Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Business Marketing

Realtor secrets

Zappos, an online shoe store, seems to have turned the world upside down when it comes to customer service – free shipping both ways, a 365 day return policy and even suggesting a competitor’s website when they’re out of stock. They claim “There is no secret to our success, there are no secrets at Zappos.” If a billion dollar online shoe company doesn’t have any secrets then why should we?

Zappos, an online shoe store, seems to have turned the world upside down when it comes to customer service - free shipping both ways, a 365 day return policy and even suggesting a competitor's website when they're out of stock. They claim “There is no secret to our success, there are no secrets at Zappos.” If a billion dollar online shoe company doesn't have any secrets then why should we?


Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the buzz about online shoe store Zappos. (watch this amazing video on Nightline) It seems they’ve turned the world upside down when it comes to customer service – free shipping both ways, a 365 day return policy and even suggesting a competitor’s website when they’re out of stock. The most heartfelt story comes from Zaz Lamarr, who meant to return a pair of shoes but her mom passed away so she didn’t have time:

When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.

Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is.

Brian Boero from 1000 Watt Consulting recently took a tour of Zappos headquarters in Henderson, NV. The point that stuck with him came from tour guide, or “mayor,” Jerry Tidmore:

“There is no secret to our success, there are no secrets at Zappos.”


realtor-secretsIf a billion dollar online shoe company doesn’t have any secrets then why should we? Everyone has seen the lists of “10 things to ask your Realtor…” but now it’s time to dig deeper. Stop the smoke and mirror routine and become more transparent by answering these more difficult questions:

• How much do you actually net for selling my house?

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

• Do you get paid more when another agent from your office represents the other side of the transaction?

• Why do you pick one home inspector over another?

• Do you receive any benefits if I use your company’s lender, title company, etc.

Have a secret you think should be answered? Post it in the comments below and let’s see how many people can be completely honest.

photo credit

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Written By

As the son of two music teachers, Ben spent his first 21 years trying to make a living with his slightly above average trumpet playing. After no return calls from Dizzy Gillespie and then a failed attempt at becoming a fly girl on "In Living Color," he switched gears and finally found his nichè in real estate. He's a Minnesota appraiser and also a Realtor with his better half, Stacia. Labeled “one to watch” from an anonymous source (thanks mom), Ben is smart, good looking, athletic and a rock star inside his own head. He also never passes up a chance to write his own bio. Find him online at twitter or selling Stillwater Real Estate.



  1. Benn Rosales

    May 28, 2009 at 9:33 am

    That is one of the pitfalls of the R brand in that the assumption isn’t that most are honest and do the right thing by their clients, and customers- we assume it to be the exact opposite.

    I hear stories every week, nearly every day of stories of great generosity and love of clients and customers, and personal stories of the extra mile.

    I am an optimist (although I get burned at times), that most agents are open and direct with their clients.

    I for one would rather pass on a deal if feel I cannot be absolutely 100% blunt about the transaction, and if we don’t get satisfaction in the inspection, redundant inspections are best.

  2. Joe Loomer

    May 28, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Ben, in this market I would add the questions:

    – are you a full-time agent?

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. BawldGuy

    May 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Ben, I understand the sentiment, but enough is enough. Transparency has finally jumped the shark, and I for one am sick and tired of how intrusive the concept has become.

    Does Zappos ‘disclose’ how much profit it’s making on each pair of shoes? Highly unlikely. It sells shoes for a price and at a quality for which the public happily votes with its pocketbook. Without apology it’s nobody’s damn business how much I net, as long as I act with honesty, rock ribbed integrity, and oh yeah, know what the hell I’m doing.

    I remember when the phrase, ‘silent majority’ was first coined back in the 70’s. As I’ve attended/spoken at conferences, seminars, and barcamps around the country the last few years, the vast majority of folks with whom I’ve spoken have enthusiastically agreed — their business is their business.

    The consumer either gets what they pay for or they don’t. They can easily ascertain what your competition charges for the same services/expertise and choose their representation accordingly.

    Zappos applies policies worthy of high praise for sure. But it’s called ‘private enterprise’ for a reason. Can we agree on that much?

    Transparency, for the most part, is a false issue used to invade privacy. The few times it’s legitimately invoked are exceptions that prove the rule, and ironically centuries old.

    Thanks Ben, I feel better now.

  4. Ken Brand

    May 28, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I think you have some good points. I’d disagree on “what’s my net” question. The seller and buyer know what they are paying. What I net isn’t really any of their business. Again they know what I charge and if they feel it’s a good value, they’ll hire me. If they don’t they won’t.

    I’m not being sarcastic, but for the sake of conversation. The next logical question after the “net” quesiton might be….”tell me what you spend you money on, break down your profit margins, etc.

    I don’t need to the what the Restaurant Owner net’s, I don’t need to know the accountant nets, I don’t need to know what the doctor nets, I don’t need to know what the attorney nets or the car repair guy. They give me a price, tell me what they can do for me and if I like it I pay it.

    Your other questions are great and hopefully we’ll see more like the “full time agent” question from Joe.

    Instead of asking what they net, “I’d want to know, do you charge different clients different fees for the same services?” I’m pretty sure Zappos doesn’t sell the same shoe to different clients at different prices based on the shoe buyer asking for a discount or a break on the price.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Marvin Jensen

    May 29, 2009 at 12:19 am

    If a client wants to know what I net, I will tell them..

  6. Mark Green

    May 30, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I hear that Zappos is a paid advertiser on this site (via the comment thread here:

    Is this true? If so, I’d hope you come clean and face the music. If not, my apologies.

  7. Mark Green

    May 30, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Wait a second, I am a moron. There’s the banner ad right next to your “article”. So you don’t even need to answer my original question. How about addressing the follow up questions:

    Do you really expect people to take you seriously? You talk about transparency and can’t even disclose when writing an advertorial about a prominent paid advertiser – IN THE SAME ARTICLE???

    This is one of the most pathetic excuses for journalism I’ve ever seen.

  8. Joe Loomer

    May 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Dammit Mark, he’s a Realtor, not a Magician, err, Journalist!

    Signed your petition, by the way…..

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  9. Ben Goheen

    May 30, 2009 at 11:02 am

    @Mark Green – This is your first response to my ‘article’ so I don’t see an original question – but I’d answer it if asked. I’m a contributor and have no control over what ads appear on this site.

    BTW – I’m also an appraiser and haven’t seen a negative impact on mine or any of my client’s business. The biggest complaints come from people who abused the system for many years.

  10. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Mark, before this gets out of wack, we’re not going to defend a straw man fallacy on who and or what is an advertisement- every person here is advertising something, including you (I see you’re a vendor with a CRM).

    There’s no link to to Zappos in the post, nor the comments- the story Ben is referencing is public knowledge and the company is incredibly popular and relatable. The company of choice the blogoverse used to write about is nordstroms in terms of comparable customer service levels in which to strive for which is why we’re proud to advertise for them.

    If you read our terms of service (disclaimer) you’ll see that we speak to advertisement and ptb very clearly in terms I know you of all people understand.

  11. Mark Green

    May 30, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Ben, the original comment was awaiting moderation as my follow up comment published directly. Benn, what am I advertising here? Look, it’s your party and I am merely a guest. As a vendor, I actually try to go out of my way to uphold the divide between advertising and journalism. No reason why vendors shouldn’t have a take on industry events too. It would have been very simple for you or another admin to disclose the fact that you are pimping a paid advertiser. At least I could somewhat respect that. Don’t give me this BS that readers ought to read the fine print. That is a cop out. As bloggers, we are in essence journalists. By the way, my blog doesn’t accept advertising, never will.

  12. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Mark, I see no disclaimer for your ad on the bhb sidebar, i.e. your face/link and the dofollow link to your product in every post you create- especially because the blog you write for sells education to agents, it should be disclosed that you are a vendor in every single post along with a nofollow link- you’re not writing there for your health, or are you? I give you the benefit of that doubt, I would appreciate the same in return- please hawk your wares elsewhere sir, you lost this battle before you started.

    There’s no small print or legalese, only lazy minds who leap before they read. It’s a size 13 font, and as I said, the complaint is a straw man designed to drive traffic.

    I’d get those post links on bhb nofollowed in a hurry before Google gets wind of your failure to disclaim your smuttiness.

    …or as I said, is this a straw man? The only BS I’m smelling around here is your failure to disclaim on your own blog that you are advertising a CRM product, as well as a failure to nofollow links to the writers as you’re advertising for them as well- Google would love that perspective.

    Get your own house in order before you sling dogshit here.

  13. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    dropped an image in to guide you, blue = dofollow

  14. Ken Brand

    May 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Mark – I have blog and I’m not a Journalist. I contribute to AgentGenius and I’m not a journalist. For me ‘blogging” is commentary, and that’s I view 99% of blogging I read. Just say’n.

    While I don’t agree with Ben’s (Goheen) “commentary” I DO take him seriously, I do respect his opinions and I wouldn’t dream of calling him “pathetic”, that sounds off to me, and dangerous if done IRL. I don’t know Ben Goheen, I hope to meet him some day, he seems like a cool, sincere guy.

    As for ads on a blog site. What’s the problem with that?. It’s pretty transparent – the nature of an ad is to been seen, hidden ads don’t work real well. – duh.

    Should I not read a magazine, watch TV news, go to the movies, read a newspaper, use Google or consume any information because there are advertisements poisoning the pristine purity of the content. Come-on? I have a brain, I can figure out when I’m reading an “advertorial” and when I’m reading “commentary” and when I’m reading “journalism”. I bet you can too. Do you think an unsuspecting reader will read Benn G’s. commentary about transparency and Zappos and then be magically compelled to buy shoes? Or that Zappos said to Benn R. and Ben G, “write about our shoes, but do it cleverly disguised as a blog about “transparenty” and we’ll advertise with you. Eventually we’ll bamboozle everyone and take over the world as shoe kings” Sheez.

    That you don’t have ads on your blog and never will – congratulations or what-ever or so-what? If you’re not independently wealthy and don’t need to hustle for a living, you’re selling something. In fact, you and I are “branding” our business in these comments. Right?


  15. Mark Green

    May 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    So what you are saying is that I am comment spamming? If that were true I’d be complimenting you on such a fine example of journalistic integrity, not the other way around. I think you’ll find that I am an honest participant in discussions I find of interest. Can’t say I’m surprised that you simply go on the attack instead of just taking this as constructive criticism. Where your shout out to Zappos crosses the line is that they are a paid advertiser. All you needed is a simple disclaimer. Food for thought, that’s it.

  16. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Ken, that’s the straw man of it all, now isn’t it. You can argue this for days but it’s the equivalent of stepping in dogshit, you wash it off, but you still smell it- a vendor pimping his wares on a blog, gaining link juice in google, and claiming it’s all in the name of journalism, what a joke.

  17. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Mark, its too late for that, you dropped the attack, you failed to investigate as a so-called journalist, and you got smacked. I’d be much more worried about your own house right now, we’ve got you red handed. A vendor writing in the name of humanity while buying link juice from bhb, oh the irony of it all.

  18. Ken Brand

    May 30, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    One last comment then I’m gonna go grab lunch. Mark, what kinda disclaimer are you looking for.

    Something like:

    Dear reader, see that ad in the sidebar, it’s an ad. Do you read me right? No, really, it’s ad….in case you didn’t already know, “ad” is short for “advertisement”. Be warned, “advertisers” want you to buy their stuff, that’s why they run ads. One more time incase you’re not real sharp – that’s an “AD” over there. Yes. It’s an “AD” and this is a disclaimer telling you outright – you’re suspicions are confirmed – it looks like and AD and it is.

    Mark, we all know “ads” when we see them. I’m reminded ofthose funny disclaimers on the “Coffee cup” – “The beverage you’re about to enjoy is hot.” Duh. Everyone thinks those are funny and unnecessary and in response to 1 in 1,000,000 kooks.

    It’s lunch time and I won’t bore anyone with my continued blah, blah, blah.

    Have a nice weekend all.

  19. Mark Green

    May 30, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    What exactly are you accusing me of here Benn? I am not here to get into personal pissing match with you. I made my point. You obviously couldn’t handle a constructive complaint, a well founded one with tangible basis. I love the blogging community and will continue participating (and no I am not pimpin). I gotta get to my daughter’s graduation. Hope this spat ends here but hey we can keep going later if you think there is value.

  20. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Mark, I’ve made no accusations, just pointed out the obvious betrayal of your own deeds, you figure it out.

  21. Brian Brady

    May 30, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    “A vendor writing in the name of humanity while buying link juice from bhb”

    Nobody ever bought a link from BHB, Benn. (except when Greg ran Amazon affiliate links).

    I think Mark’s pointing out that the author’s failure to disclose that Zappos is a paid advertiser could be inferred as bias. The irony is that the author cries for transparency, then cites a paid advertiser as a shining example of the practice of transparency.

    It’s good editorial practice to disclose potential conflicts of interest in the copy. You’ll often see this on MSNBC when they discuss General Electric. For example, I always disclose that I’m a paying customer of Top of Mind networks when I refer to them. I always disclose the amount of money I’ve received from HomeGain (which to date, is zero) , when I write about them.

    I, like many others, enjoy a lot of authors here, Benn. As one of your readers, I’d prefer to have them disclose that potential conflict of interest. You are entitled to make any kind of profit you can off of this platform and have nothing to hide. Disclose upfront and you answer the nagging questions in the back of the readers’ minds.

  22. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Hello Brian,

    “A vendor writing in the name of humanity while buying link juice from bhb”

    Nobody ever bought a link from BHB, Benn. (except when Greg ran Amazon affiliate links).”

    A vendor writing a post receives benefit of seo (hot link in a post), exposure, and potential of selling product, in this case a CRM. There is a direct exchange of benefit that results monetarily. bhb receives traffic from the same result, aiding the sale of seats, dvds, and other things related to unchained.

    This is not a reach, it’s a fact. This is not my irrational argument, it solely belongs to bhb and the vendors that designed it- I’m simply handing it back.

    If any vendor wishes to stand on this platitude, he or she should resign, remove all links to themselves, or fully disclaim with every single link that their ultimate intent is to pimp a product in exchange for their intellectual property. Or we can afford the vendor the benefit of the doubt while affording this writer the same.

    When I saw this post here initially, I looked to see if Mr. Goheen had linked to the company as it could have been called into question, he had not- rather he linked to the same discussion being played out on other sites making clear his intent to those that are rational.

    I do not take your point lightly, and have read it from top to bottom (and will make a few modifications), as I trust you will mine.

    And for the record, those are ads for awesome products and services on our sidebar, and everyone on AG is a vendor and so is the rest of the blogosphere- there is no defense nor disclaimer big enough for it if we’re all going to play ignorant to that fact.

  23. Mark Green

    May 30, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I just got back from my daughter’s graduation. Looks like while I was gone, Brian Brady made my point exactly. I was planning on citing the same example (MSNBC, in reference to Ken’s point). I’d also cite the “advertisement” header, although in small print, you often see in newspapers when ad’s are disguised to look like actual content.

    My sensitivity to this particular subject probably stems from my newspaper background. I spent 6 years in advertising sales at the Miami Herald and LA Times. Lesson #1 centered around the separation of church and state, and it was constantly pounded into our heads. People want their news without bias – or even the slightest hint of it.

    Ben, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the content of the article. I am sure Zappos is a fine company and I certainly agree that transparency is a GOOD thing. But you guys have to admit that the omission of a disclaimer invites readers to wonder if there’s an ulterior motive – even if there isn’t one. With all due respect, I visited the blog today to read the article for myself and didn’t think to preface it with a visit to your terms & conditions page.

    Benn, I am going to go ahead and take your bait although you don’t want to seem to just come out and say it. Your image in these earlier comments accuses me of paying for my participation at BHB. This is an accusation I don’t take lightly, and it’s pretty ballsy of you to go there. For the record, I am a contributor at BHB just like all the other contributors. It’s a labor of love, and I enjoy the hell out of it. Blogging actually makes me feel like I can make a positive difference in an industry that could use more “doers” and less “talkers”. The content I’ve posted at BHB runs the gamut and I’ve gone out of my way not to make my articles about “me”. The body of work is there for everyone to review for themselves – you can make your own judgment call as to whether I’m a “vendorslut” or not. Did you even read the article you lifted your image from?

  24. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    “Did you even read the article you lifted your image from?”

    Yep, read this one too (pr6 links are in blue and there is a financial value), in which I and every reader gave you the benefit of the doubt that your intent was not to sell a crm.

    If you truly believe that there is no benefit to the pr 6 link you’re now getting from bhb in regards to the keywords you’re using in that post, and truly wrote it for no gain, then you should nofollow or remove every link to yourself or related mortgage based products, otherwise, we’ll have to begin questioning your omissions as whoring a product.

  25. Greg Swann

    May 30, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    We’re a PR6 because we’re clean. You’re a PR3 because you’re dirty. You’re not dirty because you’re an inherently corrupt person. You’re dirty because you think blaming your corruption on other people absolves you. One could wish this were a rare phenomenon.

  26. Benn Rosales

    May 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    No Greg, the author could have said, btw, apparently this company advertises here had he realized there are irrational minds in the universe- an error on his part, and I should have realized he hadn’t gone far enough- an error on mine.

    This admission is more than we’ll get for your intentional sin of compromising the standards you’ve set for others when it comes to vendors.

    You need not worry about our pr3, it’s temporary. In fact, let me relieve you of the duty to worry about me or AG at all.

  27. Ben Goheen

    May 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    WOW – the comments have taken on a life of their own. I’m sure nobody will believe me, but when I wrote this journalistic masterpiece I honestly didn’t realize Zappos had an ad on the AG sidebar. Mark, Greg, and company will obviously have a spiteful rebuttal. Think what you want – only I know the truth.

    “Journalistic Masterpiece (JM)” referrs to the above referenced article
    “Genius Goheen (GG)” referrs to the contributor, Ben Goheen
    “Agent Genius (AG)” referrs to the website
    “Zappos (Z)” referrs to the website
    “Google (G)” referrs to the website

    This JM references the company Z. GG does not monetarily benefit from mentioning Z in the JM. GG is unaware of the associate program benefit between AG and Z. Z’s associate program commission is public record and can be found as the #1 result by searching G for “Zappos associates program” Thx.

  28. Brian Brady

    May 31, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    “Think what you want – only I know the truth.”

    That’s a well-written disclosure, Ben and addresses any thoughts of potential conflict-of-interest in the reader/customer’s mind. I think it’s useful to point out that transparency tries to address these nagging questions so that you don’t have to say “only you know the truth”.

    I think we all learned something from this example.

  29. Mark Green

    May 31, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Ben, your explanation makes perfect sense and now I can see how this happened. I hope you can also understand my point of view even if you don’t agree with it. Innocent mishap, thing of the past. Lessons learned all around. The stars realign and there is peace in the world.

  30. Matt Stigliano

    June 1, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Let’s look at the intent of the article. Ben wasn’t hawking shoes. He was trying to use an example to show how agents could be better. When Ben starts hawking shoes, I hope he hangs up his license.

    I guess there is no longer a possibility of using any product or service as an example…who knows if they might become an advertiser on any given site. Oh look, down below, a Flip ad. Well there goes my post on video – right out the “transparency” window.

    Oh wait, there’s a link to Twitter too. Better never mention them. In fact, let’s just stop talking about real estate altogether, since we’re all involved in it in one way or the other – we wouldn’t anyone to think we’re hawking our own wares in any way, shape, or form.

  31. Joe Loomer

    June 1, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Kumbaya, dudes.

  32. Ben Goheen

    June 1, 2009 at 10:24 am

    @Brian – if you read my earlier comment (or bio) you’d see that I’m also an appraiser, meaning I write well-worded disclaimers on a daily basis

    @Mark – I understand you point. The way you went about making it I don’t…

    @Matt – Wanna buy a pair of shoes? 🙂

    @Joe – get the camp fire started

  33. Brian Brady

    June 1, 2009 at 11:05 am

    “if you read my earlier comment (or bio) you’d see that I’m also an appraiser, meaning I write well-worded disclaimers on a daily basis”

    I know that. I read those disclaimers daily 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.