Team Another Lane lent its voice to a piece in the LA Times about the sneaker community, what its missing and how we are solving that problem
By RONALD D. WHITE |STAFF WRITER
Sneakerheads like to complain about the one that got away. About haunting sneaker apps and websites yet failing to win shoe-drop raffles or find what they want at semiaffordable prices. About how the system must be rigged by resellers using bots and inside connections.
Now, a scandal involving a Nike executive and her reseller son is roiling the sneaker world, highlighting worst suspicions about a booming market in which shoes can be traded like stocks. For serious sneaker collectors, this is more than a tempest in a shoebox.
“There’s a lot of fraud. There’s a lack of transparency,” said shoe aficionado Chad Jones, who last year founded reseller marketplace Another Lane with his wife, Adena. The duo wanted a place that honored Black consumers’ role in popularizing the sneakerhead culture while vetting seller legitimacy in addition to shoe authenticity.
The latest controversy sprang from a Bloomberg Businessweek profile of a 19-year-old Oregonian named Joe Hebert, who was clearing $20,000 or more a month flipping sneakers online.
The story, which appeared online Feb. 25, detailed how Hebert acquired sneakers using bots to make bids for him, including on Nike Inc’s SNKRS app where the company launches new products. The payments went through an American Express card held by his mother, Ann Hebert, Nike’s vice president and general manager of North American operations, overseeing sales, marketing and merchandising.
Nike initially said Hebert had disclosed her son’s business as required and had violated no company rules. Joe Hebert told Bloomberg that his mother wasn’t involved in his business and didn’t slip him discount codes.
But with questions swirling about insider information and technological shenanigans, Ann Hebert soon resigned after more than 25 years with the shoe giant.
Nike Chief Executive John Donahoe on March 8 assured employees during a videoconference that the company was taking the controversy seriously.
products,” Donahoe said, according to pop culture website Complex. “And the fact of the matter is, this incident has sparked questions in some of our consumers about whether they can trust us, particularly around launch product.”
This wasn’t the market’s first scandal, not even so far this year.
A February collaboration between Nike’s Air Jordan 1 and Trophy Room, a retailer owned by basketball great Michael Jordan’s son Marcus, had a particularly messy debut, with shoes showing up on social media before the official drop date. Sneakerheads screamed favoritism and profiteering. Marcus Jordan blamed leaks on the distribution center.
In recent years, sneakers have become an asset class like stocks, bonds and cryptocurrency, becoming a multibillon-dollar market worldwide. They trade on a variety of reseller platforms; the best known include StockX, GOAT, Flight Club and Stadium Goods.
The marketplaces like to promote their extensive authentication processes so that buyers know that the items they end up with are the real deal.
But such efforts don’t get at how the sellers acquired the shoes, and that’s what is stirring up sneaker fans who don’t think they’re getting a fair shot at buying newly released products.
“This makes me want to drop the shoe buying game,” a commenter posted on a YouTube interview featuring Joe Hebert in his new warehouse, surrounded by enough shoes to stock a few stores. Said another: “This man is the reason yall don’t hit on your kicks when you want them.”
Adena Jones, chief executive of Another Lane, said she and her husband raised $160,000 to launch the marketplace last April to restore some old-school sneakerhead culture where people, not bots, sell shoes to other people, not other bots.
Another Lane emphasizes investigating the people it allows to use the platform as much as authenticating the shoes that are sold on it.
“We vet our members. So you’re not just out there being anonymous. Your name is connected to the product,” said Adena Jones, 35. “And if you’re selling a fugazi product [fake or damaged], A, you probably wouldn’t make it onto our platform, or B, you would be kicked off our platform.”
Added Chad Jones, Another Lane’s 42-year-old chief operating officer, with a tinge of distain in his voice: “You know how you combat somebody who you think is getting too many pairs of sneakers and just in it to resell them for as much as possible? You don’t buy from him. It’s that simple. And then when he’s stuck with $100,000 worth of product and can’t pay that credit card bill back from mommy, then he’s out.”