I can’t believe Zappos.com did that!

You probably already know about Zappos’ legendary customer service. If you don’t, catch this recent Good News Guy column and my follow-up interview with Zappos Customer Service Director Rob Siefker.

And if there’s any doubt left, get a load of this.

Zappos.com happened to me. And it was a powerful reminder that good customer service is endemic to good companies. It’s the rule, not the exception.

Let me repeat that: It’s the rule. It happens every day.

Today’s story is all Zappos.com, but I credit Google’s incredible artificial intelligence and its loosey-goosey privacy policies. (And don’t get me wrong; in this particular instance, I am not complaining.)

I switched to an Android phone at the beginning of the year, about the same time as I needed to retire my well-loved, well-worn hiking pants. I’m a little particular about what I wear, and the Kühl Kontra Airs are perfect for me. They’re comfortable without looking too casual, and they travel well. Zappos.com had the best price I could find ($80 a pair) which is a lot less than what my local camping store charges. I ordered three pair of deep river blue Kontras.

A few days later the package arrived, and everything was in order. I opened it, tried on a pair, and was pleased with my purchase. I felt as if I’d gotten a decent deal from a reputable online merchant.

That’s where Google comes in. The AI on its phones is pretty remarkable. A few days after my purchase, my phone notified me that Zappos had lowered its price on the Kontras, from a reasonable $80 to $60 a pair.

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Google uses your browser search history to make an educated guess about what purchases you’re likely to make. It didn’t know I’d already purchased the pants, but close enough!

I thought about the endless debates we have on this site about travelers who discover lower airfares or hotel rates and then demand a refund. I didn’t want to be one of those people. In fact, I didn’t think I deserved anything.

Still, I called Zappos.

When you phone the company, it answers fast and doesn’t subject you to an endless phone tree. Points for that. I explained my situation to a representative.

“I realize I’ve already made my purchase,” I said. “But the pants are still in the box. Could I return them and then buy them at the sale price?”

If she’d said “no” then I would have probably let it go. I mean, sales happen. I missed this one by only a few days, but I still missed it. I got unlucky.

“Keep your pants,” the representative told me. “We’ll just just credit your card for $60.”


Yes, seriously.

Now, it’s possible that any number of other businesses, online or otherwise, would have done the same thing. But I’m relatively sure I would have had to do more arguing.

The cynics reading this will say, “They knew who you were, Chris. I mean, how hard is it to Google you?” Perhaps. But I kind of doubt it. I don’t think Zappos has the time or the inclination to keep a dossier on each of its customers, nor would it offer that kind of preferential treatment in order to curry positive media mention. That would also be inconsistent with our past coverage, which suggests every customer is equally important.

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Zappos did a good thing and turned me into a loyal customer in the process. Based on my own experience, this site’s coverage of Zappos and my knowledge of the company, I believe this kind of exceptional customer service is part of its corporate DNA. It isn’t so much the result of careful employee screening, training, team-building and effective leadership. Rather, it’s what Zappos is.

Maybe that’s one of the keys to offering terrific service. It’s not a new corporate mantra embraced by the executives in a corner office. It’s just what you do.

It’s definitely what Zappos.com does.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Rinacres

    One more reason for me to love Zappos. Lands’ End does things like that, too. It is great to find a company who really stands behind their commitment to providing good customer service!

  • KennyG

    Zappos, Land End, and for me at least, Amazon all fall into this same category. The jury is still out on Jet for me. I have just begun using it as some of their pricing is excellent, but as far as I could tell from the one problem I had, there is no online chat functionality, which I like so I can keep a record and also feel like things are being handled on a timely basis, unlike emails [at least at the beginning of a potential problem] which are impersonal and sometimes take days for back and forth. Always nice to see a good news story.

  • Rebecca

    I always go to the Publix by my house for the same reason. They generally aren’t more expensive anyways. There’s a few things that are a little more expensive. But I’d rather pay an extra few dollars each week and continue to always stop there, because everyone is so nice. I’ve run across the random crochety person at the other 2 places I could get groceries, and it’s not worth it. I vote with my wallet. Same with Costco. Everyone is super nice there. I was exchanging a pair of jeans last night and the return desk lady and I shared some funny return stories. Everyone is super nice at Costco too.

  • BubbaJoe123

    This has pretty much always been my experience with Amazon (which owns Zappos). If they cut the price, you can call or email, and they’ll credit you the difference.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Three pairs.

  • Mel65

    Always loved Zappos, and this validates that yet again!

  • PsyGuy

    They don’t have to keep a dossier of every customer, just the ones who are consumer advocates with a readership. They probably have your number flagged on caller ID so they know it’s you the minute you’re calling. That said, they would have probably done the same thing for someone else.

  • PsyGuy

    Well within a certain time period. Usually somewhere around 30 days.

  • DChamp56

    I’ve seen other companies do that… NewEgg is one of them. Great customer service!

  • Extramail

    I doubt it because I have done the same thing with Zappos. I didn’t get a google notification, however, I just happened to be on the site a couple of days after I had ordered a pair of shoes and noticed the price had dropped on the shoes I had just received. I called zappos and they credited my card the difference. And, I can assure you, I am a nobody and zappos didn’t have to do that for me but they did.

  • Byron Cooper

    The Apple store does that too. To my surprise, United Airlines told me that the price of a ticket dropped and gave me a voucher. I had called them about something else and they let me know. Nordstrom is great about this sort of thing as well.

  • Shirley G

    Now United needs to read this article to see what true customer service is, and, hence, customer loyalty. I like that both of these articles were in the same email!

  • sirwired

    My Citi Double Cash card has a feature where you can set a price watch on something you’ve purchased with your card, and if it goes down, they’ll automatically credit you the difference. (And if you didn’t register, but still found a price drop, they’ll still credit you the difference when you ask for it.)

  • EVERY business needs to read this!

  • I’d never heard of Zappos, but I’m going to check them out based on this story.

  • joycexyz

    Zappos heads my whitelist (the opposite of the blacklist). Add to that–Lands End, LLBean and Amazon.

  • bpepy

    Zappos isn’t the only company that does this. I purchased a dress (my mother-of-the-bride dress) from Nordstrom and then it went on sale, and I called and they gave me the sale price. Just recently I bought two things from Norm Thompson, a few days later I received a new catalog with $20 off of each item. Again I called and they refunded $40 to me. Kudos to all these companies!

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