Goodbye, Half.com!

Today, my wife forwarded me an interesting e-mail she got from Half.com (a.k.a. eBay.com a.k.a. Mean Faceless Corporate Giant).

For starters, you should know that I've been buying things on eBay since 1996. No, that's not a typo and I'm not off by a decade; back when the auction site was named "AuctionWeb" (the reason that eBay e-mails had/have "aw" in them) tucked under the domain "eBay.com" (which was the "holding company"), I was buying brochures and guidebooks from the 1939 New York World's Fair there. So I know eBay pretty well, and have seen it shift from a cooperative community to a bloated money-making-venture for its owners to a dying site that has driven away its sellers by victimizing them in the name of "buyer protection".

Which brings me to today's topic. Years ago (just shy of four years, to be exact), we listed some old books for sale on Half. There weren't many sales... though one notable one went to "peaceandhope060" who gave Ruth her first and only negative feedback after claiming a book never arrived. For some reason, "peaceandhope060" didn't bother to contact Ruth and tell her about that before permanently messing up her eBay feedback rating. (Knowing Ruth, regardless of things like post office delivery receipts, she would have just refunded the purchase price and shipping cost just to avoid the hassle... but, hey, the experience taught us that it's the ones named "Peace and Hope" that you have to watch out for...)

Anyway, point being, the Half.com experience was never a good one for us. We took that set of books, set them to "Suspended" so that they were no longer included in the Half.com database as available, and figured we might get back to selling them someday.

Today, having paid very little attention to Half.com for a very long time, a surprise appeared in the Inbox. Before reading, note a few things:
  • The book in question wasn't for sale. It was tied to our account in "suspended" state, but nobody could buy it. (In fact, it was part of a collection that we gave away last year.)
  • We have no way of knowing what the problem really was. The book has already been deleted. eBay and Half.com: Judge, Jury, Executioner, Sender of Form Letter -- in that order. In a nutshell, the message is "Trust us; there was something wrong, but we already obliterated all evidence of it."
  • If we do it again (what, exactly?) the punishment will be worse. "You don't know what 'it' was, but so help me, if you do 'it' again, we're going to 'escalate' on you, though we won't tell you what that means, either." Nice.
  • None of the suggested issues could possibly apply. The only comments that we added to our listings are regarding quality (e.g. "Name on inside" or "Some highlighting"). It wasn't an international edition or teacher edition. I'm pretty sure it wasn't an 8-track tape.
Look, I'm all in favor of having policies and standards. But when you're trying to be a decent, honest, law-abiding (and TOS-abiding) citizen of the Internet, and you go through the pain of matching up ISBNs and making sure everything complied with Half.com standards... how are you going to react when out-of-the-blue you get a snippy e-mail like this:
Hello ----- (-@-------.com),

We are writing to inform you that the following item(s) were removed from your Half.com inventory:

12357068252 - Sociology : David M. Newman (Paperback, 1995)


When creating a listing at Half.com, sellers must match the ISBN, title, author, edition, binding format, publisher and publication date on the catalog page exactly. It is not appropriate to use the seller comment field to change any of this information. If an item your want to sell does not match an offering in our retail catalog, you will not be able to sell it on Half.com. Your item was ended because it did not match the catalog page exactly.

You can request that your item be added to our catalog by using the form below. If your book is not in our catalog and is out of print, published before 1990, from an out of business publisher, or vanity press we strongly suggest that you list the item on eBay instead of requesting a catalog edition.

http://pages.half.ebay.com/help/wizard/result_2_7_20.html

The following items can not be listed on Half.com and should be sold on eBay. In some cases you must be in possession of distribution rights.

- International edition books
- Teachers editions books
- Book club publications and Music Club releases
- Prepublication editions books (ARCs, galleys, proofs, etc)
- Promotional music cd's (including items with drill holes and saw cuts)
- The cassette, LP, and 8-track music formats

We have already deleted the item from your inventory. If you have any specific questions regarding your recently ended item please reply to this email and include the ended ITEM NUMBER and ITEM TITLE indicated above. We do ask that you find some time to review our list of prohibited items and compare it to the items in your inventory. Please delete any prohibited items from your inventory. If Half.com is continually ending your items it may escalate into stronger administrative action against your account.

Sincerely,

Half.com Trust & Safety
Well, Half.com, here's the scoop: I "found some time" and I just deleted all the items from our inventory. Happy now? Every last one of them. I started with the "suspended" ones, which left just five active books... but you still said that I had 36 listed out of the 90+ I started from. I'm no math expert, but I think 36 is greater than five.

It was awfully helpful of you to show that I had a second page of content... but when that page just duplicates the five books that really are there, I realize that you can't manage a database... and you can't write a civil form letter... and history shows that you can't be trusted to broker someone's online reputation.

So... Goodbye, Half.com!

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