Ayende @ Rahien

It's a girl

PayPal: It may be your account, but you aren’t going to use it

In general, I have been very happy with PayPal over the years. Recently, however, I have become quite frustrated with it. I am using it quite often to send and accept money to people I am working with, and for a while now, I have been unable to do so.

Apparently, my actions has been caught by some automated security systems and they decided to ban any transactions on my account. That is actually acceptable from my point of view. I feel better knowing that there are active attempts to protect me from fraud or theft.

What I don’t find acceptable is that when I called PayPal to try to resolve that, the response that I got was: It is an act of God, nothing we mere mortals can do about it.

I understand all about false positives, and aside from the annoyance factor, they are acceptable if they aren’t happening very often. What I am not able to comprehend is responses such as: No one in PayPal can help you. And that is after I already escalated to a supervisor!

I recorded my conversation with PayPal, you can download it here or just listen:

I find the whole thing utterly infuriating, and totally unacceptable.

Comments

Greg Young
05/15/2009 03:51 PM by
Greg Young

waits for the lawyers to tell you to take it down

Ayende Rahien
05/15/2009 03:55 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Greg,

Fair is fair.

They told me that they record the conversation, I get to do the same.

Greg Young
05/15/2009 03:56 PM by
Greg Young

Oren are you really using fair and lawyers in the same thought :)

João P. Bragança
05/15/2009 04:02 PM by
João P. Bragança

I had a customer with the same problem. He made thousands of dollars of purchases on eBay per month. He did not have a bank account attached to his paypal - just a credit card. His account got flagged and he was no longer able to make payments. IIRC if you use a bank account (which is only available in a few countries) as the source of funds you can make unlimited transactions.

For a company that charges 2.9% (USURY) + transaction fee across the board (and I imagine it is higher for forex transactions) they should be able to do better than that.

Scott White
05/15/2009 04:03 PM by
Scott White

Ayende, you are completely right, you were completely respectful. Every computer system should have an override or alternate paths.

PayPal: "we are a black box and we do not know why you cannot send money"

Neil Barnwell
05/15/2009 04:15 PM by
Neil Barnwell

I have exactly the same issue - I was having emails for a while, but I couldn't remember my password or some other details to logon and sort it out. After a bunch of emails they tell me I have to phone them. I don't need it that bad so I gave up and told them to stick it - the call isn't even a freephone number.

Rubbish.

Chris Nicola
05/15/2009 04:34 PM by
Chris Nicola

Wow... it amazes me how a company can have such obtuse policies and support staff. Not only do they not have a process to help someone in your situation, but the guy you were talking to couldn't even seem to understand why this was such an unacceptable situation.

I wish I had a good suggestion for an alternative method of transferring money so you could tell PayPal to stick it, but I don't use any myself. However, I do use FreshBooks.com to manage my invoices and track time. I noticed that they support several options (including PayPal) for people to use to receive payments (I don't know what support they have for making them). Anyways, here are a few of the links in case any are a viable alternative.

http://www.itransact.com/index.html
http://www.authorize.net/
www.secondsite.biz/.../Compare/
www.firstdata.com/product_solutions/ecommerce/
http://www.psigate.com/

I am in no way recommending any of these though, I have not used any of them. They are just options I took from FreshBooks that they support in addition to PayPal.

Jon V
05/15/2009 04:42 PM by
Jon V

LOL. Classic.

Try talking to Qwest. Wow. Had to clear up a $1,200.00 cell phone bill for phones never received (because they sent the wrong models). 6 months later, hours and hours of being on the phone, nobody with a clue... phew. It got so bad I finally just had to pay it to keep them from ruining my credit. I paid... received a refund check. Paid again... received a refund check. Paid again... received a refund check. At that point, I decided to keep my money.

Thankfully, it never got reported on my credit.

Joannes Vermorel
05/15/2009 04:47 PM by
Joannes Vermorel

What is so amazing is not the bizarre PayPal policies. After all, it's a newborn company by banking standards where most establishments are centuries old. What I found really amazing is the lack of real competition, especially from regular banks, on such a massively profitable market.

Mr_Obfuscation
05/15/2009 04:54 PM by
Mr_Obfuscation

Had same nightmares myself as have tons of eBay users.

You thought you were mad trying to make a payment, that's nothing, wait until a customer pays for your product, you deliver, then PayPal withholds payment to you!!

PayPal is garbage once you have been burned. You'll never use is for anything but $29.95 transactions again. That's all it's good for.

Rafal
05/15/2009 04:54 PM by
Rafal

Welcome to the future :) Amounts of information and complexity of systems will soon be so far beyond human capabilities that you will HAVE TO trust the black box. If it tells you don't exist, you'll disappear.

josh
05/15/2009 04:58 PM by
josh

Take a look at Cashboard: http://www.getcashboard.com/

You can accept payment via paypal or credit cards. I don't know if there are any international issues, but the people/person behind it is quite responsive.

PayPal Customer
05/15/2009 05:57 PM by
PayPal Customer

You're right, that's of course unacceptable. What kind of business is that? You're trying to send them money and they cannot help you. I cannot imagine what happens when there's a problem with receiving money! I'll never PayPal again!

Thanks for the post.

configurator
05/15/2009 06:18 PM by
configurator

Don't they have some sort of service agreement or some such (can't remember the TLA)?

Adrian Lanning
05/15/2009 06:21 PM by
Adrian Lanning

@Ayende

If you are just having trouble with sending this one payment, but transactions with other accounts work, then one could guess that the problem is with the receiving account. If this is the case then there is certainly nothing that you, or paypal on your behalf, could do to resolve it. Privacy issues would also prevent the support personnel from discussing problems with another account with you. Seems plausible.

Bas Penning
05/15/2009 07:34 PM by
Bas Penning

Hi Ayende,

Keep on fighting the good fight!

I had some troubles with PayPal about a year ago where I payed some guys for playing cards but then my account got flagged too. Took about three weeks and a lot of confusion for all parties involved to get if resolved. The worst part was explaining to those waiting for payment what was going on.

Just keep ringing them until you get someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about instead of this drone.

Best of luck!

Fabio Maulo
05/16/2009 05:18 AM by
Fabio Maulo

Same problem a year ago.

Solution... no more PayPal thanks.

Mike Minutillo
05/16/2009 08:59 AM by
Mike Minutillo

It's so crazy that it's funny. Those poor PayPal drones slaving away under the mighty and all-powerful security system. He sounded a bit scared. Perhaps the last guy to defy their software overlord had some particularly unpleasant punishment to teach others a lesson. Whoever wrote that system is a genius.

Peter Morris
05/16/2009 11:21 AM by
Peter Morris

Well Oren I must say, my estimation of your abilities to achieve have increased dramatically. You actually got to SPEAK to someone at pay pal? A person? A real one? Wow!

PLEASE tell me how you achieved this!

Someone somehow got into my PayPal account and spent hundreds of pounds on a computer website in China. PayPal (after weeks) eventually agreed it was fraud (delivery address was over 100 miles away from my house) and refunded me.

The problem is that the refund was short by £20. They said that this is because my account is in GBP and the transaction was in USD. They refunded the amount of the transaction.

WHY SHOULD I CARE? If someone fraudulently takes money out of my account then I do not consider myself protected against fraud unless they return the EXACT amount that was taken. If they have to take a hit on the exchange rate TOUGH.

Ah, rant over. Please email me a link with a phone number on. I don't even care if it isn't in the UK. I will be happy to talk to ANYONE there :-)

Peter Morris
05/16/2009 02:09 PM by
Peter Morris

Wohooo! After a ridiculous amount of time emailing back and forth I phoned that number today and the issue was resolved in about 15 minutes.

The lady on the phone said that PayPal should in fact return the exact amount of money taken from my account in cases of fraud, she apologised and said the difference would be paid in within 2 working days.

Thanks for the phone number!

Andrew
05/17/2009 06:15 AM by
Andrew

PayPal appear to be very daft, there's a paypalsucks.com website setup just for this.

And yes its hilarious that they didn't understand the problem.

Its like a door stop that doesn't keep a door open - useless.

comforter down
05/18/2009 08:15 AM by
comforter down

i also have problem with paypal before. My paypal account suspended. I dont know why. Paypal want me to send Utilities bill or bank statement to proved that im the owner of that account.

walkthewalkuk
05/26/2009 04:30 PM by
walkthewalkuk

I had a similar issue. I received a Notification of Limited Account Access email after some suspected fraudulent activity on my PayPal account. No problem there as I’d rather them pick these things up than not

But what I found really dissatisfying was PayPal customer services response to my questions. It’s an understatement in saying they were unhelpful in giving me any sort of details of when, by whom or where from this activity happened.

So how the hell am I supposed to protect myself from this happening again? Don't I deserve to be given some kind of information not just a lame scripted reply?

PayPal are an organisation to avoid wherever you can!

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