Maybe I should take the offer

It’s Z-Day. ALL Zappos family members have until the close of business  today to decide whether to accept my most generous offer: 3 months severance or 1 month’s salary for every sacred year spent at the happiest company in the galaxy, whichever is greater. I had never considered that I could accept this offer up until two minutes ago. I’d walk away with 16 months salary, a sack full of Zollars, plus no more calls from Jeffrey. My head is spinning. I wonder if Zapponians can relate at all to the stress I’m feeling due to this big decision? I feel so ungrounded, vulnerable, and alone in this moment. So much core value #10 going on right here, right now.

Pigeon on a stick

Kabob Korner #2 combo – RIP

Before making any big decision like this, I’d normally walk over to Kabob Korner and snack on a #2 combo, which I’ve since learned is a dirty #DTLV pigeon on a stick. Sadly, my favorite purveyor of meat on a stick is no more. I won’t risk eating at the Zappos Bistro. Word is spreading that one of Chef Boyarbistro’s secret ingredients will leave you hugging a toilet far into the next decade. I need a quiet place to think and eat. Maybe I’ll head over to the Golden Nugget buffet. The food is blah and the atmosphere is even more so, but, aside from the over 70 crowd, I’ll have the place to myself.

What am I thinking?! I can’t even decide where to go eat lunch. How can I decide to take the offer in this condition? I think I’ll find my two tin “men” and the cowardly lion and talk teal with them. They normally help me brainstorm tealy ideas to unleash on Zapponians, which takes my mind off my inner turmoil. I mean, if two hatchet carrying decihumans searching for hearts and a man pretending to be a lion who’s desperately seeking courage can’t provide comfort in the midst of a crisis, who can?

What say you dear readers…


When Jeffrey finds a profitable business

It’s late. I’m not nervous but anticipating the final numbers. Two numbers, really: 1) The latest financials and 2) the total count of employees taking “the offer” I generously provided to all Zapponians via my teal email. The financials are whatever they are. For the second part of the equation, I bet 5 people total. Arun and I have a wager going. My bet is the ultimate reverse jinx. He put the number at 12 and laid $1,000 on the table. I told him if it goes under 100, forget the bet, I may just commit seppuku in the Zappos Plaza, but not before I get a refund from Freddy for his defective Dexatrim for businesses.

OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit rattled. I just got off a call with Jeffrey. I need to get this out there so I can try to catch a couple hours of shuteye.

After finishing a s’more and a couple shots of Absolut around the community campfire, I retired to the trusty old Airstream. I slipped into a pair of my most comfy footed pajamas and curled up in bed reading a chapter of Freddy’s book to help me fall into a deep sleep. Just as I started drifting into a teal dream, I hear my phone buzzing. I reach for it and can see it’s Jeffrey. Nope, not picking that up. Thankfully, he hasn’t been calling daily like he was the first few weeks following my teal email. Even so, he can go into voicemail hell. A minute later and the phone is buzzing again, and, maybe I’m going crazy, but it sounds louder, as if Jeffrey transferred his rage into my phone’s vibration. I maintain Zappos core value #9 and let it go. Maybe 30 seconds pass and a text comes in from none other than Jeffrey, “Call me.” He never leaves texts or voicemails. He expects me and any of his underlings to pick up within two rings. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll resort to an infamous “question mark” email. Taking this into consideration, I call Jeffrey; wincing as I press the button, fully expecting to hear a few seconds of shouting, followed by a hangup.

Jeffrey: Hi Tony

(Long pause)

Me: Hi

Jeffrey: How’s it going?

Me: Ummm…uhhhh…Good. Things are really good.

Jeffrey: That’s great to hear. Listen, I wanted to pick your brain on something.

(Awkward silence)

Jeffrey: You saw the latest earnings. We killed it with AWS. In fact, we killed it so much that I now have a profitable business on my hands and, well, honestly, I’m not sure what to do with that. I mean, I’ll probably crater it with some serious price cuts. Gotta make the Redmond softies continue to chase the chicken and make sure the boy geniuses down in the Valley know we’ll take them to the bottom and then bury them there. But, anyway, for now, I’ve got this biz that’s making some pretty serious cash and I wanted to get your thoughts since you’ve run a profitable operation for a while now.


I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Is this a prank call? Did Jeffrey swallow a handful of opioids? I’m speechless, unsure of how to proceed.

Jeffrey: Tony?

Me: Oh sorry. I’ve been giving the Fire phone another try and I think it cut out there. I…uhhh…I…you know… Is turning a profit so bad?

(Another long awkward pause)

Jeffrey: I hear ya, probably because I’m on the latest Fire phone prototype. It’s killer.
(Shifts to spastic fanboy mode)
It has twice as many cameras as the original and possibly the coolest feature ever. I probably shouldn’t tell you this but… The next Fire phone will have the ability to microwave food! Can you believe that?! Instead of having to get up from your door that rests on two sawhorses…errr…desk, so you can heat up your lunch, you can point your Fire phone at your food and have it piping hot within seconds! Productivity goes through the roof, up to the stratosphere! 3D and microwaving meals with your smart phone. It’s the FUUUTUUUURRRRRE!!!!

(Maniacal Jeffrey laughter)

Who is this guy? He’s being nice to me. He’s asking for my feedback. He’s revealing top secret new product details that he normally holds tighter than life itself. My nerves start to dissipate.

Me: Cool. Really cool. I’d love to see it sometime. You know, I think having this new profitable business is a great turn. Imagine how you can grow this by continuing to WOW customers and make a lot of money in parallel. It’s a win-win. You’re delivering happiness!

(The maniacal laughter comes to a complete halt. The silence is deafening.)

Jeffrey: I see. You want me to join your little commune and settle for making pennies when I’ve been making benjamins. Well, not real benjamins. More like digital ones that go up and down at the speed of light, but… Anyway, point is, you DON’T. GET. IT.

(Looooong pause.)

Jeffrey: You know something, Tony?

Me: Uhhhh…ummmm…




Sometimes I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Except I’ve got two tin “men” and a cowardly lion by my side, marching down the teal brick road. And I think Jeffrey may be both the man behind the curtain and the wicked witch.

Wizard of Teal

Last night I had a nightmare that a teal colored flying monkey swooped into my Airstream and tried to steal my dog (not named Toto, otherwise I’d be in a hospital of some sort right about now.) Freddy never warned me how scary teal could get. I’m tempted to unblock him from Skype and give him a call. I wonder if he interprets dreams?

Emails from Zapponians, #1

I receive so many emails from the Zappos family. The volume has picked up significantly since I sent my Teal email. I thought I’d share some of these to bring better transparency to this whole self-organization transformation I’m leading. I’m not revealing last names out of respect for the privacy of my fellow Zapponians. I may add comments after some of the emails, while others will be left on their own. Without further ado, here’s the first of many more to come…

Hey Tony!

I just finished reading Rethinking Organizations and my initial takeaway is: “I wanna be sedated.”

-Joey R.

I think I get it, Joey. I forwarded this onto Freddy. He enjoys feedback like this.

Mo titles, mo problems

In my first post about job titles I demonstrated the benefits of not having titles in the workplace. In this post I’ll demonstrate how job titles create no shortage of problems. Pretty simple, yet powerful stuff.


My friend Arun (pr. Ah-roon) has had a number of titles at Zappos: CTO, former CTO, Gandhi, Downtown Project consultant, temporary COO, COO, etc. Wait, Gandhi? Yes, let me explain. Ever since Zappos moved to the heart of downtown Las Vegas there has been a tradition of posting large posters of people who have inexplicably chosen to leave the happiest company on earth. These pictures are hard to miss, covering windows that hover above the main Zappos HQ entrance. One day in 2013, I was walking into the office and was greeted by a large, gorgeous black and white printout of Gandhi. I stopped in my tracks. “We had Gandhi on the payroll? And we’re letting him walk out the door?!” I couldn’t think straight. I felt light headed and incredibly weak. Thankfully a serendipitous collision occurred with a disheveled man asking if I had any change to spare. I immediately sprung back to life and bolted for monkey row. Greeting me at my desk was Arun. It was then that I put the puzzle pieces together. The picture wasn’t Gandhi, it was Arun. Instead of relief, I began to realize that I was about to let the modern day equivalent of Gandhi walk away from Zappos. At that moment I felt a foreign substance streaming down my face from my eyes, something wet and uncomfortable. Turns out it was Arun spraying my face with water. He said I was standing in the same spot for over a couple minutes, unresponsive and staring into the ether. He grabbed a nearby spray bottle and performed impromptu shock treatment. I recovered from that moment with a great sense of urgency – get Arun back to Zappos ASAP.


I was giddy with excitement before one of our company all hands meetings in 2014. I would be welcoming Arun back to the Zappos family as temporary COO. His job was to help me run the show and find a permanent COO. My job was to make sure he found the only candidate for COO – Arun. For every candidate Arun brought in, I’d point out fatal flaws: doesn’t floss daily, threw a plastic bottle in the “compost” trash can, didn’t hold the door open for a person coming fifty feet from behind, never personally thanked the Bistro chef for the delicious lunch, etc. If you can’t get those details right, how can I trust you to deliver happiness on a daily basis as COO? I can’t and Arun started to catch on about two months ago that his search was futile. He was the man for the job. Immediately after our CTO (not to be confused with Arun, former CTO) announced his intention to leave the happiest place on earth, Arun sent out his announcement that he was back home for good, this time as COO.

Here’s where titles become a problem. The former CTO, former traitor, former temporary COO, former Downtown Project consultant, now permanent COO is in meetings and I’m confused by what “hat” he’s wearing at any given moment. The topic of Super Cloud comes up and he talks about it like it’s the first he’s ever heard of it, since he’s “new to the company as COO”. Then teal comes up and Arun is suddenly fluent in teal talk and says he’s been fully teal compliant since he was the CTO way back when. He argues that, in fact, he may as well now be the CTO because, well, we don’t have one now and he feels his heart never left that position, so why not? Then we discuss some touchy financial topics and he stresses how tough it’s been making the transition as a temporary COO, with too little visibility and influence over the financials as a temporary ops guy. Someone mentions some sticky issues with Downtown Project and Arun pulls out the stopwatch app on his phone, reminding us all that if he’s going to provide any guidance on this particular topic, he’s going to be “on the clock”. We’re in a board meeting with Amazon and Arun becomes Gandhi; refusing to eat, speak, or move a muscle in “peaceful protest against his oppressors”. It got so confusing that I finally had hats made up for Arun to put on so I could understand where he was coming from at any given time.

CTO hat  Former CTO hat Former Traitor hatDTP Consultant hat Temp COO hatCOO hat

In order to save him some embarrassment of carrying around a growing collection of title hats, I got him a hat box to discreetly carry his new teal lids in.

Teal hat box

(Yet another way I deliver happiness at Zappos. This will definitely be in the second edition of my book.)

Arun was changing hats faster than Freddy comes up with new teal puns. It was dizzying to be in meetings with the man with too many titles. Meanwhile, Fred would lean back in his chair, give a Cheshire grin and kick his feet up on the table to take it all in. The man with no title was chilling out while the man with many titles was breaking a serious sweat from swapping hats; desperately trying to remember who he is at any given point in a conversation. Every once in a while Fred would toss out a comment to get Arun working overtime, “Arun, it seems like you’re speaking as CTO and COO right now.” Arun would scramble and try to slam two hats on at the same time. I couldn’t take it anymore. I locked myself in a closet and typed up the now famous teal email. Hat swapping crisis averted.

Bottom line, job titles aren’t worth the hassle (or hats). Go teal & titleless or go home.

The happiness wars

The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.

New York Times

OK, Dan Price, this means war. I’m THE happiness CEO. You will not take that away from me with this obvious publicity stunt.

First, I’m THE CEO who reads something and immediately takes action on it with his entire company on the line.

Second, you clearly leaked this to the press. Granted, you seem to have left out Quartz and other leading publications, but this is an inside job, without a doubt.

Third, everyone knows you can’t buy happiness. Just ask my new bestie, Gwyneth.

Fourth, how many books about delivering happiness have you written? That’s what I thought.

Fifth, your name is Dan Price and you started a payments processing company and are now focused on the price of your employees? Really, Dan? If that is even your real name.

Gravity Payments employees trying their best to appear happy.

Gravity Payments employees trying their best to appear happy.

Sixth, I’m having my people publish a new happiness study that shows people are happiest when they are teal. Check your ego, title, and salary at the door.

Seventh, we have “taco Tuesdays”.

Eighth, ever heard of the saying, “money is the root of all evil”, Dan?

Ninth, we have an internal currency at Zappos called Zollars, which is worth $70,000 a year and then some.

Tenth, can’t buy me love, Dan. Can NOT do it.

Happiness war on.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Jeffrey’s journalism team keeps breaking the big stories.

After four long days living like America’s poor, Gwyneth Paltrow broke her much-mocked attempt at shopping on a food stamp budget in search of some chicken and black licorice.

I don’t get it. I’ve been living in a trailer park for MONTHS and she gets national press after cracking four days in, under the pressure of not being able to purchase black licorice? Tell you what Gwyneth, come to #DTLV with a knapsack tied to a stick and fill it with a can of baked beans and a couple PBR’s. I’ll show you the time of your life as we live life on the edge. Bring the kids too – Peach and Noah. You can even bring that overly earnest dad of theirs, if you think he won’t bring the vibe down to an all time low. We’ll prove once and for all that poor is the new rich, at least to those of us who have a choice.