Wednesday, October 28, 2009

At last, an online merchant who "gets it"

I ordered a bike jacket and pair of shoes from Zappo's on Monday, my first ever transaction with this company. Free shipping, free returns for up to a year from purchase, and a wide selection of shoes and other clothing all lured me to try Zappo's. I was really surprised to see that I could expect to receive my delivery the day after my order. Unfortunately, there was a snafu with UPS, which reported the item as delivered Tuesday morning but which had not actually delivered the package to my house. With some trepidation born of past lackluster customer service interactions with other online vendors, I called Zappo's to get to the bottom of why a package marked delivered was anything but.

I expected to have to wait forever on the phone, or not have access to a live agent, or to be pushed back to UPS. None of that happened. I was connected to a live agent almost immediately who promptly apologized for problem (even though it was UPS' fault), filed an investigation with UPS, and put in a rush replacement order. That investigation must have awakened the folks at UPS because somehow the package appeared on my doorstep a few hours later. Another quick call to Zappo's to request that they cancel the replacement order was met with thanks for letting them know and some friendly banter with the customer service rep. Why can't all online vendors be like them? I suppose brick-and-mortar stores should hope this approach — easy returns, live agents, respect for the customer — doesn't catch on in the online world. I'll definitely be buying from them again and can only hope that Amazon, which has purchased the company, doesn't change their business model.

My friend and fellow cancer survivor Frank pointed me to an article in The New Yorker about their business model: Zappos, the online shoe shopping utopia: newyorker.com

Incidentally, the bike jacket — a Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible — fit perfectly and will help me to keep on biking in cold weather. I opted for the Screaming Yellow color (more like a neon chartreuse) should help keep me visible to even the most absent-minded cell-phone-using careless drivers on the road. It was nice knowing that even had it not fit, I would have been able to return it hassle- and cost-free. Two thumbs up for Zappo's.

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