The man behind the footwear giant died in a tragic house fire. His impact on retail will not be forgotten.
August 25, 2020 4 min read
Over the weekend, the world learned the tragic news that former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh died in a house fire. He was 46.
Hsieh helped build the Zappos shoe empire into a billion-dollar business. He had recently retired from the company after being at the top spot for 20 years. A graduate of Harvard University, Hsieh joined the company when it was called ShoeSite.com and helped it become a shoe superpower. Zappos sold to Amazon for $1.9 billion in 2009.
Hsieh was also instrumental in rebuilding downtown Las Vegas, where he lived in an upscale trailer park with two pet alpacas named Marley and Triton. He invested $350 million to revitalize downtown, developing Container Park, which boats a fire-shooting praying mantis at its front entrance. Hsieh also created a trailer park called "Llamaoplis," a converted parking lot and home to 33 Tumbleweeds and an Airstream. This is where Hsieh lives with his hay-eating friends.
“Tony Hsieh played a pivotal role in helping transform Downtown Las Vegas,” tweeted Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. “Kathy and I send our love and condolences to Tony’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
After news of Hsieh's death broke, tributes poured out on social media.
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A beautiful tribute to a true pioneer. Tony Hsieh was a visionary. He was generous with his time and willing to share his invaluable expertise with anyone. And he was very, very cool. https://t.co/5A78fWpNyv— Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) November 28, 2020
Under Hsieh, Zappos has been known for its friendly and lenient customer service, including a return policy that gives customers 365 days to return their shoes (provided they're "like new").
“Buying shoes online can initially be a scary process for people,” Hsieh said in 2003. “But Zappos has withstood when other dot-coms have failed because we provide the best customer experience, such as free shipping both ways. Even though free shipping of both orders and returns has cost us more, it has enabled us to keep our customers longer.”
Here are some other words of wisdom from the shoe sage:
1. “There’s a big difference between motivation and inspiration: Inspire through values and motivation takes care of itself.”
2. “Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re trying to do more than just make money.”
3. “For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny. ”
4. “Our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like great customer service or building a great long-term brand or empowering passionate employees and customers will happen on its own.”
5. “Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you.”
6. “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said but they always remember how you made them feel, that’s what matters the most.”
7. “If anyone’s ever interacted with an alpaca, you know you just can’t help but laugh.”
Related: 20 Motivational Quotes to Inspire Your Next Business Idea