Time and Money

Chicago winters are hell on your shoes. Aside from protecting them with those rubber shoe protectors, you can either 1) shine them yourself 2) go to a shoe shine stand. Since my poor shine technique leaves them not much better off than being dirty, I usually try to rely on a shoe shine stand.

The problem is that it takes about 20 minutes or so of standing in line and then getting your shoes done to do this right. And I usually don’t have 20 minutes when I am thinking about my shoes and I happen to be somewhere where a shine is available. As a result, I am stuck with a few pairs of forlorn and nasty shoes in the closet.

Thus I had a brainstorm recently and decided to just take my shoes to my dry cleaner, since they can also send them off for a shoe shine. “Just a shine?” my dry cleaner asked in her Korean accent… she seemed a bit confused. Yes indeed, just a shine.

Since then I’ve taken in all my shoes and given them a new lease on life. I am certain that this seems like a big waste of money (it is $7) but that is not far from the price of a shine plus tip and this takes no extra time at all.

But what is time really worth? I talked about this to a friend of mine in the investment world who refinanced his house and spoke of the endless rounds of re-submitting the same or slightly different documents over and over again and answering (virtually the same) questions until it hurt. Did he even “break even” on the re-financing after this was all taken into account? If your job is by the clock / corporate your off hours aren’t worth much; but if your job involves planning and marketing yourself or thinking of new ideas / research in fact those hours can be quite valuable.

I think that a shoe shine at $7 with a time commitment of zero is a good deal, for me at least. What’s your time worth?

Cross posted at LITGM

14 thoughts on “Time and Money”

  1. You should learn to do them yourself while you are watching TV or whatever. It really is pretty easy. Then again, $7 seems reasonable to have them done. I do mine myself, but then again I wear nice shoes about ten days a year tops.

    As far as what is my time worth, that number has gone up exponentially as I have aged. I would rather pay someone to take care of my lawn so I can have free time to ride my bike for example. Hard to put a number on it though.

  2. When I was in Korea, there was an elderly Korean shoe-shine guy – the boot-odishi – who used to come to the AFKN building twice a week to do everyone’s military boots. Just about everyone had two pair of boots; the one they were wearing that day, and the alternate pair, that the boot-odishi would take away thirty or forty pairs of military boots to a little room in the barracks-building next to the main AFKN building, and spend the morning putting a good shine on them all.

    He had been doing this for decades – he even had the combination to the back door! When he was done for the day, he would return everyone’s boots – and he always returned them to the right person! This was always something of a mystery to us, how he would get each pair back to the right owner – even if many of the boots were all the same size and in the same condition. How could he tell?

    I told my father about this. Dad had done a tour in Korea, and his unit had a boot-odishi too. The odishi always got the boots back to the proper owner. Dad said to look for a tiny mark on the sole – that was how their odishi kept track. I couldn’t find any such mark on my boots, though, so it remained a mystery.

  3. I never heard the dry-cleaners provide shoeshine on demand! Maybe not in NY…ah, this city is so uncivilized.

    Carl, most certainly your time worth the $7 a pair shoeshine. I hope you don’t attempt to dry-clean your suits or re-tile your bathroom or fix transmission on your car; if you have no problem with delegating all these maintenance activities to specialists so you could be productive with your time why shoes in particular put you in doubt?

  4. $7 is a bargain. You get your shoes taken care of without spending time and you bring them to the cleaner only when it’s convenient for you.

    It’s not only, or mainly, the time cost that makes doing it yourself a problem. It’s the interruption of productive time. If you’re on what Paul Graham called a maker’s schedule, interruptions and errands can be very costly because they break the focus that you need to be productive. People who don’t work this way don’t always understand this.

  5. How about: Wear sneakers or waterproof hiking boots to and from work. Keep your shoes under your desk along with shoe polishing gear. No more salt damage.

  6. @Dearieme:

    Have you no children who can be told to do it? Indeed!

    I’ve been shining my shoes since childhood and fine habit to instill in a child teaches teaches care of belongings and valuing the work of others. Doesn’t take very long if one is properly set-up with quality brushes, cloths, polishes and potions. This is an excellent easy product that my cobbler recommended http://www.amazon.com/Meltonian-Purpose-Shoe-Cleaner-Conditioner/dp/B0000C11OW “Cheap, Quick & Easy”

    Good work is never a “waste of time” – polishing shoes does not occupy the mind from other matters; indeed it often frees it. Remember St. Benedict’s RuleOra et Labora

    @ Robert Schwartz re salt stains:

    A product that work well:

    Or a method: http://www.ehow.com/way_5406405_salt-stain-removal-shoes.html

    Best to wear easily portable overshoes to protect.

  7. Johnston and Murphy has an Instant Shine Sponge that works wonders in just a few minutes. It’s great for the office. All you need is the sponge, no cloth or shoe shine cream. Works really well between real sho shines.

  8. @Jeff the BobCat

    FWIW The shine sponges are convenient “on the run”, but a superficial treatment that doesn’t nourish or protect leather.

  9. “Best to wear easily portable overshoes to protect.”

    Very hard come by, if your shoes are bigger than US men’s 12.

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