sly : marketing

Hey Zappos – there is a fly on my pizza

They were staring at me. Two guys. Teenagers. They had stopped talking. I didn’t care. I was waiting for them to start pointing at me, but they didn’t. Two guys, teenagers, and me, that was it. We were at the local pizza restaurant. I had never seen them before, but still, they were staring at me.

I was waving my hands. My left hand. Then, my right hand. I had started talking. At first, I was thinking that nobody could hear me, but then, looking at the two guys, I realized that at least they could here what I was saying.

I was talking to a fly. I was saying, “please leave, please go away.”

Passion is not all good when eating pizza

I was soft. I was gentle. But nothing worked. I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted it to be just me and my pizza. Oh, and, the two guys. As long as they didn’t point. But not the fly. “Please leave. Please go away,” I said it louder this time. It didn’t listen. Flies never do.

I don’t kill. Not people. Not animals. Not insects. I don’t kill, period. To me, all life is sacred. So, I get to wave at flies that are just as eager for pizza as me.

A fly is not just a fly

While looking at the guys looking at me waving and talking to the fly, I was thinking about my experience as a customer. I realized that the fly is not just a fly, it represents all the details that we don’t think about.

The guys making the pizza probably didn’t know that a single fly could ruin my pizza experience. At the same time, I can’t blame them. It’s hard to stop a fly from entering the restaurant. Any one of my friends would have hit the fly hard, and they wouldn’t be bothered by it again.

Don’t look for a scapegoat

I could have blamed myself for not being able to kill the fly. I could have blamed the guys making the pizza for allowing the fly to enter the restaurant, and I could have blamed the fly.

I didn’t.

I love flies, but just not on my pizza. They’re part of nature, and life, and they are one of many reasons why it’s so fantastic to be alive.

Why a company culture is so important

The guys stopped looking. I stared them down, I always do with those damn teenagers. The fly kept on flying, from one end of the table, to the other. Looking at me. Looking at the pizza. Eventually, it sat down, quietly at the far end of the table looking at me while I was chewing a marvelous slice of vegetarian pizza. I am not sure, but to me, it felt like it had finally understood that I would leave it alone as long as it behaved.

I was staring at the fly, eating pizza and asking an important question, “is there a way to organize every detail, and control every level of a business?”

No, there isn’t. That’s my answer. A fly could enter your business without anyone noticing it. The point is, do you have what it takes to notice it when it arrives, and what are you going to do about it?

We should prepare ourselves to be ready for whatever happens. We shouldn’t prepare the details about what to do to prevent the fly from entering. If we did, we wouldn’t have time to do anything else (remember, a fly is not just a fly). We should just make it part of our culture to be ready for whatever happens.

Zappos would never hit the fly

I’m not sure why, but sitting at the table, holding a slice of pizza in my hand, it reminded me of why I love Zappos without being a customer. It seems that they understand the importance of building relationships, and why customers are awesome no matter what. They have the best core values I have ever seen in a business. It’s just fantastic. It seems that they notice everything about their customers.

We all want to work with people that love challenges. And that’s especially important at a company. Remember, a fly can become a major challenge, especially if waving is the only weapon we are allowed to use.

Now, a final thought appeared as I was saying goodbye to my new friend. What would Zappos have done if they were making the pizza? My guess is that they would have noticed something was wrong even before I raised my arm in order to wave. And then, they would have made an entire pizza for the fly, and served it at another table. This way, we would both have had an outstanding experience.

15 responses to “Hey Zappos – there is a fly on my pizza”

  1. Bill Dorman says:

    So now you get demonstrative…..

    It’s interesting you are a re-locator as I am as well for the most part. Life is precious and who are we to judge who or what gets to live or die.

    However, I will fish and dive for lobster but only it it’s for my personal consumption.

    There are flies getting into businesses and sometimes it does have to get ‘stamped’ out. This is certainly not a perfect world so sometimes we have to adapt to our circumstances and surroundings.

    Just my two cents for what it’s worth…

    • jens says:

      Hey Bill,

      I just felt like I had to write this one, since I was eating the pizza all by myself, and then from out of nowhere I got this fly all over me 🙂

      I believe it’s very interesting to use a fly as a metaphor on small “bad” things that can happen to your business. And dealing with it, is what separates the really awesome companies, from the not-so-good ones. Now, I don’t have the answer to how, but I sure believe that the company culture is what’s really important (that’s why I am using zappos as an example).

      Thanks a lot for your brilliant comment Bill.

  2. Dan O'Neil says:

    I really enjoyed this post – it’s great to be able to take a seemingly innocuous encounter with a fly and turn it into a deep thinking question about flies in our business…

    I did have to laugh that you choose to preserve the life of a fly, however you’ll stare down two teenagers without hesitation!! I love the simple solution of providing the fly with it’s own pizza, I would never have thought of that – there’s something about coming up with creative solutions in business that really makes the difference between having a great experience with your customers and just having a good one.

    Thanks to the fly for helping to create a great little thinker…

    • jens says:

      Hi Dan,

      I love animals and insects, not teenagers – just kidding 🙂

      I don’t know why I started to think about this story while waving the fly away, it just happened. I love to try to think different about things, and it helps me become more creative at work.

      Thanks a lot for your comment.


  3. Rick says:

    Hey, nice post! Abour your “new” plugin: Sorry, not a big fan. It seems like the plugin slows the page down and i couldnt even make it work. Tried to retweet this post but nothing happened…

    • Hey Rick,

      Thanks a lot for your feedback. I am testing the plugin, and I’m not sure if I’m such a big fan either. It would probably be a lot better if it shows at the end of the page, and not at the end of the post… and it pops up several times during the same post.

      Oh, and you tried to retweet it and it didn’t work? That’s not good, I’m going to look into that. Thanks again for your comment. I really appreciate it.


  4. Adrienne says:

    Man, you do love your pizza don’t you Jens? Sounds like the fly did too! I enjoy how you can take any situation and make it into a story.

    You are right though, are you really paying attention to the right people? Are you treating them as you should. I’ve heard a lot about Zappos’ organization being top notch with their customer service. Now that’s how businesses should be run.

    Thanks for this wonderful story Jens and I do like the new layout.


    • jens says:

      Yes, I really love pizza. On the other hand, I might be exaggerating a little. I do love it, but I’m not eating and thinking about pizza as much as it might look from reading my blog 🙂

      I have read a lot about Zappos, and I have watched a video where the CEO explains their vision and gives lots of interesting examples of what they’re doing. I have never shopped at Zappos, but I still find them to be a brilliant company.

      Thanks a lot for the comment and the feedback on the design, this time I’ll probably stick to the new design a little longer… I’m using Elegant Themes, and since I paid a yearly fee and they keep launching new awesome themes, I just have to test them 🙂


      • Eugene says:

        Haha, that was my first thought too. “Yep…there’s another pizza post!”

        Zappos is actually ALL about customer service, that’s what sets them apart. They make all new employees work the phones in customer service for a few weeks before moving on to their “real jobs”. This enforces a customer service based company culture.

        Plus I hear they offer everyone a $2k buyout to leave the job if they don’t really want it after a couple of weeks.

        They really put an emphasis on hiring the right people.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jens, Okay, so what if the pizza for the fly attracts a swarm of flies?

    I greatly respect your gentle approach to life, even teenagers. (You could have swatted the teenagers, lol!)

    Your story is fascinating and your beginning is gripping (can’t wait to read your novel!). But I think the contrast between the fly and the teenagers is fascinating. Both were unwelcome by you, but your approach to them was different. You talked to the fly unconvincingly (not your fault, flies are reluctant to take even the best advice). You get the teenagers a cold, hard stare which was effective.

    You should also examine a US department store, Nordstrom, which is famous for amazing customer service. They don’t say no to a return (see,

    Thanks for another brilliant article. I never know where your posts are headed, but I always enjoy the journey!

    • jens says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      I thought of the swarm of flies just after I hit the publish button, but then I thought that it was a good story anyway 🙂

      Yes, I could have swatted the teenagers, but I didn’t.. I’m way more gentle towards flies 😉

      I have heard a lot of great things about Nordstrom as well, I’ll definitively going to read more about them. Thanks a lot.


      • Carolyn says:

        You’re right, Jens, it’s a great story! I have been thinking of it on so many levels. I hope that all future teenagers are smart enough to realize they shouldn’t mess with you. Flies too. 😉

  6. Magnus says:

    Hei Jens!

    Veldig artig å lese denne historien her. Ikke minst hvordan du får historien til å bli matnyttig 🙂

    Jeg synes det nye designet ditt var bedre enn det forrige 🙂 Artig å teste ut litt også.

    Hva synes du om min nye heading?

    Hilsen Magnus

    • jens says:


      Jeg er også mer fornøyd med det nye designet. Ble litt ekstra ivrig etter møtet hos deg, og så igjennom Elegant Themes om det var noe mer spennende der, og da dukket dette opp (som jeg bare var nødt til å prøve).

      Den nye headingen din er utrolig kul. Når tok du det bildet? Var det det du snakket om at du skulle ta? Uansett, passer perfekt 🙂

      Søkte på Magnus Kristiansen på Google for å sjekke om bloggen din har blitt indeksert, og jammen meg så dukken den opp på første siden både på den norske og engelske versjonen (dvs. på topp ti på navnet ditt, og det har gått fort, nå er det ikke lenge til den er nummer 1) 🙂

      • Magnus says:

        Så fint at du også ble engasjert og får litt ut av møtene våre 🙂 Ser frem i mot neste treff!

        Så bra at du likte bilde/designet på headingen. Ble veldig fornøyd selv også. Det er Lise Sundberg som har tatt bilde. Skal skrive litt om henne snart.

        Så gøy at jeg også har dukket opp på Google, det er stas. Ser på Analytics at jeg har faktisk hatt 95 unike besøkende første helgen 🙂 Det er jo en grei start 🙂

        Vi snakkes snart igjen Jens!

        Hilsen Magnus

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