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Hurricane Sandy Wallops Internet Commerce Just As Hard

From Fab.com to Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc, e-commerce companies scrambled on Tuesday to get goods to buyers on time after Hurricane Sandy tore a swathe of destruction across the U.S. northeast.

EBay pursued a similar tactic, emailing shoppers who purchased items from merchants that may have been impacted by the storm in recent days, asking for patience. It recommended that affected eBay Store-subscribers put their pages in "vacation mode" to control purchasing and show shoppers that their operation has been temporarily disrupted, a spokeswoman said.

And Gilt Groupe, which runs a popular high-end fashion website, expects delivery times to take one to three days longer than normal, said Kevin Ryan, founder and CEO of the company.

Beyond logistics tangles, loss of power and telecommunications have hurt Internet firms that rely on telephone and Web-based customer service in the absence of store staff.

Fab.com's offices a block from New York's Hudson River were blacked out and closed until further notice. About a third of employees lacked power as of Tuesday afternoon. A dozen camped out at Goldberg's home working on recovery plans and preparing the company's online holiday stores for their Thursday launch.

Gilt's offices in New York have been difficult to access, so the company has not been able to run its usual photoshoots for a few days, Ryan said.

"We will need to get back in soon or there will not be any new sales up," he said. "I think we will get back in by Thursday and everything will be OK."

Others like online eyeglasses start-up Warby Parker, in the SoHo district of New York City, sought temporary solutions to a loss of power and Web access. It found a temporary office that it will start using on Wednesday to handle customer inquiries.

"We've been scrambling to get our systems up and running," said co-founder Dave Gilboa.

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