RE: [rootsradicals] power grips... my experience.
It sounds like you may have had an old or interim batch of Power-Grips. I just ordered three pairs of power grip pedals through Nashbar (one to replace my current Power-Grips when they completely go, another for when I get the Big Dummy, and another as an eventual spare for either of those bikes or my wife’s bike). All of the Power-Grip sets I have already come set up with a number of holes for a variation in position.
I mention the old or interim Power-Grips because at one point Power-Grips came without holes. In that design the plate, which normally runs the little through the strap holes into a nut, came as a threaded plate with just a little bolt against a textured thinner pad-plate. The idea with those was to simply forego the need of position holes and instead slide the straps where ever you wanted and tighten the bolt without having it go through the strap into a nut. Instead the little bolt would screw down and push the texture thinner plate onto the strap and the strap would then be sandwiched against a set back-plate.
Over the years I have seen both versions at different times. I also know I encountered the same type you did, which had no holes in the straps and only the bolt and nut configuration. Since I already had experience with Power-Grips I knew a hole in the strap was needed. I think I may have used a hammer and the awl-punch on my Leatherman multi-tool to make the hole.
Anyway, it is very possible some dealers/distributors had (and may even still have) the variations of the older or interim versions in their stock. I would imagine most dealers might not pay attention to the minor detail of how a Power-Grip strap is suppose to connect to the pedal-plate, unless a particular sales person you happen to be dealing with personally uses Power-Grips regularly.
I too do not use clipless cycling footwear. Well… I kind of do not. I have tried, but never liked, SPD type pedals… so I do not use them. However, I do tend to buy cycling-specific mountain-bike shoes, sneakers, and sandals as well. Those almost always come with the removal “hatch” beneath the ball of the foot, so you can screw in the SPD plate. Naturally I could simply use any of the other normal footwear I own, but I tend to prefer cycling-specific footwear. That is because I am partially flat-foot, so having the stiff sole cycling shoes usually come with make my daily rides and occasional long distance rides more comfortable. Also I find cycling shoes tends to have a harder rubber/material on their bottoms, which does not wear out as easily on the spiky/textured metal pads of pedals.
Anyway, I am saying all this because I totally understand where you are coming from. Like me, you prefer normal looking footwear. I am not sure how long or in what conditions you tried using those Power-Grips you had, but I do know when first using them they are very stiff and rigid. I have always found they break-in after a certain amount of usage, and they pretty much mold to the shape of what you ride in. I believe it also helps to get them soaked, so I recommend leaving your bike (or just your Power-Grip equipped pedals) outside when there is a good rain storm. As soon as the rain lifts (as in before the sun comes out to dry things up) go for a decent length ride. I would imagine that might help break-in the Power-Grips. Of course you could simply bike in wet weather for while as well, which is what I did naturally when I worked as a messenger. I am guessing riding in wet weather might be even better because the Power-Grip would be strained and stretched somewhat while wet and more malleable, then it would dry out in just about the prefect shape.
Hope this helps guys. Ride safe,