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Zappos, Trader Joe’s and Austin Bizmart Review: The Value of Honesty in Small Businesses Online

Updated on November 13, 2013

Zappos has always been famous for their excellent customer service. When the company was set up more than a decade ago, Tony Shieh decided to put the money they were supposed to put on marketing to customer service. They were so committed in providing their customers with the best experience, in fact, that they set up a 24-hour phone assistance hotline.

Zappos also encourage their employees to jazz up their cubicles to make sure their employees work in a place they like and feel comfortable in.
Zappos also encourage their employees to jazz up their cubicles to make sure their employees work in a place they like and feel comfortable in.

When Sales People Are not Pressured to Sell

The customer service representatives’ primary job, believe it or not, is not to sell Zappos products. Their primary job is to make sure the customer gets what they want and is happy by the end of conversation even if it means turning them away to competition or talking with them about their ex-boyfriend or marital problems. Nope, that’s not an exaggeration.

More often that they care to count, their CSRs end up referring their callers to the competition if they know that the what the customer needs or wants may only be provided by their competition. The funny thing is that even when their CSRs advise their customers to buy from competition, customers still opt to buy from them even if it means settling for their second or third option simply because the CSR was honest enough to admit that they will find what they need somewhere else.

There is one key takeaway in this – honesty.

Honesty is Marketing 101

Gone are the days when companies try to appear like a god from Olympus, infallible and perfect. If you want your product to establish credibility, be honest ESPECIALLY about your flaws and shortcomings.

When customers know they can trust you, they will support you. It is how I ended up buying from Zappos even when I can get 10 percent discount from other online stores. I know that:

1) What they claim to sell is what they really sell

2) My interest is more important than their product

3) If something goes wrong, they will decide in favour of my interest and not their business

Austin Bizmart takes photos of their products from all angles...
Austin Bizmart takes photos of their products from all angles...
showing even the product's flaws and imperfections.
showing even the product's flaws and imperfections.

Honesty is Not Enough

Although honesty is the priority, it is by no means enough to get customers to trust you and develop unwavering loyalty. You also need to be thorough. You need to provide complete information.

I am in the process of putting up a small restaurant, a lifelong dream of my mother. I don’t have investors and my family I using our own money to put things together. A friend suggested that I may have to buy used commercial kitchen equipment instead of buying brand new ones if I am hard pressed for funds.

He recommended Austin Bizmart. Like any responsible online buyer, I looked checked out some Austin Bizmart Reviews. It is primarily an online store and sells kitchen or restaurant or food service, janitorial, auto repair, shop, laboratory and other commercial equipment. They have a warehouse but not a showroom. It made me think twice about buying a big ticket item I haven’t personally seen.

Like Zappos, Austin Bizmart reviews are filled with information on how honest the company is about their products. What I didn’t expect is for them to volunteer all information about their item’s history and specification including all of its flaws. They have photos of all the items they sell from all angles.

It is encouraging to see how they take special and great effort in making sure that the customer will get even the pieces of information that customers aren’t asking for.


It is hard for any small business to be available to extend 24/7 customer service. Zappos started with only a handful of CSRs but financial limitation is not the customer’s concern. When you open up an online business, customers expect “online hours” which means 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They expect that when they need you, someone will be there to attend to their needs.

Prestige Technologies, a web hosting company, managed to do it. It is no godaddy in terms of size but they provide 24/7 online technical assistance. They have a chat platform on their site that allows me to talk with them anytime I want.

I am a new developer and I have, more than once, screwed up my own site. Being able to get in touch with someone every time and anytime I screw up my own site made me stay with them. There are other web hosting companies with cheaper rates but being able to get in touch with them anytime is priceless.

Dealing with Abusive Customers

Zappos instituted a 365-day return policy. Yup! You can keep the item for one year and they will still accept it. This is all a part of their mantra to put the customer’s interest at heart. Do take note that Zappos shoulders the cost of returning the items.

The immediate question that comes to mind is how they deal with abusive customers who return worn out items or those who would order 10 items only to return all of them.

The answer is they don’t. Zappos take the hit and it’s a risk they took on early on.

Shieh, however, stated that the “returns” often happen only during the first order. New customers would usually be the ones who will order 10 items only to return 9. When the customer orders again, they order only what they really end up keeping. Eighty percent of Zappos customers come back to purchase again. That proves that the investment they made during the first purchase is well worth it.

Random Acts of Kindness

If there is anything small businesses don’t prioritize, it is their Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. However, the online word is the fastest channel to get some free marketing going through Word of Mouth. When “real people” start talking about your business and some “unique” and “good” thing you have done for them, you stand a good chance at getting some good Word of Mouth.

Trader Joe’s, a local grocery chain, is a master of this.

Several years ago, someone posted a story about Trader Joe’s quality of service and how they go out of their way to be kind to people. This customer’s father, a diabetic, couldn’t go out of the house because of the snow. It was the day before Christmas. The son was frantically looking for stores that would deliver food to his father’s house. Running out of option, he tried Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s stated that they don’t deliver but would make an exception for his father. The person who answered the phone even suggested foods that are good for diabetics. After all orders were in, the caller asked for his bill but the staff said it’s free and it’s Trader Joe’s gift to his father.

The story inspired others to tell their own “random acts of kindness” story about Trader Joe’s.

The lesson is simple, don’t act concern, be concerned to your customers.

Final Words

It’s not easy for an online store to establish their credibility online. Many online business owners instinctively look for someone who can put their company on Google Search Result page one. What many miss is the fact that an online store’s customers are customers, not search engine. The best way to establish credibility is to provide quality service , one that is hones, thorough and considerate.

Those are the things that companies like Zappos, Austin Bizmart, Trader Joes and Prestige Technologies prioritized. Now, searching for Zappos or Austin Bizmart Reviews return results with reviews because they catered to people, not search engines.


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