I Made Zappos My Personal Assistant For A Week


Did you know that the customer service team at Zappos has a corporate mandate to answer (or at least try to answer) literally any query you throw their way? Neither did I. Upon learning this fact, I — not unlike a 4-year-old around a hot stove — was immediately compelled to test it myself.

Perhaps my intrigue sprung from my own history in customer service. See, I got my first job as an ice cream scooper at Baskin Robbins when I was just a giggle into puberty. A bright-eyed optimist! Two years later, I emerged with a raspy growl, a weathered face and a rickety old rocking chair that broadcasted the score from Psycho while I scolded youths from my porch. Customer service is not for the tender-hearted, you guys!

Or so I believed. Over the course of the last week, the Zappos team singlehandedly restored my faith in online humanity. Seriously, the goodness of these people nearly drove me to poetry and, remember, I’ve barely so much as smiled in half a century. *cue Psycho music*

See for yourself.

Day 1. The Shoe-Related Softball.

A pair of black pants have been gathering dust in my closet because I haven’t found the right shoes for them. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to kick off my inappropriate usage of Zappos’ email support service.

“Hey Zappos! What shoes would you recommend I wear with these pants from Reformation?” 

Heather responded within 11 minutes flat. “Those pants are awesome! I’d be happy to take a look to see what I can find for you today. Given the length of the pants and the tassel details at the bottom…” She went on to provide not one, not two, but six shoe ideas from Zappos, categorized by statement and neutral heel.

I see you and your angelic ways, Heather, and I raise you a non-Zappos challenge.

Day 2. The Competitor Push.

“I’ve been looking for some shoes similar to Gucci’s Jordaan leather loafers because I can’t afford the real deal. I don’t feel like any on Zappos are quite right. Can you help me find some? Also, are capris coming back? Thanks!”

My lament was genuine and I snuck that last question in for Leandra. The response? Well, it had a strong start.

“My name is Syria, the uniquely named Zapponian. You might wonder what kind of name is Syria? Well, It’s a country! My parents wanted me to have a unique name and they found it on the nightly news.”

Okay, following so far. And then, her recommendations: one Zappos link, two Amazon links (Zappos’ parent company), and a proclamation that capris never left. Bold move, Syria.

My hopes for competitor links? Let down. My heart? Uplifted.

Day 3. The Modest Departure From Products.

It was time to test the team’s comfort with non-product related inquiries.

“My boss says I should only buy these slides if I’m willing to pair them with a French pedicure for a high/low look. I feel like French pedicures are weird. What do you think?”

Okay, this was a lie, but a relevant one! A kind woman named Kristen who cries through particularly touching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (I know this because she told me) is picking up what Leandra’s putting down: “I honestly don’t see anything wrong with French pedicures, but it’s ultimately up to you! I think that they look classy and nice.”

Major side-eye Kristen, your sainthood notwithstanding. I thought we were on the same team, here.

Day 4. The Full-Context Jump.

“My cat has been acting standoffish lately. Do you think I did something wrong or am I just being dramatic?”

Real question. Bug and I are in a one-sided relationship.

“I’m Helen and you got the dog lover here at Zappos. I thought standoffish was one of the attributes of cats. :)”

Whoa, Helen. Cat shade!

Then: “You sparked my curiosity. I found the following on Google, and thought the feedback people had was pretty good!”

Enter: a helpful 2009 message board about a cat that has at least 30 better excuses for being standoffish than my own, who just dislikes me.

After some fun information about her dog, she signed off with a friendly “Woof!”

Okay, I’m impressed and even woofed back on this one, but now it’s time for a hardball.

Day 5. The Much More Involved Query.

“I’ve been polling my friends for their favorite artichoke dip recipes and I thought…why not ask the lovely team at Zappos? Any recs?”

Everyone loves a good artichoke dip! Especially, evidently, Tedward (cool name) of Zappos:

“First, drain two cans of artichokes and chop them up finely. Then mix the artichokes with a cup of mayo, a good amount of parmesan cheese, some Sriracha hot sauce and red pepper flakes. Bake it at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. I hope you like it!”

OMG. THIS TEAM WILL DO ANYTHING. I really appreciate the use of “a good amount” and “some” as measurements in a recipe, especially because I find standard metrics like “pinch” and “tbsp” too limiting.

Also, that sounds delish. Also, I’m a dick. And about to be even more of one.

Day 6. The Devolvement Into Neediness.

“Any recommendations on how to feed myself somewhat healthy food without eating out or going to culinary school? I suck at cooking! I still don’t know what tbsp means! Also, I’m just not feeling very good about myself today. Any tips on how to stay positive?”

This was all true! But also so-far-south-of-appropriate for a Zappos Customer Service Rep we’ve just about left the planet. My fully-depleted Karma-levels aside, I was soon provided some helpful crockpot ideas by a lovely Harry Potter fan named Rachel. Her favorite way to stay positive?

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. -Albus Dumbledore.”

I think Rachel just turned on the light in my big black heart once ruined by Baskin Robbins. I almost can’t bear to administer the final test.

Day 7. The Spiral Into Absurdity.

“I recently found out my mother had an affair right around the time my brother was conceived. I don’t want to get involved in business that’s not my own but also, it’s my family! What do you think I should do?”

Within an hour, Heidi, a shining example of all things charitable in this world, provided me with some tips on building open and honest relationships using communication and even recommended getting a family counselor to mediate before finally assuring she was not an expert.

Did I mention she thanked me for taking time out of my busy day to get in touch? I am a horrible person who doesn’t deserve nice things and also this was a lie, Andy, I promise. (Sorry, Mom!)

My conclusion? Zappos will indeed answer any question thrown at them, I no longer deserve my membership in the Former Customer Service Worker Club and I am spending my discretionary income at Zappos for the next ten years in a meager attempt at restitution for my wrongdoings.

I love you Heather, Syria, Kristen, Helen, Tedward, Rachel and Heidi. Zappos 4ever!

Featuring a Charlotte Olympia shoe; photographed by Krista Anna Lewis, creative direction by Emily Zirimis.


Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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