Zappos employee Christina Gomez sounded like an opiated zombie when she first talked to Freakonomics Radio. "This job is worth more than a million dollars, definitely," she said. "It's kind of like the Wizard of Oz, and we're in the Emerald City." A week later, Gomez was wondering what she had been smoking — and raising questions about life at the Amazon shoe subsidiary.
After her employee training, and after talking to the radio show, Gomez settled in to life at Zappos. She found it wasn't at all her thing. Gomez told Freakonomics in a subsequent interview, all of one week after the first, that she grew increasingly concerned about what she saw in the "cult like" shoe and clothing retailer. So she quit.
Her experience was described in a Freakonomics radio show about quitting, edited and briefly excerpted above, and available starting at 44:40 in this MP3 file. Zappos was clearly trying to use the program to promote its much hyped HR policies, which give the company's $11-an-hour customer service workers wide latitude to decorate their desks and socialize with one another, and which offer them a $3,000 bonus if they quit during their initial training.
Zappos told the show only around 2 percent of employees take "the offer," as the early-quitting bonus is called. But Gomez took it.
What didn't she like about Zappos specifically? In part it was her alloted shifts, which weren't compatible with her other job or with caring for her child. Beyond that, Gomez doesn't detail what "cult like" things she saw. Of course, one can speculate, and Zappos' heavy handed culture seems like a good place to start. Maybe Gomez was put off by the creepy idea, articulated to Freakonomics by CEO Tony Hsieh in the clip above, that good employees put the company ahead of their own incomes. Or maybe she disliked the pressure to be festive in an office decorated with endless party-ribboned themes — "like the convergence of seven different holidays," as the show put it. Maybe she felt overwhlemed by the long stream of extracurricular activities on offer, like picnics and poker nights.
Or maybe what got to Gomez, in the end, was just the annoyance of being surrounded by overexcited starry eyed coworkers like... well, like her earlier self. This is the company, after all, whose employees showered their Dear Leader with Twitter accolades on the day he laid off 8 percent of them. Being surrounded by too much happy can be supremely aggravating. Laid out on audio, Gomez's Zappos turnaround is pretty dramatic, but that doesn't mean it the wrong decision. There's no point in forcing yourself to process endless shoe returns when you don't like the taste of the office Kool Aid.