On Tuesday, November 10th, residents of Hanover, NH woke up to a pleasant surprise; boxes of goodies gifted from online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos.com. Approximately 1,800 plain, white boxes adorned with the Zappos logo were left on the porches and at the end of driveways of residents throughout the town. Inside each box was a note that read:
“When it comes to Zappos fans, Hanover has more than a few.
So our happy helpers loaded up vans– a visit was due.
They drove here quick and dashed through town last night
To bring to your doorsteps a little delight.
Boxes of goodies to keep you warm all over
And ready to greet winter here in Hanover.
They finished at dawn, and disappeared into the blue,
Leaving a town full of Zappos boxes to say THANK YOU!”
Evidently, Hanover was the top ordering town of its size at Zappos.com, and Zappos wanted to reward such loyal customers with a token of appreciation. Each box contained a number of items, such as a pair of sunglasses, a hat, neck warmer, headphones, wool socks, and a backpack.
Many Hanover residents were a bit suspicious of the packages at first, which were unaddressed and left at homes during the early morning hours. In fact, the Hanover Regional Communications Center reported that many 911 and Hanover PD phone calls had been placed Tuesday morning reporting suspicious packages in people’s yards. They reassured residents via their Facebook page that the packages were indeed safe, and were actually a gift.
After the initial concern, many residents were grateful for the free gifts. Zappos employees hand-delivered the boxes overnight and left around 10am (I actually saw a handful of marked vans driving out of town then). While some Hanover residents were thankful, others were skeptical of Zappos motives, calling it a publicity stunt and complaining about the act on the Upper Valley Facebook group page. (Interestingly enough, the only publicity I found on the matter was a single Valley News article published the next day. Zappos did not advertise the act on their social media pages, although #ZapposLovesHanover did start appearing in posts from other social media users.) Others still, were miffed that other nearby towns were not chosen to receive gifts, claiming that the wealthier town of Hanover should not be receiving free anything. Frankly, it was a little sad to see people turn a random act of kindness into just another thing to complain about. Zappos simply wanted to thank their loyal customers, and I believe that. The company has done other random acts of kindness before and does quite a few charity events. They also appear to treat their employees particularly well. (More on that here.)
And yet a large group of people were inspired by Zappos’s kindness. Not needing the gifts themselves, people started collecting donations from the boxes to deliver to Silent Warriors, an organization in Enfield, NH that delivers much needed items to the homeless that reside in the Upper Valley. Things like hats and warm socks are perfect donation items for this cause. Other donations were being made to the Listen Center and the Upper Valley Haven as well. The town hall is also accepting donations to give to these and other local nonprofits. So while some people may feel Hanover did not need to receive these Zappos boxes, the good citizens of Hanover seem to be paying it forward. Zappos may have simply wanted to thank their customers, but they ended up sparking interesting and productive conversations among the residents of the Upper Valley, inadvertently bringing awareness to some great local organizations that are helping people in need.
While I personally do not live in Hanover, a friend of mine received a Zappos box at her apartment and shared some of her goodies with me. I kept a hat and the sunglasses, she kept a couple items, and the rest? Well, we’re donating them. So, thank you Zappos. For the fun surprise, and for picking a town that likes to pay it forward.