profile 10

Grapevine Hill

Another 5,000 pairs of shoes have arrived at Grapevine Hill’s warehouse in Danvers, Massachusetts. The company’s cofounder and vice president of technology, Mark Fitzgerald, is hoarse and still just a little tired from a late night at Fenway Park cheering his beloved Boston Red Sox. But there’s little time for revelry this morning; no one has a free moment to linger around the break room coffeepot daydreaming about what would eventually prove to be the end of the Curse of the Bambino.

That’s because back in the warehouse, there are thousands of pairs of Polo Ralph Lauren Collection shoes that must be sorted and inspected so they can be sold on eBay. And there are a scant seven people—the sum total of Grapevine Hill’s staff—to accomplish this task.

Every pair is pulled from its box and checked by an employee in the company’s receiving department. The inspection proceeds from the macro to the micro. Do the sizes match up? Are there a left and a right shoe in each box? Does what’s inside the box match what the box says? Is the style correct? What about the color? Just how do the shoes look? Is the color true and not faded? Is the stitching even? Is the leather scuffed at all? Are the uppers pulling away from the soles? Are the soles worn at all from being tried on dozens of times in a department store?

“They’re literally hand inspecting every pair,” Fitzgerald says, “which we have to do because this is such a high-ticket-priced item. The condition we got ...

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