Chris Alexander

On Engineering

A Story About PayPal

24th September, 2009

For those of you who have been following my Twitter a few days ago (@chris_alexander), you will have observed a rather high number of tweets proclaiming my frustration at PayPal. (Sorry to my followers for that, but I wasn’t happy!)

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I even got round to threatening to publish the whole story if they didn’t come up with a satisfactory response. One reponse (which was definitely not satisfactory) later, and here we go.

It all started with a simple server

So I spotted a nice little machine on eBay that would do me well as a local development server, subversion server, backup platform and so on. Great, I thought, I have enough money to cover that in my account, so I hit the “you are legally bound to buy this now” button and logged in to PayPal.

Blissfully Unaware

All went well. In fact it went brilliantly! Not only did I remember my PayPal password (which I hadn’t used for months), but it automatically remembered my credit card, and I just had to confirm the authorisation code and my �200+ transaction was done and sorted. Or so I thought.

This is the bit I’m most annoyed about

Apparently all wasn’t OK, though. I got an e-mail a few minutes later stating that my PayPal account had been locked due to suspicious activity. That’s cool, I figured - I’m all for systems automatically detecting fraud. PayPal wouldn’t have charged my card, and it was only a couple of little forms I had to fill in to verify that I had enacted the payment on my account. However, not all was fine - not at all. PayPal had cancelled the payment, but only after they had taken the money from my bank account, credited it to the other person and confirmed everything. *Only then did their fraud protection kick in and *reverse the entire payment. OK I will give them the credit of automatically undoing the payment, but WHY OH WHY was my payment completely processed before their fraud detection kicked in?! Sorry, but that makes no sense.

This is the bit I’m second most annoyed about

So where are we now? PayPal have helpfully given me my account back, made a payment to the buyer then got it back again and put it in my bank account. Except they haven’t, of course, because bank debits are pretty much instant, but credits take days. On top of this I still haven’t paid for my server, but my bank account is still down the �200 or so that PayPal took then decided they didn’t want.

The buyer has clearly stated that no payment in 3 days == reporting to eBay, so 2 of those days being a weekend meant that I couldn’t wait for the credit from PayPal to appear before I tried to pay again. So within just a few hours of paying out the money first time round, I’m doing it again. But it all goes out, and I’m fairly certain everything’s fine - the server will be winging its way to me very soon.

Wrong, again

Oops! So after yet another 200+ is taken out of my bank account (I am now being kept afloat by just over a tenner until my bank is courteous enough to credit me from PayPal), I get yet another e-mail from PayPal on Saturday night, over 24 hours after I thought the payment had gone through and everything was great. Turns out they have only just given the money to the seller! They had to do “a review” of my payment as it looked “suspicious” (what may have caused me having to make the payment twice, I wonder? Your useless system, that’s what!).

I love security

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for security measures, and I’m glad PayPal shut my account due to the big charge after inactivity (but not the timing), and checking that the second payment was welcome too. But the timing of these things was considerably more than inconvenient. So I thought I’d send a nice e-mail to PayPal explaining exactly what I thought of their its-ok-we’ll-do-security-measures-but-only-after-we’ve-charged-your-card methodology. Turns out they just sent me back some customer service canned trash that wasn’t worth the time it took me to read it, and when I pressed them again I just got that they would send it on to whoever was necessary, presumably in to a black hole where it will never be seen again.

Send me freebies

By the way, if there’s anyone from PayPal who would like to smooth this over, my contact details are at the top (hit the Connect link and they will magically appear). I recommend you send me an apology by e-mail along with a request for the address where you can post me some freebies.