Sunday, April 27, 2008

Now that's service.

I have ordered some shoes and clothes from Zappos in the past; they have always impressed me with their wide selection, easy on-site search and filtering options when browsing items, and of course their no-questions-asked return policy. Rachelleb has also been treated favorably, and I really haven't ever heard of a negative experience in anyone's dealings with them — just how generally doggone good they are at online retail.

Tonight, I inadvertently decided to test them a bit; my browsing started with shirts and sandals, but eventually I found myself confronted with a nice suit that I really wanted. (It’s true; those who either croak and/or get hitched bring out the suit-wearing Matt Shobe. I only ask that you choose wisely.) But the description didn't make it quite clear whether the suit was tailor-ready or already hemmed. (Seemed very unlikely to be a standard fit, but I had to ask.) So, I fired up a chat session and asked. The response:
“Thanks for holding Matt! I don't see anything about it being tailor ready. I am assuming that it is. We have a 365 day return policy, with free outgoing shipping and free return shipping. As long as you return the item unworn and in the original packaging (box or plastic bag), we are more than happy to either exchange the item or issue you a full refund…If you would like to order this today to make sure you don't loose out on your size, I would be more than happy to upgrade your shipping from free standard shipping (4-5 business days) to 1 business day shipping and waive the $25 charge to get it out to you on 04/29/08 (Tuesday).”
A bit hornswoggled in reverse, I replied, in my best Eric Case:
you guys rock the service deal hard, yo
And the response: 
“No, you ROCK! I think you are right, it would be better to get the item while it is available and you will know as soon as you get it, which would be Tuesday.”
And, at the eventual conclusion, Zappos writes:
“Thanks! I will just wait till you leave the room, just in case you have any other questions! We want to make sure you are taken care of. Remember, we are here by live chat, email, and phone 24 hours a day!”
In the course of asking about an ordinary product listing feature and service policy boilerplate, I'm treated as a customer with an exception that demands premium resolution and am given a spot discount to ensure my business is retained and my satisfaction, end-to-end, is likely to be as absolute as possible. This is impressive as all hell and is how the retail world should be (and probably once was, when all commerce was local and reputation was earned one front door jingle at a time).

Zappos also happens to use FeedBurner for their blogs. That’s compliment enough, free shipping be damned. (Good thing I withheld that sentiment during chat.)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake? You kiddin' me? Earthquake?!

(…Jim Mora reference for all my fellow, longtime Jim Mora fans.)

Friends, Romans, and countrymen have been reporting that a minor earthquake hit Illinois this morning; 5.2 on the Richter scale, says the USGS. (Keep rockin’ that FeedBurner feed, USGS.) I felt nothing, but then again I’m not to be trusted for anything empirical or objective between midnight and 6am or so.

However, when I was a grad student, living in Seattle in 1995, a 5.0 hit us around dinner time. I was cooking in my apartment’s kitchen. The moment the quake hit, my kitchen became a galley on a cabin cruiser, lazily rocking from side to side, as though the wake of a large, passing ship had disturbed it at port. And much like riding through a wake, it was over quickly, righting everything. I'm not sure the vegetables I was stir-frying even shifted in the pan.

The manic reaction of the local news media was predictable; that didn't make it any less of a farce. I remember KING5’s Jim Foreman (NBC affiliate) racing to a hair salon to cover the devastation; there were shattered shelves and styling product scattered everywhere, people. Why a full-scale stylist riot and looting spree didn't consume all of Tukwila that night, I'll never know.