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Zappos.com – online retail done right

You might recall I recently bought a new, replacement pair of Chacos from Zappos.com. Zappos had a great price on them, and having selected the “fast shipping” option for an extra seven bucks, I received my new Chacos the day after I ordered them. I was impressed.

Well, I returned from India to a much chillier Georgia and a need to break out my old slippers. Finding them woefully inadequate (cheap-o Target slippers from last season), I went to Zappos to look for some replacements.

Without going into details as to what slippers I’ve now ended up with, I ordered a new pair Monday and selected the free shipping option. I received the slippers Tuesday afternoon! I didn’t like them. Late last night I ordered a different pair only to wake up this morning to receive shipping confirmation telling me that the slippers (the new order) had shipped from Kentucky in the wee hours of the morning last night and are “out for delivery” here in Georgia right now.

As to my original purchase that I needed to return, I went ahead and printed up the free shipping return label (very easy process at Zappos.com) and have that box sitting outside waiting to be picked up by UPS when they drop off the replacements.

All of this purchasing was done tax free with free shipping. I’m skeptical Zappos is making money off of me on this sale, but maybe it doesn’t matter: I am officially a Zappos fan-boy. This is as close to online retail perfection as you can get. Painless purchases, ridiculously fast shipping/processing and no-hassle, free returns on items that don’t work out.

Zappos FTW!

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New Chacos from Zappos (Updated)

Be sure to see my updated comments at the bottom of this post!

In preparation for my trip to India, I ordered a new pair of Chacos from Zappos. They are the Chaco ZX/2 in black:

My first pair of Chacos were bought back in 2003 in preparation for a trip to Italy. They have served me well over the years, and there is still plenty of Vibram sole left in them (particularly in the front, less in the back). However, I’ve been convinced almost since the second week I bought them that they were one size too big. Chacos don’t come in half sizes and I am typically a 10 and a half. I had gone for 11s back in 2003.

This time around, I ordered 10s in the new ZX / dual-thin strap style, still electing to have the toe-strap.

So far, I like them. The 10 is definitely a better fit for my foot. And the dual-thin strap of the ZX makes them much easier to adjust. They are also a smidge lighter than my five year old, one-size bigger Chacos. Here’s a comparative shot (apologies for my ugly, long toes):

See how well my old Chacos have held up? Over that same time period, my Milano Birks (God bless them) have been worn through to the leather upper!

I like Chacos for their smart design: the one-strap cuts out any need for velcro and makes for a very clean look. The Chaco footbed is heavy-ish, but quite durable — definitely much more durable than, say, Birkenstocks (I’m a big fan of Milano and Boston, being on my second pair of both in the past 10 years). I’m a big fan of Vibram soles, too (See my review of Five Fingers). Interestingly, I’ve thrown my old Chacos in the dishwasher to clean them. Works like a charm!

As for Zappos.com, all I can say is, “wow”. I ordered my Chacos on Monday mid-day and they were delivered by UPS Tuesday afternoon. That was with the $7.00 rush processing (Note: no other shipping or handling fees at all, meaning had I not gone for rush, it would have been free shipping — oh and no sales tax!), but even so, that is impressively fast. If you know what you want (I.e. size and style of shoe), how can you go wrong? Oh wait, even if you don’t like it, they offer free return shipping! Impressive.

So we’ll see how these new Chacos hold up. My plan (presently) is only to take my FiveFingers and Chacos to India. Now all I need is some injinji socks!

Afterthought: Some of you might be thinking I’m a bit crazy for blogging reviews on my footwear. You just have to understand that I’m a huge fan of being able to wear as little shoe as possible (I have to wonder if this is some primal instinct — a throwback to the countless human generations who never knew shoes. Furthermore, I hate packing multiple pairs of shoes on vacations. To me, the flexibility of Chacos, particularly these ZX/2s in black which combine utility with a bit more “dress”, win out over the comfort-factor of my Birkenstocks, which don’t hold up well to lots of walking, inclimate weather, lots of standing or hiking. And the FiveFingers, well they are incredibly packable and great for long plane rides.

Update, 11-12-2008: The ZX/2s performed beyond expectations on my trip to India where I wore them almost exclusively for three weeks. Of note, whereas the ZX Chacos had a nasty habit of “scissoring” right above my big toe where the two straps crossed over, which caused irritation and a blistering-effect when I wore the Chacos for extended periods (i.e. when I wore my ZXs almost exclusively back on my Italy 2003 trip). Thanks to the interlocking-at-the-crossover double strap of the the ZX/2s, this effect was entirely eliminated. I had no irritation there whatsoever.

My wife thinks the ZX/2s are a bit “strappy”, which is to say, “feminine.” However, I think they’re more stylish, less granola and beyond all, much more functional than the single strap ZXs. Assuming the style is acceptable to you, I highly recommend the ZX/2s over the ZXs.

Now, one drawback of note. I found the soles of these new Chaco’s to be slippery in wet conditions. I expected a bit more “grippiness” from Vibram soles, so this was a slight disappointment — a minor gripe though.