Spring forward leaves eBay behind

A problem with Microsoft Corp. software involving the switch to daylight-saving time left thousands of eBay Inc. customers confused for about 24 hours over when auctions started and ended, terminating some auctions while in other cases telling members that they still had an hour to bid.

The problem, which occurred on April fool’s day, was the result of a bug in Microsoft’s Visual C++ code, which led some auctions with end dates on April 1 or April 2 to end prematurely.

“This bug is also the cause of the time discrepancies between our listings, search results and view item pages,” eBay said on its announcement board.

Bruce Adomeit, IT manager at the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, said that as a jewellery collector, he has purchased about 1,000 pairs of cufflinks over the past two and a half years from eBay auctions. He said he has been following eBay’s string of outages this year but that he was particularly dismayed that a known glitch posted on Microsoft’s Web site for the past 18 months could disrupt one of the world’s largest e-commerce sites.

“For 24 hours the ‘Check eBay time’ page was showing one time for PDT at the top of the page, but a second PDT time (an hour off) on the West Coast part of the U.S. map,” he said. “And people posting notes on eBay’s chat boards were seeing time stamps indicating that postings were made an hour before the actual time.”

The San Jose, Calif.-based on-line auctioneer posted a link on its announcement board to a Microsoft Corp. Web site that outlined the problem with its software.

Microsoft said the affected C++ code “fails to calculate the change in time for daylight savings on years where daylight savings (the first Sunday of every April) occurs on April 1st and then corrects itself after one weeks time.”

EBay sellers were told they would be “credited with all associated fees for that auction.”

An eBay spokesperson was unavailable for comment before deadline.

On eBay’s announcement board a notice told customers, “we have addressed the issues that were causing intermittent unavailability of some features, and you should now be able to access all areas of the site without difficulty.”

EBay has had continuing problems with the software and hardware running its Web site. A string of service outages have plagued the company this year. The latest occurred in January, when a data backup system failed, leaving potential users in the dark for almost 11 hours.