Thursday, March 11, 2010

PayPal - Stupid or Criminal?

I haven't been exactly overjoyed with PayPal, even from the time I first signed up with them. It hasn't been any one thing in particular, but more of a general we're-too-big-to-have-to-pay-attention-to-you attitude almost any really large organization eventually takes on.

Over the years, I've also heard (and read about) the stories of PayPal summarily and somewhat arbitrarily freezing accounts without ever providing any real explanation as to why, how it could be resolved, when it would be resolved, or other actual details. Recently, however, I ran across this story, and something about it just set my teeth on edge.

Since the only thing I really used PayPal for was buying stuff on eBay, and eBay has finally managed to aggravate me sufficiently enough to close my account with them, it seemed like as good a time (and reason) as any to close my PayPal account, too. A couple of days ago, I tried to do just that - only to be told by PayPal that there was some kind of activity still unfinished with my bank.

Fine, whatever. The last eBay purchase I made was on the 6th, and I've already received the item, so I figured PayPal would get caught up in the next couple of days. This evening, when I logged in and tried to close the account, I still got the same message. After carefully checking that all my transactions showed as "completed", I called PayPal support.

For the love of God, Cthulu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Allah, or anything else you hold dear, don't ever do that. Their automated voice response system is seriously fucked up. After telling me that it couldn't understand me (despite my speaking carefully and clearly) after too-brief response periods, it insisted on trying to foist me off to departments that were completely irrelevant to what I wanted to discuss. Having no other alternative, I simply started pressing "O" until it concluded I wasn't playing nice and handed me off to the generic WTF line. Cindy, or Sue, or whatever the hell her name was kept saying "Bayble" for PayPal (among other language and accent defects), necessitating I ask for someone that actually spoke English.

The young fellow I ended up with was actually helpful, and tried to explain to me how, although PayPal was telling ME that everything was "completed", it really wasn't: that the requisite time (3 to 5 business days) hadn't passed between my last PayPal-based purchase, and the removal of funds from my bank. Strictly speaking, "completed" on MY end actually sometimes meant "still processing" on THEIR end. In response to that, I suggested that if that was the case, then either PayPal didn't know what it was doing by telling me that the transaction was complete, or it was deliberately lying to me - and asked which it was. He was unable to answer that question, and elected to explain the situation again. Just as he did when I asked additional questions that he didn't have answers for.

The bottom line is that I'm likely to have to wait until Saturday before their computer decides that it has received the $2.25 in question, and it's okay for me to close my account.

I would suggest that anyone with a PayPal account have a look at the things that PayPal has done, and decide if they really want to entrust their money with such an operation.

Oh, and just to make SURE everyone understands: PayPal is not a bank, it is a "payment processor". In other words, they are not subject to all those nifty banking regulations about access to your money, business practises, and the like. Caveat Emptor!

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