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eBay's Half.com integration hits snags

As the meshing of certain functions begins, eBay warns members of some "temporary issues." One customer gets an e-mail regarding something he bought--nearly two years ago.

eBay has begun to fold some of its Half.com site into its own operations, and it's already running into problems.

The feedback system for Half.com is in a state of flux, with inaccurate ratings for Half.com sellers and eBay warning Half.com buyers that they may be unable to leave comments about their purchases.

"During the migration of feedback from Half.com to eBay, members of both sites may experience temporary issues with the Feedback Forum," eBay said in a note to members on one of its announcements boards. "We realize that this may cause some inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience as we complete this important integration."

But that wasn't the only problem. At least one Half.com visitor reported receiving an anomalous e-mail from Half.com on Friday concerning an order that had been filled long ago.

eBay representatives did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

eBay and Half.com had notified their members that the integration would begin this week. eBay plans to convert Half.com's feedback system to the one used on eBay.com, and combine the registration and login process for both sites so that new and old members will be able to use one ID on both sites.

Last month, eBay, which bought the fixed-price trading site in June 2000, backed off earlier plans to eliminate the Half.com site and rename it eBay Express Buys.

eBay began to integrate the two sites' systems Friday, according to its note to members, which was also the day the problems began cropping up.

As part of its feedback conversion, eBay is moving Half.com sellers from a system where they are rated on a five-point scale to eBay's system that adds up their net positive comments. eBay is converting Half.com ratings of "4" or "5" into positive comments that count toward their feedback score; ratings of "2" or "3" into neutral comments that don't count at all toward their feedback score; and ratings of "1" into negative comments that count against their feedback score.

But Friday, the feedback ratings were out of sync for many Half.com sellers. For instance, one Half.com seller, whose user ID is "Wwbrass," was listed as having a feedback rating of "3" in one part of Half.com and "43" in another portion of Half.com. Meanwhile, another seller, whose user ID is "gla6464," has a feedback rating of "1032" on eBay but "49" on Half.com.

Salem, Ore., resident Earl Borah ran into another problem with the Half.com integration. The computer programmer received two e-mails from Half.com confirming orders he had placed and received nearly two years ago.

"I was a little shocked at first, because I hadn't ordered anything from them recently," Borah said. "But then I looked a little closer and saw the dates on the orders and had a good laugh at their expense."

Before he could e-mail Half.com about the problem, the company notified Borah that the confirmation e-mails were the result of a glitch that happened during the eBay integration.

"As part of the integration process, we mistakenly sent you an order confirmation e-mail for your previous purchase on Half.com," the company said in its note to Borah. "We apologize for the inconvenience and confusion. Please be assured that your account will not be charged for this purchase and that you may simply ignore this order confirmation e-mail."

Integrating two previously separate Web sites or upgrading the computer systems on an Internet property can be a pretty arduous undertaking that often results in system problems or outages. In January, for instance, a glitch with a system upgrade at the Excite Network locked some people out of their free e-mail accounts.

eBay, which is undergoing its own system upgrade, has been somewhat spotty itself in recent days. Customers had problems downloading images and accessing its site earlier this week. And last week, the company suffered a 90-minute outage that made its home page and other pages inaccessible.

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