Tour of Zappos HQ: Inspiring (and a tad disgusting)

Last week, I had an opportunity to tour Zappos‘ corporate HQ in Las Vegas.  The tour is called the “Zappos Insights” tour and it provides an inside look at how Zappos manages its business.   I’ve been looking forward to this because I love Zappos, and buy from them all time (I hate going to the mall).

Here are some notes on their approach and culture…

Our tour guide, Andi, was a polite and well-spoken young lady with multiple piercings and tattoos covering most of the visible areas of her body.  She cheerfully guided us (myself and 5 or 6 colleagues) through the office for about an hour.  Andi explained the Zappos culture and unique employe benefits…including in-house concierge, car wash and laundry services for their customer service reps.

Obviously, Zappos is an online retailer.  They operate a customer service call center with nearly 1,100 employees under one roof in Las Vegas.  Call centers are notorious for their high turnover rates.  Zappos’ management’s challenge is to foster an environment where local Las Vegas employees are happy and smiling when I call to tell them they sold me a pair of used shoes (yes, it happened to me last year.)  Their solution was to turn the office into a nearly-anything-goes play room.  They have nap rooms for staffers, and that furry thing on the orange bulkhead is the rear-half of a real raccoon – I’m 95% certain it wasn’t alive.  The entire office looks like it was decorated by third-graders with colored paper and macaroni…and not in a good way.

Zappos’ “play room” approach is a creative and resourceful solution to a real business problem.  Working in their office-turned-junk-closet would drive me to drink, but the concept seems to be working…Amazon bought Zappos for around $900 million in 2009.

Does anyone know where I can get a stuffed raccoon at a decent price?