Ice.com’s own Shmuel Gniwisch was prominently featured in a NYTimes article about the strange marriage between Online retailers and the Jewish Shabbat.
And on the seventh day, online retailers rested. At least some of them.
Consumers have grown to expect around-the-clock pampering from Internet merchants, who have been pushed by rivals to offer customer service even on weekends and to remedy site glitches immediately, no matter when they happen.
But this trend is being bucked by some electronic retailers – many with religiously observant owners and executives who leave their sites up and running on their Sabbath, but do not complete orders, work on the site or otherwise do anything to help customers. And despite an increasingly competitive environment and ever more demanding customers, they say their businesses have not suffered.
“I actually think we’ve gained,” said Shmuel Gniwisch, chief executive of Ice.com, a privately held online jeweler in Montreal. “Customers know if they need something they can wait until Sunday when we’re open, and people at the company have the chance to recharge and come back stronger.”
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.
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.
The site has yet to encounter a major breakdown on Friday evenings or Saturdays, but if it does, its technology systems are set to display an error message on the home page, asking customers to return later. Should smaller technological hiccups occur, the company “contacts any customers who were affected and makes sure they’re happy,” Mr. Gniwisch said.
“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.”