Saturday, March 13, 2010

PayPal update

Oh, goody, goody, goody. After reading a couple of documents about PayPal that I retrieved from Cryptome, I've got some more good news for anyone with a PayPal account.

Per official PayPal doctrine, PayPal cheerfully helps law enforcement retrieve information about PayPal users:
B. eBay User Contact Details and limited transaction history (12 months maximum)
Please submit a signed fax (non-subpoena) on department letterhead stating specifically what you require.
eBay can provide the following information for users under investigation of illegal activity only:
• Contact Name, City, State, Zip, and Telephone Number
• All email addresses and eBay User ID's added to account with date/time stamps
• eBay Fraud complaints (*lf Requested)
• Account listing/bid history dating back one year (*lf Requested)
To assist us in searching for records, the following data must be included in your data request (if available):
- All known names, aliases, street addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers
- Known eBay ID(s) and Item Numbers
- Statement relating to the illegal nature of the activities being investigated
Please fax data request to: Fax: 408.967.9915 Turnaround Time: Typically within 15 business days
It's worth noting that PayPal doesn't require any actual proof or evidence of any wrongdoing; it's enough for them that whatever law enforcement organization that's making the request says there is.

It's even worse if the cops actually take the time and trouble to get a subpoena.

If you're so inclined, you can read the whole document on how PayPal interfaces with cops in this document.

If you want to see what you agreed to when you set up an account with them, this is what you're looking for.

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!

eBay is teh suxx0r

11 March, 2010

eBay – Customer Service
2145 Hamilton Ave.
San Jose, CA 95125


A few days ago, I began the process of closing my eBay account. As I have received no inquiry to date as to why I would choose to take such an action, I am taking the liberty of writing this letter to advise you as to my reasons.

When I first started using eBay nearly fifteen years ago, it was a wonderful resource for anyone wishing to save money on items they wished to purchase. For a number of reasons, I've been obliged to establish and use several different log-ins on eBay, but have been a fairly frequent buyer.

The last few years, however, the eBay experience has become progressively less pleasant. Recently, I found myself sufficiently annoyed and aggravated with it to come to the conclusion that it simply wasn't worth the bother using eBay any longer:
  • Sniping has become a much greater problem on eBay as time has passed; it's now at the point that there are actually Firefox web browser plugins to facilitate the process. This, despite the fact that I offered a simple and direct suggestion that would make sniping an untenable activity: if a bid is received within some small time (I suggested 30 seconds, as I recall) before an auction ends, then extend the auction time by some small fixed amount of time to give the non-sniper time to respond. While my suggestion was acknowledged with a generic platitude, I doubt that it was ever given the consideration that I believe it should have. I can only wonder at how many people have given up on using eBay when an item they had legitimately bid on and “won” went to someone that “sniped” them in the last two seconds without them having an opportunity to re-bid.
  • Mis-listed items are now a much greater problem than they were when I first started using eBay. Some weeks ago, I reported a grossly mis-listed item and (again) got a generic non-committal response. Annoyed, I then took the time to submit roughly a hundred such instances in an effort to get somebody at eBay to realize how aggravating it is for us users to have to try and wade through all the inappropriate items in a category. I wasn't surprised in the slightest when absolutely nothing happened regarding the items that I reported; they remained in a patently wrong category for the entire duration of their respective auctions. Clearly, I can't know how many warnings a seller may get before being penalized for mis-categorizing items; what seems fairly apparent is that the number is too high to be effective, and that the actions taken by eBay lack sufficient impact to prevent recurrences. I would think that if eBay were to implement a graduated scale of punishment, such violations would drop dramatically: a first offense simply has the item de-listed with a warning to the seller. A second offense, and the item is not only de-listed, but not allowed to be auctioned again for some fixed period of time (a few days, perhaps). If there should be a third violation, ALL listings by a seller are removed. A fourth results in all listings being removed and the seller being blocked from posting new items for several days. Finally, a seller that commits a fifth offense could have all listings removed and banned from eBay completely. Please note that such a progression gives sellers ample opportunity to learn from honest mistakes, and greatly discourages DIShonest activities.
  • The ability to customize my eBay activities is something that I greatly miss. For example, I refuse to purchase items sold out of China and Hong Kong; each time I search for a tech or computer item, I have to explicitly go into an “advanced” search and indicate a maximum distance for sellers to try and block results from those areas. Sadly, eBay does not provide any mechanism by which I can set any kind of baseline criteria to be used for all my searches.
The above is not an exhaustive list of my reasons for closing my eBay account, but rather just examples of the most egregious.

I don't have any reason to think that eBay will change any of the above just for me; all I hope to accomplish with this letter is to bring the matter to the attention of someone that might accidentally have the power and authority to see that the issues are looked into, and perhaps even addressed.

In addition, I will be closing my PayPal account, as well. My reasons for taking such action is simply that I wish to express my objections to the gross lack of openness, fair play, and responsibility demonstrated by the mishandling of the situation that cropped up with Cryptome.

Finally, I would like to say that while established policies and procedures are good things to have, they are best supplemented with common sense and good judgment.


David K. Merriman

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laundry Day

It was, as the title of this post might lead you to believe, Laundry Day here at The Hovel.

Three loads were run, with the usual Whites and Colors (that's as discriminatory as I get), plus a Miscellaneous category that consisted of some towels, cleaning (shop) rags, and a light blanket that I use when the temperature is only close to Winter.

Of course, this was all met with considerable interest by the cats -- as long as nothing got actually tossed ON them during the sorting process, they felt obliged to make sure the dirty clothes didn't float up to the ceiling. Radar DID develop a fixation on one of my socks, making it necessary for me to mount a rescue operation when she ran off with it.

After I brought the dry stuff back, it was obligatory to lay on the warm piles while I hung and folded, then put things away.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


First, I've neglected to mention that I do have the GIS data that the City of Billings promised me. First thing I noticed was that there wasn't anywhere near as much as the GIS manager tried to tell me there was; second, it didn't take anywhere near as long for them to provide it as he suggested it might. I've had the chance to go through and have a look at it, and I'm actually somewhat impressed with the attention to detail and thoroughness the city is showing.

Second, as regards my Good Deed, I got a letter in the mail a few days afterwards -- from the pastor of the church the lady goes to. In it, he thanked and congratulated me on being a decent human being (my words), and wished me well. Apparently, she told pretty much everybody in the congregation about what happened.

Finally, my blitzkreig of eBay doesn't seem to have done the slightest bit of good; not only did the stuff remain listed until the respective auctions ended, but even MORE unrelated crap turned up. Between eBay's unresponsiveness and PayPal's willingness to summarily freeze accounts without explanation, I'm about this far from telling both of them to get stuffed.

So, it's been a mixed bag since my last post. :-)