Consumers Speak: Half.com Reseller Issues

Reader Paul writes with this story of buying from a third-party through Half.com:

I’ve had no bad experiences buying from Half.com in the past, so when I spotted a great deal on two rare CDs I’ve been coveting, right in time for a nice birthday present to myself, I pounced. I noticed that the seller, tenone, was here in my home town, so first I emailed him/her to ask if I could pick up the CDs in person to save on shipping. When there was no response after a day or so, I just coughed up the postage and placed the order online anyway. He/she was a Power Seller or whatever. That was mid-October.

By mid-November, my birthday had come and gone with no CDs. I sent tenone a few emails of escalating urgency, threatening bad feedback and such, but never got a response. Finally I filed a claim with Half.com. Apparently one of the unspoken rules is that you can’t file a claim until 30 days have passed, no matter how sure you are that you’re being taken for a ride by the seller.

A second 30 days brought us to mid-December, and a few emails to Half.com provided no response to my queries about my claim, so I Googled Half.com’s secret 800 number and called. A very nice young man said nobody had taken charge of my claim yet, so he would. Within 24 hours I had received a full refund for my purchase via Paypal. All that remained was my poignant disappointment at being deprived of the CDs I’d dreamed of. BUT…

It’s now been another month and I am galled to see that the two rare CDs are STILL offered for sale on Half.com by the same seller! I contacted Half.com about this a few times, and have received a variety of unhelpful boilerplate responses:

“Thank you for writing in to Half. My name is Grace, and it’s my pleasure to assist you with your question regarding your Buyer Protection Claim.

In reviewing your message, I understand that after taking care of two transactions with a certain seller, you noticed that he still has the two items up for sale in this case, please know that what may have happened was that he/she has not had time to take them down off of his/her site yet. Having said that, what you may want to do is contact your seller if you have any further questions, or concerns. [followed by 4 pages of "how to contact a seller" instructions]“

AND

“Thank you for contacting Half.com’s Customer Support. My name is Tara and I thank you for the opportunity to answer your question regarding your transaction difficulties.

From your email I understand that the seller that you filed a Buyer
Protection Claim against is still showing the same or similar items as those you filed your claim for.

Please understand that on Half.com, a seller may list an item in large quantities, and as long as the seller indicates there is product left, the item will remain listed on the site.”

I have tried to explain to these ladies (my friend’s adorable nieces are named Grace and Tara, but I’m sure that’s harmless coincidence) that I have contacted the seller futilely, and that it doesn’t matter how many “large quantities” of an item a seller lists if he/she never bothers to mail a single one! But thus far it’s been impossible to make them understand.

Meanwhile I’ve received email from other disappointed customers of tenone, including a fellow who ordered a box set of CDs and actually did receive in the mail a package, containing burned copies of some unidentifiable music. 98% of tenone’s feedback continues to be positive, which apparently means that there’s no recourse for the 2% of us who he/she continues to rip off. I am certainly wary of buying on Half.com again, knowing that these situations are so unpoliced.