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Customer Service Heaven

From a recent N.Y. Times article by Michael Barbaro, headlined “Less Risk Seen in Purchasing Clothes Online”:

For the first time since online retailing was born a decade ago, the sales of clothing have overtaken those of computer hardware and software, suggesting that consumers have reached a new level of comfort buying merchandise on the Web.

One of the merchants mentioned the article is, “a popular online retailer of shoes, jewelry and clothing.” I first heard of Zappos just a few days ago, and what I learned about the company supported Barbaro’s suggestion that consumers are way, way happier with a certain kind of online merchant:

My wife had ordered a pair of sandals from Zappos. When they arrived, she found that they didn’t fit. She tried to order the right size, but Zappos was sold out of her size. So here’s what the company offered: she could return the sandals (for free), Zappos would refund the purchase price and they’d send her a $25 coupon toward her next purchase.

But wait — there’s more! Zappos also offered to try to locate a pair of the sandals in her size from another vendor. (Hah! Sure, they will!) Fifteen minutes later, the company called my wife and told her they’d found her sandals, in her size, at another online merchant — “and,” the Zappos clerk told her, “they’re even cheaper at this other site!”

I am a firm believer in rewarding good behavior, especially when the only alternative is to punish bad behavior. (For example, I would rather give a large tip to a hard-working taxi driver than give a penny to a menacing street beggar.) Guided by this principle, I can’t wait until I need a new pair of shoes, because I will be heading straight to Zappos.