From Left to Right: Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com CEO, my sister Jorjanna, Me, Zappos.com Executive Dory Dyer, and Fred Mossler, Sr. VP of Merchandising.
I wanted to give everyone a final update on the Zappos Outlet incident that my sister and I were involved in during the Veterans Day holiday while in Las Vegas.
Just to recap, while shopping at a Las Vegas Zappos Outlet Store with my niece and youngest sister Jorjanna, my sister was profiled by the Black employees at the store. After making a formal complaint with the manager, I decided to take matters into my own hand to get a resolution.
So when I got back to Los Angeles I fired off a blog post about the whole incident and began sending letters to Zappos.com’s corporate office, their public relations firm, and other organizations. Thanks to everyone who did the same.
I received this email from Zappos.com’s CEO Tony Hsieh:
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for taking the time to write about and contact us about your sister’s experience at one of our outlet stores. It really saddens me to hear that your sister was so upset, and I can understand why she felt that way. I would be upset as well if I felt that I was being racially profiled. While we strive to provide the very best customer experience to all of our customers, there is always room for improvement, and certainly the last thing we want to do is have even a single customer go through an unpleasant experience.
Our outlet store on Maryland Parkway has unfortunately been a victim of multiple thefts. These thefts are either from people who come in and literally run out of the store with a pair of shoes, or more commonly, from people who carry in large handbags or backpacks and then stash the shoes in their bag and walk out.
We’ve done a few things to try to address the theft issue. For example, we ask customers with large bags to check their bags at the front of the store. My understanding was that your sister was asked to check her bag but told our staff that she preferred to carry the bag. If a customer does not want to check his or her bag, then our staff is instructed to keep a closer eye on customers that use our bathrooms, because from past experience we’ve learned that that is typically the location where a thief would transfer shoes into his or her bag.
Unfortunately, because your sister through no fault of her own happened to fit the above behavioral criteria, our staff was simply following instructions to be extra watchful. I offer this not as an excuse, but simply as an explanation, and we would like to improve on our training and processes so that future customers do not feel uncomfortable.
So if you and your sister are open to the idea, I would like to take both of you out to lunch so we can discuss your sister’s experience and the challenges with theft that we are having at our outlet store. I would love to get both of your ideas on how we can make the experience for all of our customers better while at the same time addressing the theft issue.
I would also love to give both of you a tour of our corporate offices in Henderson.
Is this something you and your sister would consider? Thanks for taking the time to read my email, and more importantly thanks for taking the time to share your and your sister’s concerns with us. Also, since I do not have your sister’s email address, if you could forward this email to her that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
CEO – Zappos.com
To which I replied:
Hi Tony, thanks for the reply.
First, I have to tell you that your staff is not telling you the truth. Neither myself nor my sister were asked to check in our purses. Mine wasn’t as large as my sister’s was, but nevertheless, we entered the store together and were not asked to check our purses. And just to make sure that I am not mistaken, I just called my sister to double check and she
As for getting together, I have no problem with meeting with you.
Look, before this incident I was a huge fan of Zappos.com which was why I wanted to go to the outlet store. In Los Angeles to my knowledge we don’t have any.
I won’t be back in Las Vegas until next Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). I’ll be there until Sunday. However, I am less concerned with me and more concerned about my sister who actually lives in Las Vegas and I think that if she’s willing, which I am sure she would be, that you both meet. I am forwarding your email to her as we speak.
Again, I appreciate you getting back to us however, this still isn’t resolved in my eyes. And to now add to it that your employees are obviously trying to cover up their mistake only makes it worse. They need to just own up to what they did to my sister.
If your store has cameras that record the front door entrance which is a few feet away from the register where most of your employees were when we entered, you should be able to see that no one approached up about our bags. Please check into that.
Also, since you took the time to write us, is it okay for me to post your letter explaining your company’s position in terms of the thefts and what your employs have been instructed to do? I am going to do a follow up piece to my initial post.
To which he replied:
Thanks for your response. Yes, you may go ahead and post my email to you. I would just like to request that you allow us some time to further investigate the situation before our employees are publicly accused of inappropriate behavior. As you know, with every story there are multiple perspectives and I want to make sure that I have a full understanding of everyone’s perspective first, and this will require some more time and investigation on our part. I will also look into your suggestion about the video camera footage. As I mentioned in my earlier email, we are very committed to improving our training and processes and would like you and your sister to help us with that.
I am happy to meet with both of you sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, or I can meet with just your sister after Thanksgiving. Just let me know what works better.
I wanted to follow up and let you know that after further investigation, as you had suggested, no one was able to confirm that you and your sister had been asked to check in bags. Several of the employees simply had assumed that you and your sister had already been asked. The initial information I was provided was based upon an assumption relating to store procedure, and I apologize for the internal miscommunication that led to giving you incorrect information.
As I mentioned in my previous emails, I look forward to meeting with you and/or your sister to get your ideas on how we can learn from this situation and improve our training and processes. We definitely want to make sure customers do not have a bad experience,
but at the same time we want to try to figure out a way of preventing the theft that does occur at our store.
Thanks for your patience and understanding in all this, and I hope that the end result of
this is that we can turn a potentially negative situation into an extremely positive one for
all the parties involved.
Okay, so over the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister and I met with Tony, as well as with Fred Mossler, Senior Vice-President of Merchandising and Dory Dyer, manager of Zappos.com’s newest store in Las Vegas.
After the initial greetings, the first thing Tony did was give my sister and me a copy of Zappos.com’s 2007 edition of their company’s Culture Book. Tony explained that the book is published annually to emphasis the company’s culture and core values and it is made up of contributions from employees that describe what the company culture means to them.
In the foreword, Tony says, “In order for us to succeed as a service company, we need to create, maintain, and grow a culture where employees want to play a part in providing great service….As we grow as a company and hire new people, we need to make sure that they understand and become a part of our culture.”
While I haven’t had a chance to read the entire book, from what I have read, a lot of work and detail went into it.
Tony asks each employee to write a 100- to 500-word description of the company’s culture every year for a book.
Zappos.com’s corporate office is a very warm and inviting atmosphere. So much so, I’d work there. And that’s for real. From catering lunch everyday for some 700 employees, to providing a nap room for employees, a casual work environment where the CEO sits on the floor with everyone else and his staff are free to call him by his first name, to the many colorful employee-designed themed rooms that ca be found throughout the office. Oh and Zappos.com pays 100 percent of their employees medical, dental, and vision insurance and 50 percent for their partners and children. I almost forgot, Tony provides a Life Coach for all of his employees as well. Not bad.
And I will note for the record, there are many Black employees over at Zappos.com. I know because I saw them with my own eyes.
Throughout the tour, Tony emphasized his commitment to customer service. He responds to every customer email he receives personally.
So by the end of the tour, I said to Tony that it was clear the he cared very much about his customers and his employees and that the environment and culture he’s built within his company was definitely not reflected in the treatment my sister received.
After the tour, we headed over to Claim Jumpers for dinner where we continued the conversation.
Dora explained to us that Zappos.com’s outlet stores didn’t have a district manager at the time and that might be a contributing factor. She also went on to explain, that at that particular store many of the employees were new and that perhaps in a rush to get the store staffed, the hiring manager hired people with retail experience but not necessarily people skills. We heard about the thefts that have occurred as well.
One of my comments was that I can definitely understand preventing loss, but there’s a little something we call tact, to which all agreed.
Tony, Fred, and Dory explained that they are bringing on a new District Manager to oversee their Outlet Stores and to accurately train their retail employees as well as incorporate the culture that the corporate offices benefit from into all of their stores. That person starts after the New Year.
It was a good conversation. Very eye opening and I am glad that my sister and I accepted Tony’s invitation.
At the end of the day, we all found out that as people we have a lot in common. My sister and Tony both share an affinity for Brittney Spears (don’t ask). And Tony, Fred, and I all hike. In fact, when they’re in Los Angeles next, they’ve accepted an invitation to come hiking with me.
So I am very happy with the outcome and both my sister and I are feeling pretty good about the meeting. There are still companies that listen to customer comments and complaints and take actions to rectify the situation. Zappos.com is one of those companies.
Tony could have ignored our issue and carried on with business as usual. His company is set to clock $800M this year in profits. But he didn’t and he treated us like we were the most important customers in the world and I appreciate that. More so for my sister, than for myself.
I had to dash back to Los Angeles but my sister met with Dory the next day at Zappos.com’s newest store.
During the course of our dinner conversation, I mentioned that I was almost done with my winter boot collection except for one pair that I hadn’t bought yet, mainly because I was on an official protest of Zappos.com until this was resolved. Well, I am pleased to tell you that those boots were delivered to my house, in two colors, courtesy of Zappos.com. Very cool and very appreciated. But for the record, with or without the boots, after the meeting with Tony, Fred, and Dory, my sister and I were convinced that they understood our complaint and had taken proactive steps to fix the problem internally. The shoes were a nice gesture.
My sister, who you may recall was the recipient of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’ Customer Service Award last month, decided to submit her resume to Zappos.com she was so impressed with the company philosophy and culture. Keep your fingers crossed for her.
Again, thanks everybody for your support. While most customer complaints don’t up with the customer going to dinner with the CEO, it’s nice when it does happen because it shows that there are still businesses that value their customers.
It’s officially okay to resume shopping at Zappos.com, lol.
Zappos has a full time life coach who helps
“Zapponians” to set growth goals and build balance into their lives. This is his office. Zappos.com tradition is that everyone who enters his office gets their photo snapped in the King’s/Queen’s Throne for their “wall of fame”. This is my sister Jorjanna’s photo.