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.