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My first meeting and interview with Tony Hsieh #179

My first meeting and interview with Tony Hsieh

Blog #178 I talked about the proverbial straw and a meltdown. In this blog I want to talk about My first meeting and interview with Tony Hsieh.


When I first published this story I was still in my blogging about my Nordstrom days and we received the unfortunate news Tony Hsieh had passed away. In honor of him I put this story out early on Medium & Facebook. I’m going to re-post this now to my website to fall in line with the current blog events of my journey.


 This story is when I took my Zappos “Leap of Faith” and changed my life in such a positive way. I am heartbroken on Tony leaving us so soon, The world lost an amazing person. Here is my story on when I met Tony for the first time. Here’s to Tony…


My Job at Target was becoming a nightmare. So much so it was affecting my home life too. I wasn’t a very happy person at the time. In fact I was miserable. I had talked to Diane about leaving Target but she felt I was on the verge of being promoted to a Store Manager position.The STL that I was working for though was the worst example of a leader. He ruled by fear, not by motivation. It was getting old fast.


Fact was, I was ready to leave without a job lined up, that’s how miserable I was. I had talked to Fred a few times about Zappos and each time Diane and I were a little nervous about working for a “startup”, since we had two kids and a house mortgage. On a whim I decided to call Aaron to get an update on what was going on at Zappos.


You should come talk to Tony, I can arrange an interview if you like. Someone just left and we are looking for a good “Women’s footwear guy”. It was one of those conversations where you stopped in your tracks and the adrenaline started flowing in your veins. It felt good. It felt right. But I needed more info.




Aaron set up the interview for the next day. Didn’t have much time to prepare but I was ready for anything. Prior to this Fred and I were talking about an offer and what they could do to make me feel more comfortable to take the leap. Fred bent over backwards to accommodate my needs which I appreciated. He also kept saying each time, “You should talk to Tony”.

“Who is this Tony guy?” I knew he was the CEO but everyone held him in such high regard. I could hardly wait to meet him. That night it was hard to sleep. This was going to be a wild ride if I decided to take the Leap of faith. It’s what I needed though from the core of my soul. I was dead inside, beaten down, defeated.


The spark I had for so many years being in retail was flickering. The next morning I hopped on the BART train. It would take an hour to get there and then a 30 minute walk to the office. Being an “On-Time freak” I started early with a 2 hour window. I got there with plenty of time to spare so I got some coffee nearby and chilled out for a little while.


The office was on Van Ness Ave. It was in a building that housed a movie theater and a “Crunch Gym”. There was also a Venture Frogs restaurant. I had done some research on Tony prior to the meeting so I knew Venture Frogs was a VC business and the restaurant was run by his father Richard.


Tony was approached by Nick the founder with this idea to fund a footwear website. I’ll go more into this in blog #180. I was going to meet both of them today as well as Fred, who I worked with at Nordstrom Arden Fair.


Aaron gives a brief tour


Aaron meets me at the door and gives me a tour of the office. It was very “Start-up” with cords all over the floor and 6 foot tables for desks. This was definitely “different”. I’ve seen so many different types of operations it didnt phase me though. It was an exciting feeling but uncomfortable at the same time.  There were only five buyers at the time and if all went well I’d be number six. The interview would be in the restaurant next door.


The interview


We move to the Venture Frogs restaurant and the three of them were waiting for me. Fred stands up with a warm smile and introduces me to Tony and Nick. They were all dressed casually and I shook their hands and sat down. Both were somewhat quiet with Fred steering the conversation of our time together. Nick looked like a “skater ” type dude and Tony a Tech guy.


Aaron would comment how I hired him in the shoe business and between him being there and Fred it was less intimidating. Tony was really smart though, so I was measured in my responses. Nick was also thoughtful in his questions, so I made sure I was listening intently to each question they both asked me.


Tony whips out a pair of shoes. “How much do you think the retail should be?” It was a brand I never heard of, RSVP. The sole was man made, looked like a leather upper. I’m not familiar with the brand, I said. Tony told me it was a private label brand they were testing.

From my experience at Nordstrom, we used to say, give a better value to the customer for Private Label items. My first thought was it was probably around 30–40 dollars. So I guessed $29.95. They were going to sell it for $39.95 so I was pretty close.


Then he asked me what I thought about the brands they already had on the site. The follow up questions was, if I knew people in the industry to bring on more brands to the site. I had been in the business for some time and built great relationships with people so I said with confidence I could bring on some brands.


One flub


The interview went very well, one thing I messed up was I suggested that when someone picks a color on the site the shoe should then be shown in that color. Fred was quick to point out that the site was already like that. Damn, with limited time to prepare, I did most of my research on Nick and Tony and should have spent more time on the site itself. I did check out the site but not in depth.


Both Tony and Nick were easy to talk to and Zappos was such a great story I was sold. Tony was very impressive in his thought process, so I had full confidence in taking my Leap of Faith. They offered me the position that day and I accepted. Do you need to talk it over with your family? No, I’m ready. Fred and I were already in negotiations so I knew what all the specifics were.


We had a few celebratory drinks and then I went back to the BART station. I was almost skipping I was so happy. A huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders similar to when I went up the escalator at Nordstrom for the last time. Plus, I knew this was the right decision for me and my family. The flame that was flickering was vibrant now. The only concern for me now was telling my wife and Target I was taking a Leap of Faith to this Start up Online shoe store. It was going to be the ride of my life…


Tony Stories


Over my 17 + years at Zappos I had many interactions with Tony and the feeling above was always the same. He was a smart dude. No matter what I say today it won’t do justice to the man I knew. He did so much for so many and that’s what he was about. I feel fortunate to share part of my journey with a person like Tony. So many Zapponians are feeling  numb over this. It’s hard to describe the feeling in just a few sentences. One thing I can share on the feeling is, somethings missing. I didn’t always interact with him on a daily basis but there definately is a void. He was an amazing human being.


Here are some of my favorite moments in which I will more than likely share again later in my journey.


The Dinner


My favorite Story was from when I first got hired in 2003. A rep I had known for a long time from my Nordstrom days, wanted to take a few of us to dinner. He was one of the original 4 brands on the site.


Invite Tony and Fred too, he said. We are going to go to a nice Steak House in NYC. So originally it was for five people, but when people found out Steve was the rep many more wanted to come as well. Zappos is famous for taking care of the bill to show appreciation to our reps these days. But back in 2003 the reps paid. So as the number grew I could tell Steve was getting nervous because he wasn’t on an expense account and this was a really nice place in NYC.


During the course of the evening in typical Zappos fashion the wine bill was going to be more than the food. Tony ordered some Raw Oysters. Since I was sitting next to him, he offered to “fix mine for me.” He added a bunch of spicey things to it and at first I thought he was messing with me. “Try it” he said. It was amazing and to this day it’s how I eat them. Take the oyster, add a little cocktail sauce, tabasco to your taste and hot horseradish.


The bill comes after an amazing dinner and too much wine to go along with it. Tony stands up and grabs the bill. We were all a little surprised but I was super proud at that moment. I went up to Tony and told him thanks for doing that for him. Tony looked at me and said, I did it for you Mike…Mic drop…


I was blown away and to this day I get emotional from the memory of that night. It really draws the perfect picture of who he was. He always took care of us. Made sure he had our back and at the same time moved Zappos a step forward. Not only did he take care of an awkward moment for me but for the rep as well. It probaby was the catalyst for us picking up the tabs as well.


Leadership Class


One year we all went on an off-site trip to take a leadership class. It went through a lot of leadership fundamentals and exercises to improve our leadership abilities. Some topics were around team work, others communication. Towards the end of the session we had to break into groups of two. I was paired with Tony. So we had to sit in chairs back to back and tell the other person something not many people knew.


Tony told me he wasn’t comfortable talking in large groups. Being the smartass that I am I told him we all knew that already. His response, was people didn’t know is how he deals with it. It was the first time he told anyone. He tries to talk about subjects he is passionate about. This way he already has a leg up. Once again he blew me away, another mic drop…I actually try to do the same thing now, even though I’m not that bad at talking in groups, it sure helps.


China Girl


We were doing a private label program I was involved in between 2004–2009. We would usually bring a group with us and take them to the factories and see how shoes are made. On one memorable trip we had a large dinner event with a factory. Now one thing that Zappos people were good at in those days was drinking. In China it’s part of the culture to honor each other with a shot of Moutai a Chinese distilled liquor. You could compare it to Grappa in Italy.


On this particular evening we had some of our heavyweights with us, Fred, Tony, Alfred, Galen and Aaron. I never professed to be able to keep up with those guys but I always did the best I could. This young Chinese girl came around the tables and invited everyone to take a shot with her. it was unbelievable because she was maybe 90 lbs. She drank us all under.

As we were getting into the bus to take us back I asked her how she does it. Her reply, This is nothing you should meet my mother, now she can drink. Mic drop…


Another China story


On another occasion the same trip we had dinner with another factory and we had an amazing dinner and the hosts were most gracious. Now it came down to Moutai time. Tony came up with this very complicated drinking game where we would have to answer something usually him, Alfred and the factory owner solved. It was another one of those nights. It was a match of wits and came down to the factory owner and Tony and of course Tony prevailed in the end.


There are so many more memories and fun times I experienced with Tony and Zappos and I’ll try to capture as much of it as I can in the blogs after 179. All I can say is someone like Tony may, if you are fortunate enough, come into your life once in a lifetime. I am so glad Tony was part of mine, he made me a better person and I’ll always be grateful to him for that

Rest well Tony…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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The proverbial Straw and a meltdown #178

The proverbial Straw and a meltdown

Blog #177 I talked about when Aaron sets up the Zappos interview. In this blog I want to talk about The proverbial Straw and a meltdown

The straw that broke the camel’s back. This  is a phrase usually used when a string of bad events happen that lead to the final thing that makes someone lose their patience. Example would be “everything was going wrong this morning and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I spilled coffee all over myself” The origins of this phrase is unknown. Knowing that a Camel has a very strong back and people early on used them to transport goods you can imagine how it got started.

So back to my straw. The way the job went everyday this week was I would get in at 9 or 10pm and check to see that the trucks were in the dock. The team came in at 10pm when the store closed. Yep we had two trucks tonight. The Logistics team lead came over to me and said half the team was detained by INS tonight for questionable citizenship. Great…This is going to be fun to explain in the morning.

The Hardlines ETL came in and I informed him we had half the team in tonight. We both looked at each like “O’boy.” I was glad he was there to help but he wasn’t very nice to people. He screamed at people to work faster all night long. I told him to lighten up and he said “You don’t understand, you can’t be nice to people, they won’t get the job done.” Not sure if that was the initial straw that broke the camel’s back as I was 100% sure that straw would arrive around 7am.

Unloading the trucks

Unloading the trucks is like a bucket brigade. By that I mean you have two people in the truck throwing the cases to the front (unless its fragile). There are ramps with rollers that make the cases easier to go down the line. Before they are placed on a pallet they are scanned in. There are several pallets set up by department so a pallet gets pulled out by pallet jack to that department once it’s full.

You usually have people on the floor that start filling the shelves with goods. We were half staffed though, so we had the truck team and a small team on the floor. The people that were there really worked 110% that night despite the other ETL swearing and yelling all night long. Dude lighten up! He kept telling me I wasn’t going to make it as a Logistics ETL if I was nice. You can’t be nice. You have to be a dick. Well I wasn’t that guy…

Right around 6am We started pulling stuff to the back and setting it so we could still work the cases during the day, we had no choice. We got further along than I thought. This team had the same results usually with a full team so we did pretty good considering. Now the question was which Store Manager was going to show up. The Nice very personable STL or the Bi-Polar one.

The Morning walk

Most mornings, everything is put away and the backroom is clean and ready to go. When this happens there are Pallets stacked up in the backroom and not all the shelves get re-stocked properly. This was going to be fun…The day ends for logistics with a walk with the STL and a report of how things went.

The STL arrives and I tell him what happened. “YOU ARE GOING TO START WITH EXCUSES!” he screamed. Okay Bi-Polar STL was here today, great…We got to cosmetics and the team leader was putting some of the stock we didn’t get to up on the shelves. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? YOU DON’T DO THAT, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO IT!” And when I say yelled I mean YELLED.

It was brutal every department I got swore at with the F word many many times. Can’t count how many times he said “What are you stupid or something?” This was in front of the team members too.  It was like a walk of shame, except no fun at night either. WHAT THE FUCK, I CAN”T BELIEVE THIS. Over and over, the whole walk. People would actually scurry away from him as he approached. Rule by fear.

Fun part was about to begin, the backroom. The whole walk the hardlines ETL kept saying, “told you not to be nice.” He wasn’t that smart, so I just ignored him. At this point it didn’t really matter. We get to the back and there were stacks of pallets lined up. “YOU AREN’T LEAVING UNTIL THIS IS ALL UP!”

The proverbial straw and a meltdown

With a very intense face, I looked at him and I said “you know what… (pause)  I think…(abnormal pause)  you …(second abnormal  pause)  SHOULD GO FUCK YOURSELF” It was the most amazing feeling to get that out. I towered over him too, which made the effect that much better. “Excuse me” he said. I asked him if he really wanted me to repeat myself, he said no. The Hardlines ETL started to walk away at this point.

Why don’t you take tomorrow off, the STL said. I told him I was going to take the next two days off, because I knew I had the interview coming up and wanted to get rested. The straw worked in my favor this time…

Yes, I was ready for my leap of faith, the answer was going to be yes I just needed to nail the interview now. When I got to my car that morning I let out the biggest sigh. It was going to be over soon. A smile came to my face. I was going to be okay. It was almost comical, where the hero goes through so much crap and at the end comes through and has that last chuckle. He made it through it. I can hardly wait to call my dad and tell him what was going on. He was my voice of reason and I needed that now.

My Dad

So I went to get some coffee as I was exhausted and had a little bit of a drive home. The coffee wouldn’t keep me up at this point, the anger would though. I called my dad. Told him the story and he said his famous line “You only live once, better to live it happy” He thought the Zappos job was the way to go. We had a nice long chat and I felt good about everything. My dad had a way of doing that for me.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Aaron sets up the Zappos interview #177

Aaron sets up the Zappos interview

Blog #176 I talked about being transferred to the Target Hayward store opening. In this blog I want to talk about when Aaron sets up the Zappos interview.


After a year of bad mood swings I was done. It had affected my marriage so bad I didn’t even know where that was. Fact was I didn’t have time to think about it, I was working too much. At Nordstrom there was always times that were hard on the marriage, Half yearly twice a year and the Anniversary sale. Mostly because I was working Bell to Bell. When I got home I was exhausted and wasn’t in the mood to hear the problems at home.

Add ten times that stress with this Target job. No exaggeration. It’s one thing to work a lot of hours and just be physically tired but when you have someone swear at you too, it becomes mental as well. This store manager was just mean to people. We’d be walking the store in the morning and if he caught someone just standing around he’d scream “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? GET TO WORK!” It was tough. I certainly wasn’t used to treating people like this and even worse witnessing it as an Asst. Manager.

Interviewing again

After a few discussions with Diane on what to do, I decided to start looking. To her credit she thought I would make a great Store Manager, so can’t fault her for thinking well of me. I just wanted out. I applied at IKEA for a logistics position. Went through 3 interviews and was hopeful something would come of it. They seemed pretty nice over there. Never heard anything after that. Not even the form letter declining you, nothing…

The Gap was also hiring so I applied for a buyer position there and knew some people I worked with at Nordstrom there. They were based in SF so I took BART up to the city and went in the morning for the interview. This was like a Nordstrom Reunion as well, saw a bunch of people I recognized there. My interview person takes me to an office and asks me a few standard questions.

Another senior person comes in and asks me what I liked about Nordstrom. My answer was how we were recognized for our good business and the growth potential was really great. “We don’t celebrate wins here, it makes you complacent” Wow he really said that. One thing was for sure I wasn’t going to work there, even if I got an offer. I understand being aggressive and all that but to not celebrate wins? Who would ever want to work that way.

My third interview was with Shoe Pavilion. They had a nice business there and I knew a few people there as well. Small world retail is. Marty, my friend from Nordstrom was working there and we talked briefly before my interview. It was always nice to chat with Marty. Interview went well but we couldn’t come to terms with the medical requirements which was important for our growing family.

As I was leaving I saw Bob who was Martha’s old RMM. As I remember he wasn’t that nice to her so maybe this is a blessing too. I was looking forward to working with Marty again but had to keep to what I needed for the family’s sake. After these three incidents in interviewing I was getting frustrated with myself. I think I was so miserable that it compounded everything. My interview with Martha and Michael was such an amazing experience. Even the Target interview was positive. Is it me? I started to have a twinge of self-doubt.

I know what I need to do now

After a week of this I decided to call Aaron and see what was going on with Zappos. He said I should talk to Fred. Meanwhile he was going to  set something up and have me come in to meet everyone. Fred calls me the next day. “Third times a charm Mike!” We started talking about how great the business was almost doubling the year before. The benefits they had were also pretty good for a startup company.

He put some things on the table and we ended going back and forth a few times. I wasn’t trying to be difficult but I knew I had to sell this to Diane as well. He assured me things would work out. They needed someone with women’s experience and I knew a lot of vendors I could help bring on as well. Aaron sets up the Zappos interview for the following week.

Meanwhile back at Target, The Store Manager wanted me to work graveyard with the logistics team because the trucks weren’t getting finished 100% at night. They could handle one truck okay but if there was a second truck the store looked pretty rough in the morning. My new hours would be 10PM to 7AM.  It was going to be interesting on how I would pull the interview off next week with no sleep.

I started learning Spanish from a Pimsleur audio tape too since most of the team spoke mostly Spanish. I had taken two years of Spanish in high school so it came back pretty quickly. The first few days was rough getting my sleeping patterns down and the kids had to be quiet in the day time so I could sleep. Lucky for me they had school too.

 I couldn’t  figure out what the issue was with them not finishing on time at first but a double truck was coming in a few days, so I’d get the full story soon enough. I asked the hardlines ETL to help me that night, to give me better insight on the problem so I could find the solution. He agreed, so that made me feel a little better, two sets of eyes at least. I was looking forward to the Zappos interview every passing day…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Transfered to the Target Hayward store opening #176

Transfered to the Target Hayward store opening

Blog #175 I talked about how our Target Corporate visit went well. In this blog I want to talk about me being transferred to the Target Hayward store opening.


There was a new store opening in Hayward and I was to be transferred as the ETL for logistics there. I hadn’t really worked with the logistics team too much in the old store but was excited to learn. Basically this position was making sure all the shipments were handled properly. Every night there were trucks and they would dock the container and the overnight team would scan everything in and restock the floor. Everything else would be scanned into backstock.


This position was 2nd in line to the STL or Store Team Leader so I was excited to learn this part in my new career. Part of the responsibility was to work with the overnight team to make sure everything was done correctly. The position itself wasn’t a graveyard position but if things went south you would have to figure out why. I planned on working a few weeks with the overnight team to learn the process.


Other ETL’s in this store weren’t as nice as the team in Milpitas. We were a pretty tight group there and all got along pretty well. This team was different. Couldn’t figure out why but one thing I did know was the Hardlines ETL thought he should have the Logistics position.  Made things a little awkward between us. He was kind of a stiff personality and wasn’t all that nice to people. Plus he was one of those managers that liked to intimidate people and while I always had high expectations I felt you treat all people with respect.




My new STL was super nice at first. He had a very calm personality and was very friendly. We got along pretty well and I enjoyed our conversations. Knowing I was learning this position, he wasn’t too much of a hard ass. He wasn’t a George though…George was really warm and rarely went off on people.


A few times I’d be walking the floor with him and we were having a nice walk and he would just go off the rails on another ETL. I stood there shocked. This was another side that made me a little nervous with how long he would be patient with my learning curve. He would scream at someone then come back still angry then a weird smile would come over his face and he’d talk really calm with me. Like something from a scary movie.


Observing his rants went on for several months and so far I didn’t have any of his anger go my way. To make sure of this I tried to get friendlier with the Hardlines ETL on running a good logistics business. There were a lot of good pointers which I tried to incorporate with my strategy. This helped him out too because the Hardlines area was so crucial to the stores business. You sell a lot of tide and other things at Target.




The regional supervisor came in a few times and he was a real hard-ass. I could see why our STL would have the mood swings, who knew what he had to endure himself. My regional in the other area was a great guy. He was on the quiet side but very professional. Had high standards too but didn’t get into the yelling stuff much. This whole way of doing things was so different than what I was used to.


 At Nordstrom  my RMM could be short with people and make you feel small but never yelled. I grew to appreciate how he treated me poorly now. Funny how things work sometimes. The grass is definitely not always greener on the other side.


People skills are so important on building a strong team. When you yell and scream at people, all that does is make them afraid of you. To truly build a strong team you need to have a vision, get everyone on board and celebrate the wins together. If there are tough times you rally everyone to try harder or a different approach.


When people aren’t living up to your expectations you need to coach them on how to do the job properly. If they aren’t capable of that, you give them notice. Yelling never solves anything. Treating people poorly is the sign of an insecure person. Being transferred to the Target Hayward store opening I thought was going to rejuvenate me. I knew this was going to get old quickly…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Target corporate visit went well #175

Target corporate visit went well

Blog #174  I talked about The good, the bad and the sad. . In this blog I want to talk about how a Target corporate visit went well.

Our new STL’s name was Becky. She was very personable, fit and attractive and was someone you liked right away. I could tell she was really smart and knew what she was doing. Of course I still would have liked working with George a little better. He was more real while she seemed kind of corporate. First impression was that I liked her.


Corporate Visit


We were informed of a corporate visit in a few days so we needed to get the store tuned up. Our Store had just received a double truck so it was a little rough so we had our work cut out for us. I volunteered to work straight through which meant 27 hours straight. She was super grateful because she was still getting her feet wet. Charles and I first did a bunch of scans to fill the store up fast. We walked every inch of the store as someone from corporate would do. End Caps were always “catch-alls” so we made sure they were all meaningful as well. Then we double checked that all signage was current and we were up to date on all the Plan-o-Grams (floor sets.)


Logisitcs Prep


Meanwhile the Logistics team took down all the pallets that were upstocked and re-wrapped everything nice and neat. Floors in the backroom werre mopped and swept real good. I think we even wiped down the forklift real good. All the boxes were straihght too to give an even better look. We did random location checks to insure accuracy.  Everything that usually was checked on we covered. I worked a solid 27 hours straight. At this point I was so tired and my body was so caffeinated that I was a hot mess. But we looked as perfect as we could.




It was a brutal two days of prep but we looked fantastic when they showed up. The corporate guy could tell I had worked a long shift and thanked me with a Golden Bullseye pin to place on my badge. “Get some rest now” he told me. These were hard to get so It was a cool reward. Target’s Golden Bullseye was a high honor. I was also acknowledged for my great increases and for the fact our Accident report was the best results in the region. George had put me in charge of safety for the store a few months back so it was nice to see such positive results.


More Changes


It was a great first impression with Becky. We hit it off right away. Shortly after the Visit she informed me I was getting transferred to the new Hayward store opening as the Logistics ETL. It was a promotion so It was a nice acknowledgement. With Target you really didn’t have a choice and since I was in the ETL program this is what it was all about. With all the recognition and positive results I was enjoying at that moment,I still had the same uneasy feeling of not being content…If I can’t be happy with huge increases and recognition for Safety and recieving the Golden Bullseye, what would make me happy? I started doing some real soul searching and decidied even being promoted to a STL wouldn’t do it. This was affecting my health, my marriage and my psyche. Something had to change and quick..


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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The Good The Bad and the Sad #174

The Good The Bad and the Sad

Blog #173  I talked about The daily routine at Target. In this blog I want to talk about The good the bad and the sad.

The Good

If you know me, You know I am the type of person who likes to learn new things. I also like machinery, so learning how to work a forklift was a lot of fun. A forklift has a gas pedal like a normal car and a brake so that was easy. It has a reverse lever if you had to back up. There were three levers for the forks Up, Down and tilt. So all of it together was pretty easy to learn but there were safety issues also involved. If you weren’t paying attention it could lead to disaster. Using the Forklift also gave you an opportunity to be outside on occassion. For all these reasons I would volunteer. 

The Bad

One time,  I saw someone dump a whole pallet of liquid Tide once and it was a mess. And no it wasn’t me…

This person started it out right, The liquid tide was on a pallet and the employee drove over to the pallet. The forks went into the open spaces of the pallet just right. When he started to lift the pallet you are supposed to tilt the pallet ever so slightly. Ever so slightly was missed on this one. He tilted it way too far and all the containers came tumbling down. This also could have been avoided if he used “Shrink wrap to keep the Tide all together. It was a mess but I sure learned from that.

Sometimes when the overnight team had two trucks it would be a lot of work for the day team as well, getting it all processed. This was where teamwork really came in. The items the overnight team didnt have time to finish would be staged in the back. The daytime team would first run everything they could on the shelves then scan into location when put into back stock. We would help each other as needed or otherwise it would be a snowball effect that would cause the whole store to be is disarray. Everyone was pretty good at helping each other out. Two trucks usually meant a tough day and exhausting one.

The Sad

One sad day George announced he was leaving. An empty pit developed in my gut. He was leaving Target for Best Buy. He was the reason why I’ve stayed, because I liked him so much, he can’t do this to me… I started thinking of what my next move would be. Everyone in the store loved George. We threw him a nice send off with cake and party favors in the lunchroom. We had a lot of laughs that day even though it was sad.

Charles and I kept giving each other the look on “What’s next?” We would most likely get a new store manager even though I felt Charles was capable. All the ETL’s were a little rattled on what kind of STL we would get. George kept it fun and was awesome to work with even when he was mad. I started doing some soul searching and wanted to be ahead of this in case it went south. George was not your typical STL so this would be interesting.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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The daily routine at Target #173

The daily routine at Target

Blog #172  I talked about learning from George and Charles. In this blog I want to talk about The daily routine at Target

As I said in the last blog, Target had different ETL’s for each of the areas. Everything was around getting the trucks processed every day. Trucks would come into the back area and drop off the trailer at the bay doors. Then the Logistics ETL would check to make sure the seal matched before breaking it. It wouldn’t be broken until the truck was ready to be unloaded to prevent theft. On two truck nights there would be two bays with trailers behind them.

Overnight Team

Our overnight team arrived around 9:30 or 10PM to start setting up the rails that would be used to roll the cases down out of the truck. They were folded up after each use like an accordion which made them easy to use. Once everyone was there and the store was closed they would break the seals and two people would climb into the trailer to move the cartons onto the rails. Cartons would be scanned as they left the truck to signify receipt of goods. Anything damaged would be set aside. There was a “hands team” that would place the cartons by dept. so many pallets were used. When a pallet was full someone would take out to the floor and dropped at the appropriate location. A floor team would start stocking the shelves.

After the people unloading the trucks were done they would come out to the floor and help stock the shelves too. They basically had from 10PM to 6AM to complete the truck. Anything not able to stay out on the floor due to the shelves being full would be brought into the back stockroom and scanned into a location.  There would be the Bar-code for the item and another bar-code for each shelf location in the stockroom. This way everything could be found when needed.


Daytime Team

During the day the Daytime team would finish filling the shelves by doing scans as well. With the location system it would lead the person to the location in the stockroom and they would scan it out of location to run to the floor. For Soft-Lines I was in charge of footwear and clothing. My shoe experience helped out but it was definitely a different type of operation. By keeping the shelves full and Requesting fills on hot items from the buyers we had really big increases in footwear.


Customers were a different type at this location too. Theft was a problem in DVD’s and shaving kits. Usually you had to be the Manager in Charge at some point during the day. Middle of the day was the premium shift because the opener had to make sure everything was good to open and the opposite for closing. Store had to be perfect before you left. While making your rounds walking the floor, it was a common daily experience to see empty packages on the floor from thieves. Security would catch some of them and have the MIC involved searching for the crook. If we caught someone we would have to fill out the theft report and call the Police to arrest them. Needless to say it wasn’t fun.

Target didn’t have a lenient return policy like Nordstrom did so there were always confrontations with customers. Plus Target had a strict policy the ETL’s could not bend. One guy got so upset with me he challenged me to a fist fight outside the store because I wouldn’t give him a refund. Security just watched while he was screaming at me. 

I asked him if he really wanted to fight me over a return? He was an idiot and wouldn’t leave so I threatened to call the police. Then he left… I remained calm during the whole interaction with him. I think he felt if he pushed the limits he would get what he wanted. With Target Policy though my hands were tied. I was so used to the Nordstrom way so I felt bad for the customers in a way. Our security department didn’t take care of unruly customers just thieves. This was the worst part of the job. I hated being the MIC. It really made me question if I wanted to be a store manager after all. If this is the End game, do I want this? We had nutty people at Nordstrom too but this was them on steroids. Sometimes it was nuts.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Learning from George and Charles #172

Learning from George and Charles

Blog #171  I talked about Zappos calls again in 2002. In this blog I want to talk about learning from George and Charles.

Target had different ETL’s for each of the areas. There were quite a few in the Hard-lines area since it was so big. I had the Soft-line’s area by myself and there was a Logistics ETL and a HR ETL. We didn’t usually see much of the Logistics ETL as he liked to work graveyard with his team which was by choice. The other ETL’s and I all got along really well. Our HR ETL, Theresa was a crack up. Very cynical and direct, so we got along just fine. There were three Hard-lines ETL’s  but the main Hard-lines ETL was Charles. I probably learned the most from him but had great relations with the other two as well.




Charles was a very A-type personality. Very direct with people, wasn’t mean but wasn’t too warm either. He usually treated people with respect though and everyone liked him. If he looked over his glasses then you knew he meant business. Normally he would start with a “Rebeccaaaa, you know how this is supposed to look like….Soooooo when will this be corrected”. Never talked to me like that but it was a little comical to watch. Always had good intentions and had a big heart. Plus he was an encyclopedia of knowledge. Knew Target left and right, forwards and backwards. I learned a lot from him and he even taught me and certified me on the fork-lift.


One thing Target was about was clean & stocked floors,  so that basically was our job to make sure that happened. Every day… ETL’s would usually have a walkie on one side of the belt and a LRT holster on the other side. We used those to scan the barcodes to create a fill order to get out to the floor. The team leads would be responsible for this mostly but the ETL had to make sure it was executed.

Getting to the store itself was a chore being in Dublin. My family lived between San Jose and the Pleasanton area, so I had the Silicon Valley traffic to deal with. It took a good hour sometimes to get to work. We usually started our day in the store at 7 so I had to be on the road by 6am.




Another thing with Target, everything revolved around the truck shipments every day. Sometimes it would be one truck other days two. There was never a day that there wasn’t much to do. Every day was a busy day. George made it all ok. He was such a great guy. I’d rank him with some of the other mentors I’ve had in my career. It was a different business but his people skills were unmatched. I think he could sell anything to anyone. Yes, he was that good.


George had a smile that was super warm and very authentic. Always took his time to explain things to everyone so they understood. Even when he was mad, it was ok. You just knew he wasn’t happy and wanted to turn that around. There wasn’t one person who disliked him. Talk about a great sense of humor too, we laughed often when together and really enjoyed each other’s company.

This made me stay. The job itself wasn’t that great but I sure enjoyed working with him. Until I figured out what else I’d do he made it ok to work there. It just wasn’t very fulfilling, something was missing. Did I miss the shoe business?


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Zappos calls again in 2002 #171

Zappos calls again in 2002

Blog #170 I talked about how my Target journey begins in Milpitas. In this blog I want to talk about when Zappos calls again in 2002.




1 ½ years later Fred calls me again in 2002. We had a nice chat and he said they really needed someone with women’s footwear experience. He mentioned they had doubled their business every year and were trending to do it again in 2002. I told him I would make the move if it were just me but had a family to consider. My wife didn’t have a comfort level of me working for a start-up type business, because a lot of them failed in the Bay Area. I was more of a risk taker but at the same time respected her wishes. I had to decline again. We left it on good terms though, because he said he’d ask me again next year.


Eileen & Aaron


Meanwhile Aaron gets invited to a birthday party for one of Freds sons. After several glasses of gin he gets put on the couch next to Tony. Aaron didn’t know who Tony was at the time but answered a lot of Tony’s questions about shoes and E-Commerce. 2 days later he gets an offer from Fred/Tony. While he was happy where he was Aaron calls me for some advice. I told him I’d do it for sure if I could. Aaron gives a 3 week notice. Fred asks Aaron who would be good for better end designer type brands and Aaron suggests Eileen. She joins soon after. Zappos was hiring and he should check them out. That’s where I’d go, if I could, I told him. He calls Eileen and not too long after joins them as well.


Feeling a little jealous of both of them I was happy at the same time. I really liked both of them and felt it was a great move on their part. Good news was I had two more people I cared for and respected to reach out to if I needed to. My level of contentment was ok at best in this stage of my Target career, Long hours and dirty work a lot of the time. The customers in Milpitas were very confrontational and there was a lot of theft to deal with. There was usually empty DVD containers found in odd parts of the store and we would have to figure out how it was done. Sometimes we would catch the thieves in the act which was always fun.


Back to Target


Most of our day was to walk the floor of our department and make sure everything was full. If we had time we would help out the other areas as well. We all worked well together so it was never a problem. Sometimes we would have floor resets which usually happened after 10PM. There would be a Palo-Gram which told us exactly how we had to do it. This insured all the stores to have the same look. 




George who was the main reason I stuck it out asked me to attend a regional meeting. The meeting was about how to improve customer service. Of course I arrived early and there were people from all over the Bay Area in attendance. They asked me to attend because of my Nordstrom Background. When asked what Target could do to improve the service I suggested More people on the floor to help the customers find what they were looking for. They looked at me like I had two heads.


“No, we mean what can we do without spending any extra money.” With my Nordstrom background, I explained why the service was so great at Nordstrom. It was about an experience there. People were approached right away. To pull that off you need enough people around to do that. It was rare to even see one person per department at Target. Clean floors was the focus at Target and for the most part that was handled properly. Everyone had a walkie talkie to communicate so it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great.


The consensus was to try to motivate people to work harder at giving better service. You mean like more incentives or compensation? That’s what motivates people. I remember in all my retail jobs of the past if salespeople opened a Credit account they would earn a little extra. Well not exactly was the response. We think by giving out “Good Job” cards when people do something right, that will be enough motivation. Good luck with that, was my first thought.


The people


The people in our store were all good people for the most part. I enjoyed working with all of them. They all had different backgrounds and life stories so it was interesting to work with them all. I thought George did a great job of keeping people motivated just by the way he treated everyone. Recognition from him was pretty frequent which kept every bodies spirits up.  Not sure if a “Good Job” card would move it forward much but that’s what we had to do, so I did it.




My calls to my father were more frequent being he worked at Sears which was similar. He always knew had to make me feel better and how to have a positive outlook on things. He thought the Zappos thing was interesting and to give it some thought still. For now I needed to focus on my family and learning this ETL position.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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My Target journey begins in Milpitas #170

My Target Journey begins in Milpitas

Blog #169  I talked about three reps who stayed in touch. In this blog I want to talk about how my Target journey begins in Milpitas.


Nordstrom lessons


Nordstrom was an amazing experience and I met so many great people along the way. A lot of  the things I learned during my time there shaped me into the merchant I am today. In my previous experiences I learned these things too but the Nordstrom experience developed them. Mentors like Rob, Mike and Kent really helped fine tune my Women’s experience while Gail taught me a different side of the business in Kid’s. Martha exposed me to the Salon world and coaching people the right way. I think I learned a little bit from all my RMM’s though even the bad one.


Blake and Jack also were a big part to my development. Here you had two people that were at the top of the food chain but also were great coaches and mentors to their people. That was the thing about Nordstrom and the inverted pyramid. Sometimes we at the store level would scoff at the idea of an inverted pyramid. “Yeah right” was the response most of the time. But in practice Nordstrom held the salespeople in such high regard it worked.


Life lessons


In life you have to take the journey as a learning process. You can’t go through life not making any mistakes. These are lessons to learn from to become better and stronger as a person. Business is the same type of process. It’s best to take your ego aside and implement the things you learn to always move forward. The difficult piece to this is to identify this when its happening instead of later down the road.


No break


I didn’t have much of a break from Nordstrom before I started Target, maybe a week. I did that by design since I had a severance package and wanted it to feel like a bonus of sorts. Bonus for being happier I was thinking.


I was hired as a Soft-lines ETL or Executive Team Leader as they termed it at Target. With my vast shoe experience it made since to start in soft-lines. I think at this point I was going on over 20 years in the footwear industry. This job was more of a retail job as a whole than being defined as still being in the footwear industry. The goal was to work my way through all the departments to eventually become a STL or Store Team Leader.


ETL Training


The first few months I worked through a training workbook and worked in several departments to get through each chapter of the book. Target was big on clean aisles and as an ETL you had to make sure that was the case at all times. This included cases off the floor and everything neat and in order. Spills were all too common too since there were liquid products so we had to keep on top of that too to reduce slips and falls.




My first STL was George. He was a great guy and very personable. He was fit and handsome and had an amazing smile. His sense of humor cracked me up too as we had a lot of good times and laughs together. He had a great team of ETL’s who all liked each other and were good at what they did. George was great at coaching at training people. He was really patient and talked clearly to make sure you understood what he expected. It was an amazing experience working with him. I knew from the very beginning Target wasn’t my destiny but George made it seem okay.


I was nominated by George to be the store “Safety” ETL as well. This meant I was responsible for reducing the accidents in the store. Whenever a “Guest” as Target would call the customers, had an accident the MIC or Manager in Charge at the time would have to fill out all the paperwork and note what happened. Usually it was because a liquid from a container leaked out and no one caught it. I made sure the ETL’s would look for these types of things as they were doing their rounds and we reduced our accident events by 50%.


Dress codes different


Everyday at Nordstrom I’d get ready with a different suit each day, shirt and tie and groomed well. It was different at Target. You had a uniform basically. Not really but kinda… Khaki pants and a red shirt. You could have different types of red shirts but a t-shirt was frowned upon as an ETL. It had to be a collared shirt like a polo or a button up dress shirt. Solid color too.


This alone was a big departure for me. I decided I missed the suits which was weird because sometimes the suits got old too. I think it was mostly the atmosphere I missed. Piano music and upscale customers to basic items at a great price. Different crowd for sure.


Shoe department


The shoe department I was in charge of was a little more upscale than Koby’s was but it made me feel like I took a step backwards. Target did a good job of having stylish styles at a price. Most of the brands were their own private label brands like Merona or Exhilaration. They started to eventually venture into designer brands they commissioned but still on the cheaper end of the spectrum.


Nordstrom was a high bar that I finally reached and now I had to dig deep and find myself again. What did I want? Where was I going. Was I still a Shoe dog? At Nordstrom during the Recognition meetings I was the instigator of the Shoe Dog bark. The shoe buyers would usually sit in the back and if they’d mention the shoe areas I’d start a “Bark chant” that would go like “Woof Woof Woof” in a deep tone. The GM would always comment “The shoe dogs are barking”. I missed that… I knew the path but did I really want to venture down this path or start looking now.




Then there was Zappos still. I felt I was missing out on something. Every time I talked to Jon or Fred they were doubling their business. Pretty exciting. Eileen joined Zappos soon after I quit Nordstrom. She had worked with me in Arden Fair and moved on to Nordstrom in SF Centre and also had a brief stint at Target.  I felt like the kid who was looking at the friend who got a pair of Levis. Since my dad worked at Sears I got “ Sears Toughskins”. My dad would always say they were better than Levis. 


Diane kept cheering me on to stick it out. “You will make a great Store Manager someday” she’d say. Problem was I didn’t know if I believed that or worse yet, even wanted that…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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