Zappos, in case you live under a rock or on the tragically Zappos-less rock of Ireland, is an Internet mail-order shoe-selling company. They sell other things too now, but shoes are their main stock-in-trade. If you say Zappos, I think shoes, and so do many, many other women who have fallen into their supple, shiny, suede-trimmed trap.
It's not that they're bad. It's just that they're very very good.
So you go to the site and you look at lots of pretty pictures of shoes. You can see the shoes from every angle, you can zoom in to examine the stitching detail or the pattern on the sole, you can even watch a video where someone wears the shoe and then holds it and bends it to show how delightfully flexible it is. You can read reviews by other people who were delighted with these shoes, or disappointed by them in some specific way, and thus you can make an educated guess as to which shoes are best for you. They have all those odd sizes that are so hard to find in stores, like wides and narrows. You can sort them out by size or style or colour or brand or season - or emotion they inspire, probably.
But here's the best bit. Shipping is free, and return shipping is free. So you can order as many pairs as take your fancy, safe in the knowledge that if they're not quite right once you have them in your own hands, and on your own feet, you can send them back and not be a penny out of pocket.
Oh, those canny Zappos people, they are so clever. Because once you have the shoes not just in your hands and on your feet - as you might at the mall or on the high street - but in your very own house where you can try them on with all thicknesses of socks, with trousers and jeans and skirts and everything you own, the temptation to just let the nice people in the computer keep your money while you keep these shoes that are so nearly right, but maybe just not exactly what you had been initially envisaging, that temptation is great. These shoes that you might not even have picked off the display in the store, because you could see immediately that the shade was wrong, or the leather was oddly wrinkly, or you were actually looking for sandals, not boots - now you can see that really there could be a place in your collection for these shoes too. Maybe you'd be crazy to send them back.
Also, of course, sending them back requires action. You have to package them up again, and your children have already run off to pop the bubble wrap. You have to seal the box, and you can't find the packing tape. You have to print out a return label, and the printer is all the way downstairs in the basement and sometimes the wireless connection doesn't work so you have to go down there and manually turn it on. And then you have to drive to the post office or the UPS store and bring it inside. (I've heard you can just give it to your mail carrier too, but I don't ever trust my mail carrier to actually take things as well as deliver them. That sort of thing would never work in Ireland.) Sure, you don't have to pay anything, but all that activity, when you could just let them keep your few paltry dollars (eighty, whatever, were these on sale, I don't remember) and have these shoes in your collection for the day when you do own the perfect pants/skirt/suspenderbeltwhatIdon'tjudge . . . well, you see how it goes.
Right now, as you might have guessed, I have two pairs of shoes upstairs, all nicely re-packed in their boxes with the fiddly plastic mouldy things and the tissue paper and the inner bags all perfectly replaced. One pair was gorgeous, the perfect colour, but not comfortable enough. The other pair was blissfully comfy but the wrong colour. I'm trying very hard to either just let it go and send them back or find some good reason why I need the brown ones so that I can keep them.
Oh, Zappos. I just can't quit you.