Very nice article in the Business section of today's NY Times. The piece is about Orthodox Jewish online retailers who stop all transactions over Shabbos. One of those retailers is Shmuel Gniwisch, chief executive of Ice.com, an online jewelry retailer.
Mr. Gniwisch, who is also a nonpracticing rabbi, says that the company shuts down completely for 25 hours starting Friday evening before sunset, when the Jewish Sabbath begins. During busy periods, customer service representatives, warehouse workers and some technology employees go back to work on Saturday evening when the Sabbath ends.Impressive. Gniwisch's quote is even nicer:
When visitors call customer service during Ice.com's day off, they receive a message saying that the company is closed and will return their messages Sunday. Ice.com also responds to e-mail messages on Sunday.
"My customer service managers are always telling me to find a way to stay up on Saturday by outsourcing," he added. "But I think it's more important when the people around you see you practice what you preach. It changes your relationship with your employees."Operating a web-based business is even more complicated in the days of eBay and other online auctioneers:
Other companies have gone to similar lengths to observe the Jewish Sabbath. Abraham Steinberg, director of online marketing for Adorama Photo, which sells photographic supplies on the Web and in its Manhattan store, said that the company sometimes sold goods through eBay but had to be careful not to schedule auctions to end on the Sabbath, because a transaction technically occurs the moment bidding closes.
Jewish eBay sellers who observe the Sabbath and have eBay stores, Mr. Steinberg said, often use "vacation settings" that de-list products on the Sabbath.The article also covers the complicated issues of online marketing over Shabbos:
One uncharted area for Internet merchants who observe the Jewish Sabbath is online marketing. After all, Google and other shopping engines post advertisements constantly, and they charge the sites each time someone clicks on their ads. Mr. Steinberg said that sites typically pay for the ads in aggregate - and not on the Sabbath - but that Jewish scholars had not yet studied the matter thoroughly.Interesting piece, and definitely a Kiddush Hashem.