I Know, funny title for a marketing entry. But it leads into the fabulous customer service of an online retailer versus a miserable experience of an older brick and mortar one.
The feet related to Zappos who live their core values - # 1 of which is delivery of WOW customer service. I don't care if you are online or offline. B2B or B2C. If you state WOW customer service is your top value, then you better deliver, and they do. My wife went though 3 shipments of new sneakers back and forth to them - free, fast shipping each way - and raved about the experience, even though she was frustrated that her feet had gotten bigger and the same shoe in the same size no longer fit. She constantly talks to her friends about her experiences, and you know the positive word of mouth will just generate more business for this great company (now owned by Amazon.com)
Contrast this to The Gap, where we bought a couple of back to school shirts for our kids in early September. Well it turns out that kid #1 said he liked the shirts and would wear them, but when it came time to really dress for school, he was having none of it. So we went to return them. The store tags were still one. We had the reciept that showed how much we paid. But the Gap said that since it was past 30 days, they would only credit us for what the last price sold was (About $3 a shirt). Again, we had the tags on the shirts and the original receipt. How foolish is this policy in an economy of declining spending? With 3 kids, how much do think we spend on clothing in a year? How much do you think I'll even consider spending at the Gap from this point on? Answer = zilch. There are too many other great alternatives to put up with this.
So the lesson here, if it isn't obvious already: customer delight, and referrals, comes from both they buying, service AND the return experiences. Set up your policies and processes to intelligently protect you, but recognize the sheer number of alternatives your customers have and don't give them a reason to go elsewhere.