Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Bezos and Zappos.com in a garden, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

July 23, 2009

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos puts his quirky on in an online introduction geared to employees of Web shoe retailer Zappos.com.

The chief executive of the world’s largest online retailer, in an 8 minute YouTube video posted on Zappos’ website, told folks he “gets all weak-kneed when I see a customer-obsessed company.”

Bezos, wearing a purple-red button-down shirt and standing in a very non-corporate-looking garden under natural light — which gives the spot a quasi-online video dating feel — enthuses about Zappos and his excitement over acquiring the zany online shoe company. Amazon announced on Wednesday the approximately $928 million deal, mostly in stock.

The video was included in an online letter posted by Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh to employees, in which he assures staff that the acquisition is amicable and  suggests a headline for the deal as “Zappos and Amazon sitting in a tree.” Readers will remember the next line of that juvenile rhyme is “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” Online video dating moves fast.

Using an easel and a large pad of white paper (uh-oh, vaguely corporate feeling is invading the garden) Bezos explains what he calls the short list of things he learned running Amazon for the past 15 years — “obsess over customers”; “invent”; and “think long term.”

He tells war stories about the early days of his company, some of which are admittedly endearing – as when he admits that Amazon’s first customers were the employees’ mothers, or describes a software snafu.

“Customers could order a negative quantity of books and we would credit their credit card with the price,” Bezos sheepishly explains. “We fixed that one. It’s fixed.”

Bezos says he’s “totally excited over what can happen over time” with Zappos and reminds employees that “It’s always Day 1.”

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