a short drive from his home The company\u00e2 single-story gray building is a former tire factory in this colonial-eraindustrial town on the outskirts of

A short drive from his home the companyâ

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Meeting, Pa., a short drive from his home. The company’s single-story gray building is a former tire factory in this colonial-era industrial town on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Mr. Ryan works in a low-slung, black cubicle toward the back of the office, his space sparsely decorated. The atmosphere at Half.com is decidedly young and casual. Jeans are the uniform. Mr. Ryan certainly fits in, though at 32 he’s a few years older than most of his cubicle mates. He started doing strictly customer service, answering customer e- mails. Now he also does what the company calls “trust and safety work†± : investigating fraud and looking for things on the site that are “funky.†± For instance, when Half.com receives a complaint from a buyer about a seller, it’s Mr. Ryan’s job to contact both parties and make sure there is no fraud occurring. This day, because the site has received a high volume of e-mails, he’s on regular customer-service duty. After checking the few internal e-mail messages he receives each day, he gets right to work. Mr. Ryan downloads his first batch of 10 e-mails for the day. He says it usually takes him about an hour to get through 10 messages. 8:10 AM The first e-mail is from a woman interested in buying an audio book on CD that she saw listed on the site. She wants to know whether the CD will work on her DVD player. But since she doesn’t specify the exact listing, Mr. Ryan is stuck. He can’t search for it among all the listings or contact the seller. The best he can do is suggest that she send him an item number so he can contact the seller with her question. 8:15 AM The next e-mail comes from a user who sold the Diana Krall CD “When I Look in Your Eyes,†± but lost the
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buyer’s shipping information. The seller is concerned that a delay in her shipment will give the buyer reason to give her a negative rating on the site. After each purchase is made, the buyer gets a chance to rate the seller’s performance on a scale from 1 to 5—“poor†± to “excellent.†± Every rating sellers collect is displayed along with their user name next to subsequent items they list. Just one negative rating can ruin a seller’s reputation, depending on how many sales he or she has made overall. Mr. Ryan tracks down the details on this particular transaction in the Half.com user database. He identifies the buyer and writes an e-mail to explain that the seller lost the shipping address and “wants to let you know they are sorry for the inconvenience.†± He then e- mails the buyer’s shipping address to the seller. Mr. Ryan says he doesn’t find the e-mails tedious. “There is such a variety of topics to respond to,†± he says. “I never get 50 of the same questions in a row.†± But, a few e-mails later, he shrugs with disapproval. The user’s question could easily have been answered by going to the help section of the website: “Do I include shipping in the sale price or is it added later?†± Says Mr. Ryan, “It’s a general question. I like the detailed research questions.†± Mr. Ryan pastes in an answer from a
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  • Spring '17
  • John DOe

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