Zappos vs. Overstock’s Customer Experience

Being a consumer is a full-time job.  It takes time, patience and persistence, which I don’t really have. So as a consumer, I appreciate companies that make my job easier. And I will continue to be your customer, if you do!

Over the past month, I had two very different experiences with two online retailers – Zappos and Overstock.

I ordered a new pair of running shoes from Zappos and selected their ground shipping option, which is free. But in less than 24 hours of ordering my shoes, they were on my front porch. Amazing! Zappos apparently likes to sometimes reward its customers with free overnight shipping… which I love!

However, the shoes didn’t fit, but no problem. The next day I logged onto, printed the return mailing slip and dropped off my box at the UPS box. The best part about it is the return shipping is free!

I will be ordering new running shoes from Zappos as soon as I get my “store” refund. I’m already guaranteed free overnight shipping again for doing this rather than Zappos crediting my credit card.

(Warning: This section is meant to be lengthy and exhausting to read. It was a long drawn out process that is still sucking the life out of me.)

I found a great coffee table and end table on The furniture had great reviews by Overstock customers and the shipping was free so I felt I couldn’t go wrong.

After about 10 days of waiting for my furniture to arrive, I checked the tracking report. To my surprise it said the shipment was sent back to the warehouse. I called Overstock and the representative said he didn’t know why that “happens.” I couldn’t believe that this seemed to be a reoccurring issue and they weren’t doing anything to fix it. Nonetheless, the rep assured me they were sending me another shipment direct from the warehouse as soon as possible.

I waited another week or so and checked the new tracking reports I was sent from Overstock. They came up blank. UPS had no information on the shipment. By this point, my blood was starting to boil. I called Overstock again and the rep said their tracking department would look into it, but of course that would take another 1-2 business days.

In the meantime, I received the end table, opened it and the furniture was not the same color that Overstock had pictured online. I called Overstock and asked that they just stop the shipment of the coffee table. This wasn’t an option, and I had to wait for the shipment to be sent and then return it. Which was no surprise to me because Overstock does not pay for free return shipping, and shipping furniture is not cheap.

I complained a bit and the rep agreed to free return shipping. I eventually received the coffee table, but a few days later, I got the same shipment again! Now instead of 3 big boxes sitting in the house I had 6, one of which seemed pretty beat up.

I contacted customer service online using the online chat option, an option Overstock pushes pretty hard on its web site and even when you call their toll-free number. The rep agreed to have UPS pick up the merchandise at my house (since I now had 6 big boxes instead of 3). I communicated at least twice that I needed return shipping labels for 6 boxes. Well… I only received 2.

I called Overstock again and explained the label issue. The rep I spoke with said I should have called to communicate this rather than using the online chat. What? Then why do they promote online chat?

So after a month of this back and forth with Overstock, I still have 6 boxes in my house waiting to be picked up and no coffee table or end table! You can be sure that I will never again order from Overstock.

The Bottom Line

Since both these companies sell commodity products, customer service and the overall brand experience is the only way they can set themselves apart from their competition. Zappos clearly nailed it and Overstock didn’t. It is unfortunate that this is my first and last experience with Overstock.

Brands beware that you only receive one chance to make a good first impression. And unfortunately more people tell their friends, family members and co-workers about the bad experiences compared to the good.

Jennifer Manocchio


After starting her career with Edelman in Chicago, Jennifer joined Sweeney and quickly established herself as an exceptional industry innovator. In 2004, she opened Sweeney’s first full-service office outside of Cleveland and quickly rose through the ranks to become agency president. Jen leads by example and without fear. She has been critical to agency growth throughout the past decade and continues to lead the agency into the future.