Unfortunately, I have yet to find the perfect pair of boots.
But, normally, the advice the store gave you is correct. Boots do need to go through a period of adjusting, but that should happen quite a lot in just 3 or 4 days of skiing. Also, when you ski, you usually lean forward a bit, causing your toes to slip back from the front of the boot a bit. This doesn't happen when you're walking around in the boots, so they will feel a bit tighter when you're standing straight.
If the boots are *painful* vs. simply snug, then that's a problem that probably won't be solved once they adjust to your feet. There are a number of things a good bootfitter can do to help things out, so I would try skiing in your new boots a couple of times to see how they adjust and then take them to a bootfitter for tweaking.
Some newer boots also have foam that can be heated up and molded directly to your feet.
Boot size labels are, for some brands, almost fictional. A size 10 Technica is much different from a size 10 Dalbello..
First thing to do is to find out if the shell is the right size. Yank the liner out, put your foot in the empty shell so your toes are up against the front of the shell. See how many fingers you can get in between your heel and the back of the shell. If you can't get one finger in there, sell the boots to somebody else on E-Bay. If you can get one finger in, but not two, put the liner in and try the boot on while wearing ONE pair of ski socks.
Put the boot on, buckle it up and then stand up and assume a good skiing stance with your ankle flexed and your shin making good solid contact with the boot tongue. Your heel should now be set in the heel pocket and your toes should just barely be making contact with the liner. If your toes cannot straighten out, see the E-bay advice above.
If your toes are cramped, but not crushed, go to see one of the good bootfitters at Ski Center in DC or go see Derek at Pro-Fit in Leesburg. Liners can be stretched and a lot of liners on the market now are heat-moldable.
Never underestimate how important your boots are. If your boots don't work right any money you expend on other equipment is completely wasted. The upside is that you can use a boot that fits right for many years.
Strolz is an excellent solution, but don't underestimate the abilities of a good bootfitter...
If you have a tricky foot, there's always custom-made boots. The Strolz Company in Lech, Austria, is a Mecca for those who seek the perfect boot. The company will make a pair of boots just for you for about $450 and up:
When I was at Lech, I enjoyed just going into Strolz and chatting with the knowledgeable staff about equipment issues. Strolz stores are gorgeous, wood panneled affairs with all the latest ski models (including next year's models), comfortable leather chairs, and even an in-store cafe at one location. Serious buyers always get offered a drink of their choice. It's first class!
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 03-10-2003).]