×

Website Rewards Hanover Shoppers With a Special Delivery



Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Hanover — Kevin Mabey was one of nearly 2,000 Hanover residents who opened their front doors Tuesday morning to find an unmarked white package.

Mabey, like others, peered down at the box with skepticism: It didn’t have a label addressed to the homeowner, nor did it have much writing of any kind on it.

Curious, Mabey slowly peeled open the box. Inside, he found brand-new brand name merchandise from Zappos.com, an online retailer known for its shoe and clothing sales.

“Wow, this is amazing,” Mabey thought to himself while pulling the items out of the box in his Dresden Road driveway. The goodies included a hat, neck warmer, sunglasses, socks and a backpack.

Those very same items — and many more — were delivered overnight to more than 1,800 Hanover homes by 35 Zappos.com employees, company spokeswoman Kelly Teemer said.

Two theories of why Zappos.com chose to deliver the packages solely to Hanover residents spread like wildfire on social media Tuesday morning. Some Upper Valley residents thought maybe it was a mass-marketing push by the company. Others thought it was a reward or gift to loyal customers.

The latter proved true.

Hanover residents’ order rate topped those of equal-sized towns, so the company chose to give back, Teemer said.

“We identified Hanover as a (town) filled with fiercely loyal customers,” Teemer said via email on Tuesday. “These packages were delivered to show our appreciation to these customers.”

Teemer declined to provide specific statistics, including how many Hanover residents had placed orders on the website and how that compares to residents in other towns. Hanover, which has 2,136 single-family homes, also is home to Dartmouth College, an institution of 6,300 students.

In the past, Zappos.com has taken over Las Vegas coffee shops and provided free coffee and pastries to patrons, or handed out umbrellas to Boston residents on a rainy day. But nothing of this magnitude has ever been done before, she said.

“Zappos.com has a history of surprising and delighting their customers and we are always finding new ways to thank them,” Teemer said. “This is the first effort we have executed to this scale, and (we) will continue to find new ways to surprise and delight our customers.”

Although many residents appeared to be just that — delighted — when receiving or opening their free packages, others weren’t pleased with how the packages were delivered.

Hanover police Chief Charlie Dennis said about two dozen people called the dispatch center about the package outside their home, with many noting the boxes weren’t addressed to anyone. Some questioned whether there may be explosives inside, Dennis said.

Once an officer was able to make contact with a Zappos.com supervisor, Dennis said, dispatch officials were able to inform residents that the packages were safe and that they were a gift from the retailer.

“Did you wake up to a strange Zappos box in your yard or on your front porch in Hanover?” the Hanover Regional Communications Center wrote on its Facebook page. “Don’t be alarmed. It was a well-intentioned gift from Zappos.”

Until word got out, Hanover police officers dealt with a mystery themselves, Dennis said.

The police department had no idea Zappos.com employees would be storming the town early Tuesday morning, Dennis said. At least two residents called dispatch shortly after midnight saying there were suspicious people in dark clothing scampering around their yard with flashlights.

If the calls had continued to pour in before dawn, Dennis said his officers may have had to put a stop to the deliveries, but Zappos.com employees continued on with the operation.

“It’s not a crime,” Dennis said. “On a big scale, it wasn’t that bad.”

The employees ultimately unloaded four vans and a trailer full of gift boxes to about 85 percent of homes in Hanover, the spokeswoman said.

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin was aware that Zappos.com would be making the gift drops — but didn’t know that “elves would be delivering packages without our police department knowing,” she joked on Tuesday.

“I just figured it would be done the good old-fashioned way,” Griffin said, noting that she thought Zappos.com employees would address packages to Hanover residents and send them via UPS, USPS or FedEx.

“I didn’t know elves would descend on the town,” she said.

Griffin, a Hanover resident, knew something was up before she even left for work in the morning.

She said her husband went outside to grab the newspaper and returned with one of the packages, which was white in color with a blue Zappos.com logo on its side.

“It certainly is novel,” Griffin said of the gift drop idea. “I don’t think Zappos.com intended for anyone to be alarmed.”

The question of ‘Why Hanover?’ also crossed Griffin’s mind.

She attributed Hanover’s numerous Zappos.com purchases to two things: the lack of shoe stores in close proximity and the presence of Dartmouth College.

With the exception of a few local stores, one has to travel many miles north or south to find an array of options, and transportation plays a factor in that, Griffin said.

“You can’t walk out your door and find anything you want within five blocks,” she said, noting that is something students — and residents — in other college towns can do. “I think a lot of online shopping happens in Hanover.”

On a daily basis, Dartmouth students pour out of the campus mail center juggling boxes, Griffin said, noting that she thinks students played a role in Hanover’s high-purchase rate at Zappos.com.

Yet Teemer said the college played no role in Hanover’s selection.

“(There was) no influence by Dartmouth whatsoever,” she said.

For some, the word began circulating pretty early Tuesday morning. Many people took to the Upper Valley Facebook page to talk about the surprise packages.

“There’s something really wonderful about a business rewarding its loyal, frequent customers,” one woman wrote on the page. “Good job, Zappos.com, and congratulations to Hanover!!”

Not all posts were positive, though.

“And the rich just keep getting richer,” one man posted.

The friction didn’t sit well with Enfield resident Bev McKinley, who is the founder of Silent Warriors, an Enfield-based nonprofit that works to provide used goods to the Upper Valley’s homeless population.

“It’s not like Hanover said, ‘Ooh me! Me! Me!’ ” McKinley said in a telephone interview. “It is nothing that they promoted themselves.”

She said many Hanover residents are strong supporters of Silent Warriors, and have donated in the past.

Heidi O’Brien, another Enfield resident who also is familiar with Silent Warriors, said she organized a drive late Tuesday afternoon outside the Hanover Co-op for residents who wished to donate some or all of the Zappos.com items.

Only one person showed, she said.

Griffin, the town manager, said anyone who wishes to donate items can bring them to town hall, and they will be distributed to the Listen Center, the Upper Valley Haven, or another nonprofit organization.

Hanover resident Lynn Dolan said she hadn’t opened the package as of Tuesday afternoon. She said she’d wait for her teenage children to get home.

Dolan likened the gift drop to the Good Humor company that often sells frozen novelties out of trucks. She saw nothing wrong with the deliveries.

“It is fun,” Dolan said. “Everyone likes a surprise.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.