A personal touch makes this Zappos return a pleasure

By | May 18th, 2016

Steve Cohen needed a new pair of shoes.

The Annandale, Va., veterinarian turned to Zappos, the popular internet purveyor of all types of footwear at a good price.

They got his order wrong. Really wrong.

Before Cohen could even begin to feel aggravated about solving a consumer snafu by telephone and internet, Zappos made it right. Really right – and then some.

The Good News Guy’s lack of enthusiasm for clothes and shoe shopping is bad news. Ugh. Enter online one-stop-shops like Zappos for convenience and value. Offering 17,789 choices of men’s shoes, some might be surprised to learn Zappos has been around since 1999, founded by a guy with like-minded shopping aversions.

While no one was looking, Zappos quietly ascended into Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for including a history of reviews that emphasize a unique culture of personal care for both customers and employees.

“I ordered a pair of shoes from Zappos.com, and although they came the next day, they were not what I ordered,” began Cohen. “Someone put the wrong product in a mislabeled bag.”

That is not the start of a beautiful friendship, but even the best of us can have an off day. Zappos did not get where it is without attentive staff who know how to solve a problem.

Enter Michaella, Zappos’ over-the-top problem solver and avid pet owner – the perfect goodwill ambassador for the DVM.

“When I called, she was apologetic and really nice, overnighting the correct shoes to me,” Cohen went on. “When she learned I was a retired veterinarian, she enjoyed telling me about her pets. I enjoyed telling her about my own cat named Knuble after former Washington Capitals hockey player Mike Knuble.”

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But what about the wrong shoes still in Cohen’s possession? He has better things to do than pack them up again and schlep it to a shipping pick-up store or location for a return. Michaella solved that problem by suggesting that Cohen donate them to a shelter as an opportunity to pay it forward.

What a great idea.

“Problem solved, no mess, no fuss,” said Cohen.

But wait. There’s more. And not just an extra set of Ginsu knives either.

“About a week later, another package arrived from Zappos,” continued Cohen. “In it was a handwritten note decorated with cat stickers, with one of them wearing a stethoscope. She wrote to thank me for my years of service as a veterinarian, along with a gift of an expensive fountain pen!”


Perfection is an elusive goal, and Zappos knows that excellence is based on how mistakes are corrected. Not only did they act promptly, but also recognized that the true cost to the buyer when something goes awry also includes the inconvenience.

In this case Michaella even took it up a notch and creatively turned a potentially aggravating experience into a positive and uplifting encounter by simply being kind, making a friend, and putting shoes on some needy feet. And how can anyone not smile at the sticker of a cat with a stethoscope? How did she even find one?

We can do our part to encourage this kind of company culture by accepting that mistakes sometimes happen and letting those able to do so show their ability to correct them. We just might be pleasantly surprised.

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Cohen concluded, “This was totally unexpected, and I tell everyone about this.”

So do we.

  • Lee

    I love Zappos. Use them for anything they sell that I need – they have much more than just shoes. Their customer service has always been so excellent and I really enjoy using their chat feature – they are knowledgeable, friendly and usually very charming – phone or chat. They have hit the sweet spot with their service and customer reps.

    Imagine if all businesses were as such? Elliott.org would need not even exist….

    I am even right now, awaiting an order I ordered yesterday afternoon with expected delivery this afternoon. Amazing, really.

  • KennyG

    Since I have always had problems finding shoes/sneakers that actually fit my feet well, I was always afraid to use a service like Zappo’s to order shoes. While out of town I found myself needing a pair of shoes to replace ones I had ruined, so decided to give Zappos a go. Never regretted it. Those particular shoes fit well, but on many occasions over the past few years I have ordered and returned many pairs, and almost always wound up with something that fit and never had any issues whatever with customer service who always seemed to go out of their way to help. Definitely recommend Zappos to everyone.

  • RBXChas

    I had a similar experience with a pair of Dr. Scholl’s sandals I bought almost 15 years ago. The second time I wore them, I was out and about almost fell because my shoe had suddenly split in half. The solid wood sole simply cracked when my foot touched the pavement, and I wasn’t running or doing anything unusual – just walking. It was obvious by looking at it that the way they had nailed in the upper had stressed the wood and caused a crack to form (as opposed to an external source of stress). I sent the shoes back to Zappos, who inspected the shoes, apologized, and promptly issued a refund.

  • Frank Clarke

    My wife and I were headed to Pennsylvania from Florida for Christmas so we ordered North Face Parkas from Zappos. 36 hours from “Enter” to “They’re here already??” Zappos is amazing.

  • 42NYC

    I love Zappos and they have fantastic customer service.

    Actions like these mean the OP will be telling her friends and family for years to come, making herself a great brand advocate. Good for zappos.

  • judyserienagy

    Concrete proof of the benefits of extraordinary customer service: I will now order all my footwear from Zappos. I have several strange requirements, so I can’t shop in stores. I order all my shoes online. I hope several thousand more consumers see this story and join me in supporting a company that knows what it’s doing.

  • LonnieC

    So contrary to several other commenters on this site in the past, acting considerately and caring for customers is a very successful way to run a business. The “bottom line” need not be the only goal. Companies can have a conscience and still succeed.

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