Behind the Scenes at Zappos.com Headquarters: Wookies, Free Snacks, Zombies, and More!
Things to do when you go to Las Vegas: stay in a fancy hotel on The Strip, see a few elaborately-staged shows, eat in a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef, lose some or win some at slots or the blackjack table, and... take a tour of the Zappos.com headquarters?
When we found out that Zappos.com—those shoes-delivered-to-you-overnight people who have the funny puppet commercials—offered free tours of its corporate HQ, we knew we had to make the 20-minute car trip off the Vegas Strip to check it out.
See, in the fashion/tech industry, Zappos.com has a reputation for being one of the funnest places to work, ever. Its corporate culture is known for being creativity-driven, people-oriented, super-positive, and, well, just this side of goofy.
We wanted to see what it's like, behind the scenes at Zappos.com, for ourselves. Check out some of the highlights of the tour:
When we arrived at Zappos.com's Las Vegas HQ yesterday, there was a special security team in place because the building had received a bomb threat earlier in the day. YUP. And we thought we were safer outside of New York City. Nope. Anyway, after we were fully briefed on all security risks, we decided to enter the building and take the tour anyway—taking our lives into our own hands, all for the sake of bringing you this story!
This, above, is the first thing you see when you walk into the office park that is Zappos.com's headquarters. It's a welcome area where tourists and visitors cluster to check in before their scheduled tour time slot. The Zappos team runs upwards of 12 tours each day. Who takes these tours? People like me and my friend Anne and... a bunch of senior citizens:
No, we have no idea why there was a huge group of older ladies on our tour. At one point, one of them raised her hand and asked: "Where can I find a Zappos store?" Whereupon the tour guide, Rocco, had to explain the concept of the internet to her.
After you get your name tag at the front desk, proceed directly to the registration kiosks:
See all that stuff on the shelves above the computers? If this were a novel you were reading for high school English class, this stuff is what you would call foreshadowing. There's a lot of stuff like this in the Zappos office. At Zappos, they're huge fans of stuff. Everywhere. You will see.
First, Rocco played a brief video detailing the corporate history of Zappos.com—all that stuff about how founders Tony Hsieh and Alfred Lin almost didn't team up with founder Nick Swinmum because, come on, why would a couple of Silicon Valley tech guys want anything to do with shoes? Really informative stuff. But personally, I couldn't keep my eyes off the 'Peeps of Walmart' diorama sitting on top of the four Zappos.com boxes on the right. Here's a close-up:
Rocco led us down a long corridor lined with wonkily-hung photos—accolades (okay, T-shirt designs) from big-sell days. Apparently the deal is that if the company has a huge sales day, a T-shirt gets made and all 1,356 employees get a T-shirt. So yeah, everyone who works at Zappos.com has a lot of Zappos.com T-shirts because, man, that company sure can sell stuff.
Remember that foreshadowing? All that stuff a few photos back? Well, this is what we meant:
The folks at Zappos.com headquarters really like stuff—everywhere. A decorate-as-you-please office policy means that nearly every available inch of cubicle, wall, ceiling, and surface area is covered with something—usually a giant tchotchke. This photo, above, is pretty representative of what the entire office looks like.
We stopped by Zappos.com's 'Private Label' division to check out the brand's biggest sizes—like this, above, size-16 women's pump...
... and this size 24EEE men's ankle boot.
Seriously, they let the decorators get away with murder here.
(Also, as far as I could tell, there was not a single minimalist on staff.)
See that 'Tony' sign hanging from the middle of the jungle-ified ceiling? That's where Tony Hsieh, CEO, sits. Because of the office's open-plan and open-culture, no one has a private office—including the head honchos. Tony sits in an open area underneath a big green canopy—and anyone can rock up and ask him anything anytime.
Here is an example of the aforementioned 'giant tchotchkes'—his-and-hers anthropomorphized monster-size Crocs.
One of the funnest things about working at Zappos.com? Free snacks and sandwiches in the employee cafeteria! Look how much fun everyone is having. Okay, not really. They're just eating their lunches.
For the last leg of our tour, we popped upstairs to check out the Customer Loyalty Team. This is what the stairwell looks like.
There's a a huge white board on the Customer Loyalty Team floor that showcases daily stats on number of calls received, how long it takes to answer those calls, etc. The most interesting part of this chart is called 'Personal Emotional Connection.' It tallies all the flowers, thank you notes, and presents Zappos.com employees receive from appreciative customers. Rocco says that once in a while someone will even send balloons.
Here's another awesome Peeps diorama we found lying around the office: 'Pirates of the CariPeepin.' The good (and scary) thing about Peeps is that they never seem to deteriorate/disintegrate/biodegrade.
There's a big emphasis at Zappos.com on personal goal achievement. To that end, the company employs a life coach to work with employees on an as-needed voluntary basis. They also provide walls in the stairwell for people to write goal-oriented messaging on. Here, we're standing around in the stairwell waiting for a lady from our tour group to come out of the bathroom.
And ta-da! That's the end of our tour. We wrapped up by snapping a group photo by the Zappos.com Royalty chair.
We're huge fans of Zappos.com and think that having fun at work is super-key to happiness, creativity, and productivity, but do you think you would be able to work in an office environment like this? It was pretty much one of the most surreal things we've ever done in Las Vegas—and, yes, this is compared to other super-surreal Vegas things. Tell us what you think in the comments!