words // Zac Dubasik

Have you ever seen one of those old cartoons, where there’s a bucket with a hole in it, and as soon as the main character puts his finger (or possibly a piece of gum) in it to stop the leaking, two more leaks sprout out? That is the exact image that came to mind when I read about Nike’s new “Access Code” system.

Nike’s latest move to help stop the bots has been met with skepticism to say the least. The fact that the announcement came with such vague terms couldn’t have helped. The first thing people obviously want to know is how to obtain such a code. Nike’s answer? “Nike Access Codes are given out to select customers, and codes are valid only for those customers.”

Well, that sure clears things up.

Aside from helping to build immediate conspiracy theories regarding who will get these codes, this adds one more step to an already cumbersome process that already involves third parties like Twitter. What happened to just being able to line up to buy a shoe that you really wanted? Now, you have to seemingly live life attached to the Internet to even have a chance to spend a lot of money on a shoe you want.

This is just the latest in a series of stop-gap moves that haven’t really fixed any of these problems. But from Twitter RSVPs to even making shoes available via Twitter link, the whole thing just seems unprofessional and non-user friendly, especially when we are talking about a company as big and powerful as Nike.

I understand that social media is a powerful tool, and has many applications. But using a third party such as Twitter to deliver access to products that so many people want feels like a reaction rather than an ideal consumer experience. What if people don’t have and/or want Twitter? Now you’re forcing them into an entire series of additional steps in order to even have a chance to spend money on what you’re telling them they want. Can you imagine if you bought your Nubuck 12s on MySpace back in the day? That’s the equivalent of what this has become.

I realize I shouldn’t criticize the access code system before it even begins, but the announcement was so vague, that it left fans with more questions than answers. But unless the process of the selection of consumers who will receive access codes is 100% transparent, then it will only create more resentment to a system where patience is already wearing thin. (Unless you have one of those access codes.)

There is no easy answer to these problems, but this is clearly a case of Nike wanting it both ways. They want to keep product exclusive enough that it stays “cool” on a marketing level, in order to keep demand high, yet they don’t want the problems inherent that very strategy, like bots and violence.

At a certain point though, is the whole process ruined for the consumer? If you’re reading this, you probably love sneakers the same way I do. But what I don’t love is knowing that having the “privilege” of spending my hard earned cash on a shoe is something I have to earn through Twitter RSVPs and access codes, and having to wait for Nike Store to tweet something. And maybe that’s the only thing that will ultimately change things. When enough consumers are fed up with the process, and increasing complexity, that they simply walk away from it, then maybe we’ll see an actual solution.