Dec 15

Result from my Zappos Experiment (and it’s Not Glowing)

Zappos. Everyone loves their use of social media. They are the poster child for how a brand can use social media to evangelize.

*Scooby Noise* Errr? Did not have such a good experience.

I put up this post about a pair of shoes I wanted. I then went into Twitter and said “Hey @zappos, maybe you can help me out” and linked to the post. All I wanted was someone from Zappos to send me a few URLs with shoes that were similar so I didn’t have to comb through the site myself. And it took them a month to finally catch on, and I got three different people sending me messages on the subject. One of them found the exact pair for twice as much as I’d bought them for, but by this time, I’d already bought a similar pair of shoes from a department store for 30 dollars less. I was in Europe with limited internet access by the time they got back with me. Meh.

I COULD NOT HAVE MADE THIS SALE ANY EASIER FOR THEM. I took a pic of the shoe I wanted with the size. Go and find it and send me a URL and NOT a product code, and do it when I ask you to and NOT weeks later. I give you money. Done. I operate the Twitter feed for @sunandski, and if someone made a sale this easy they would get a response within hours and perhaps minutes.

Zappos is not the cheapest shoe site online by any stretch. Yes, they give you free shipping two ways, but if they charge more than even the manufacturer of the shoe, who cares? You can charge more if you offer the service, but in this instance, my shopping experience was not made any easier by going with Zappos.

Crucify me for pointing this out. I really don’t care.

  • Sara Dornsife

    Not to jump off this bridge with you or anything, but I agree with you here. I think that Zappos does a remarkable job at offering amazing customer service. Thing is, I’d prefer a bargain. Customer service isn’t a business model, it’s a marketing tool. If they offered me great customer service and great deals, I’d shop no where else.

    Sara Dornsifes last blog post..What your car says about you and why the US auto industry is failing

  • Tony Hsieh – CEO

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks taking the time to write up your blog entry.

    Sorry for your bad tweet experience. I try to personally respond to all questions on twitter addressed to @zappos but occasionally I accidentally miss a few because there a days where I receive literally hundreds of tweets. (I am the only one that tweets from the @zappos account because I want people to know that it’s me personally using the account, not someone hired to tweet.)

    I checked the date of your tweet (11/22) and turns out I was actually out of the country on that date. When I got back I tried to catch up on all my tweets but apparently missed yours.

    In any case, I wanted to let you know that the reason for the delay from other people at Zappos responding (from their own twitter accounts) was that it’s only been in the past few weeks that we’ve started having some reps from our Customer Loyalty Team start responding to customer service-oriented questions, because I personally don’t know much about shoes or fashion.

    Most of the questions I get on Twitter actually aren’t about shoes, they’re about how we run our business and those are the ones that I’m usually better at giving answers to.

    If there’s anything else I can help you out with, feel free to email me at tony[at]


  • Phil Glockner

    I was really impressed by the Zappos folks that I met at their SXSWi convention booth, but otherwise I’m not a particularly big fan of the store.

    That said, I think there’s a couple things I’d like to address from your rant.. first, not only does Zappos provide free shipping both ways, but they give you a full year to return a like-new pair of shoes, if you don’t like them. Of course, their shoes are sold at MSRP so nobody is going broke, even if they can’t re-sell the shoes you return months later.

    Second, it sounds to me like you were expecting Zappos twitter account to be sort of a ‘personal shopper’ for you. If Zappos had a service like this it would be really cool. But I think this type of idea may be incidental with how Zappos employees are currently using Twitter.. They are probably like most companies on the new media edge and using Twitter as a marketing device.

    My personal experience with Zappos shoes is from my wife, she bought several pairs, tried them on, didn’t like any of them and sent them all back for a full refund. Was the charge on my credit card scary in the interim? Oh yes. But removing the fear of being out that money permanently just to try out a few shoes was nice.

    Phil Glockners last blog post..MediaRSS? Indeed!

  • Michelle


    I think it’s great the you responded to this post. I just sorta wonder how Twitter could be made more effective as an interface with customers. The biggest barriers for buying something online are 1.) lack of information and 2.) trust. Social media solves this by providing us with “personal shoppers” who offer both.

    What I was looking for with this was a tangible example of how this works. The breakdown occurred bc 1.) I know @zappos but don’t know your employees and .) there is no backup for people who are like me, who don’t know your employees and would just send a tweet to @zappos.

    I want social media to work for retailers but felt this time, it could have been smoother. Your (and other readers) thoughts welcomed.

    • Activetrance

      Michelle, as a random person reading this thread, I think self reflection on the repercussions of one’s actions may be a good idea. I think your tone is way off.

  • Tony Hsieh – CEO


    This is just my personal opinion, but I actually don’t think Twitter is a great tool for customer service or personal shopping. It’s limited to 140 characters, there’s way to read a chain of direct messages, and for something like personal shopping, I think the telephone, live chat, and email are all better ways of delivering customer service.

    That’s why, unlike most other web sites that hide their contact information, we put our 1-800 number at the top of every single page of our web site. (We actually want to talk to our customers.)

    We have a lot of employees on Twitter because we see it as a great tool for helping build more personal connections with our employees and our customers, and gain more insight into our culture and personality. But for actual customer service or help with personal shopping, I think there are better tools out there than Twitter.

  • Michelle


    Noted. But with your 800 number, I could not actually show you the shoe, hence the post.

    I knew you personally would not be picking out shoes for me. That’s pretty ridiculous. You are running a company. I was actually just hoping that you could pass my post to an employee. Honestly, I’d love to have a personal shopper at Zappos. I hate shopping and would pay a premium for a person w good taste to make recommendations for me.

    Seriously, I’d love for you guys to have something like that. I want companies that use social media to succeed. It’s good for all of us.

    Just a thought.

  • nemrut

    These are some valid points but i think you’re expectations are a little unrealistic. Most companies aren’t even using Twitter and those that do are far less responsive than @Zappos.

    Futhermore, you made it very clear in your replies to Tony that you realized he was the only person responding to @Zappos tweets. Is it reasonable to expect a CEO of company doing million$ of revenue/yr to follow up on your shoe shopping requests? I personally find it offensive that anyone would have this expectation…

  • Christen Dybenko

    When I saw your first post (when you sent the photo), I thought to myself, “What a GREAT idea! Send in a photo and if they can find comparable options, then instant sale!!”

    I’ve been waiting to hear the results for a while now, so I’m glad you posted this.

    Even though it didn’t go exactly as you’d hoped, I’m sure this idea won’t fall on deaf ears.

  • Michelle

    @nemrut I never expected Tony to pick out my shoes. I wanted him to pass me to someone who could help me. That was the point.

    If I’m paying someone a premium, I don’t think having a “personal shopper” is that big a deal. Most department stores do this.

  • nemrut

    ‘I never expected Tony to pick out my shoes. I wanted him to pass me to someone who could help me.’

    I think youre still missing the point.

    @Zappos=1person – Tony(and a busy one at that) people (paid and willing to serve you)

    The fact that you thought sending a shoe request to the CEO alone displays unrealistic expectations.

  • Michelle


    it takes this:
    @zapposemployee, can you take care of this?

    As you can read from Christina’s comment, I’m not the only one who feels that an instant sale like that might make a simple Twitter message like that one worthwhile. I don’t think Tony would disagree–he was just out of the country. I understand.

  • Michelle

    Gah, it was Christen’s comment. I need to get more sleep.

  • Bud Caddell

    “All I wanted was someone from Zappos to send me a few URLs with shoes that were similar so I didn’t have to comb through the site myself.”

    As the CEO, Tony sets the strategic vision for his firm. He can use a social tool like Twitter to communicate with his fans and learn from the community of social media enthusiasts. But Twitter should not be used by a CEO to respond to specific demands like this, it just doesn’t make sense for him to web browse for you. has a very nifty ‘Help’ button and 1-800 number you could use, too. And if you’re having problem browsing the site, that sounds like the kinds of places for you to head.

  • Michelle


    This is what the tweet said:

    I never expected Tony to go shopping for me. That is ridiculous. It was a matter of delegating a sale to someone else, which would have taken him five seconds.

    I still think Zappos is too expensive. I looked for some Pumas there and they cost more than they did on the Puma site. Since I already know my size, there isn’t much point for me to spend more so everyone else can return things whenever they want. But to each his own. I don’t have a beef w Zappos.

  • Kristopher

    Well if you have no Beef with Zappos than what is the whole point of this. Zappos is a service company and if you had just called the 1-800 number you would have gotten great service. Now as for the fact they they are more expensive than other. Yeah they may be but you pay what you get for. I want 24 hour customer service, i want live inventory, i want free shipping that even though it says 4-5 business days i usually get it over night, I want to to have my return shipping paid for if i need to return or exchange for another item, and guess what Zappos does all those things. I would rather pay twenty dollars more for something when i know that i am getting all of those things. So really get off your high horse and shop somewhere else if you don’t like it. Sending your request by twitter is no where near an affective way to get your order placed or to get help. Tony is a busy man and does not have the time to send your request to another employee who is probably busy helping someone who emailed, live chatted or called in for help.Twitter is a social networking site not a retail site or an affective way to try and get things that you want.

  • Michelle


    It was just an experiment. It didn’t work and that’s okay.

    I do shop somewhere else and that’s also okay. I love the personal attention I get at major department stores. I hate returning things as I consider it a waste of time. I was just seeing if something like that would work, which apparently when you have 30k followers, it doesn’t. It doesn’t scale like that and that’s what we all figured out by my doing this. The end. Don’t troll my blog, man.

  • londy_jamel

    why not go to a site like,, or to find the style of shoe that you like, then go to (or call, use the live chat) to do price comparisons?

    i've been a loyal customer of zappos and have found their website an excellent resource for finding brands that appeal to my style and demands for comfort. part of what i love about the site–which is by no means perfect–is the convenience with which i am able to locate merchandise and the ease with which i am able to transact business without driving anywhere.

    indeed, your expectations were unrealistic given the veritable cornucopia of other, more efficient, web 2.0 tools available to you than sending a shoe request out into the ether for the ceo of a company to forward…

    i would try zappos again, but from the website proper.

  • me

    Zappos is too expensive, and they rarely have
    any-thing over a size 12 or 13 mens shoe..

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