complaint and invite her back in the store. Thanks for dropping by!
Lara Dunston says
Hugo, thanks for taking the time out to visit us and reply to our reader. It’s greatly appreciated. I hope Sandy takes up your offer to go and test out your service again.
Lara Dunston says
Sandy, I hope you go and visit Paddy Pallins again in Brisbane and get in touch with Hugo. Do let us know how your next experience is, won’t you? Fingers crossed it’s better than the first!