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Grumbles and rambles

PayPal the Terrible

I won’t go into detail about how my PayPal account became overdrawn.* It was a mistake (not mine). The mistake-maker assured me the problem was resolved days ago. PayPal being PayPal, though, what’s “resolved” on one end may not be on the other. So there’s a $50 negative balance and nobody will fix it. That means I can’t use my account.

No problem. Hey, I’ll just add money. There’s a handy-dandy button for that. But suddenly, for me, the button yields only a variety of bizarre messages (“talk to the person responsible for setting permissions on your account”) that leave PayPal customer service reps as baffled as I am.

This became a four-hour customer service nightmare this lovely Sunday morning. I won’t go into detail about that, either.** Except to say that PayPal’s customer service makes the famously bad Comcast service look like a concierge operation at a fawncy hotel by comparison. And except to say that one rep told me (humiliatingly) that I’d have to deal with their collections department. Then he cheerfully transferred me to collections — without mentioning that they’re closed today.

And of course, PayPal being PayPal, they can’t be bothered with an automated “we’re closed today” message. So there went yet another half hour of my life, listening to endlessly repeated mini-lectures from a voice that sounded increasingly smug by the moment, until — for the second time today — I hung up without managing to speak to the human in some other department who was supposed to help.

Not only that, but the fifth PayPal rep I talked to — who I’d already told that story to — also tried to transfer me to collections.


I know Peter Thiel hasn’t run PayPal in more than a decade. But its service was hair-tearingly deplorable a decade ago, too. Hard to believe that a man the media lauds as a great libertarian created something that operates so much like the freakin’ DMV. Or the IRS.

If you ever need a reminder of how little you really matter to institutions, corporate or governor, just call up PayPal and ask them something really, really simple.


Oh, and the problem never did get resolved. You didn’t really think it would, didja? I get to call collections tomorrow and present myself as a deadbeat making amends.


Zelman Partisans the Good

On the brighter side of things, it’s wow time over at The Zelman Partisans.

Not only is it a place of some lively blogitude and comment. Not only have we had 4,000-some visitors in the 10 days since the Lovely Nicki put up a counter. Not only has social-media maven Nicki gotten us somewhere in the vicinity of 1,100 Twitter followers in a matter of days. But we’ve gotten our first interview request (which Sheila will handle), a couple of requests to join, our very first donation (a monthly commitment, yet!), and demands for logoed tee-shirts, fridge magnets, etc.

Whew! Workin’ on it, workin’ on it!

For a bunch of volunteers who are putting this thing together in their scarce spare time, this is awesome.

But then, so are the volunteers. And so are the hardcore rights advocates who won’t settle for compromise.


* In case you’re wondering, all those wonderful donations got moved out of PayPal almost as soon as they came in, thanks to PayPal’s other notorious habit of arbitrarily freezing accounts just when they have nice sums of money in them. PayPal: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Someday — soon — they’ll lose their de facto monopoly, and on that day they’ll rue the fact that they treated their customers like crap all these years.

**Yeah, you’ve had experiences exactly like this, right? You don’t need to be told anything.


  1. jed
    jed October 26, 2014 4:17 pm

    I set up PayPal years ago, only very reluctantly. I’m not sure what brought it on, but there was some reason I needed to be able to accept funds that way. I try to keep only a little money in there, for obvious reasons. I actually thought it would be impossible to overdraw an account, but I suppose if there’s some issue such as returned merchandise, or a dispute or something, it can happen. I use my account to send money only rarely.

    I guess it works for a lot of people. And of course, the e-Bay tie-in makes it pretty much de-riguer for the auction mavens. So it’s got this whole network effect going for it, which will be hard to displace. (Same as M$ Windows) I hope I never have to deal with their customer service. Sorry to hear you’re having a time of it.

    And yeah, I’ve been checking TZP every day. Nice that there’s lots of activity there. Hey Alan … PHPHPPHHTTHTHTPHPHTT! (Yeah, I’m fond of raspberries 🙂

  2. Claire
    Claire October 26, 2014 4:35 pm

    Good analogy. It’s just like M$ Windows — a piece o’ crap that everybody either has to use or pay some penalty of inconvenience for not using.

    And yes, what happened is that one of my roof-raising donors forgot she’d sent money to me. Then later when her husband saw an unknown charge, they initiated a chargeback. In those cases, PayPal puts a hold on the funds — even if the funds have already been moved out of PayPal. The donor and I had a good laugh about her “trying to repossess the roof” and they immediately set about making it right on their end. PayPal’s not so eager to make anything right. They may take up to 30 days, even with evidence to show that the payment is valid.

    And their broken system won’t even let me make it good temporarily.

  3. Claire
    Claire October 26, 2014 5:05 pm

    “And yeah, I’ve been checking TZP every day. Nice that there’s lots of activity there. Hey Alan … PHPHPPHHTTHTHTPHPHTT! (Yeah, I’m fond of raspberries :)”

    🙂 I rather like those raspberries, too.

    Yeah, TZP is definitely jumpin’. Ilana Mercer and Y.B. ben Avraham have definitely been boffo additions — not to mention that Sheila, Nicki, and I are all brilliant. 😉 We’ve still got a couple of bloggers yet to join in.

    About people asking to join: So far, we’ve just been asking them to spread the word about the site. We don’t really have any organization to be joined — and I don’t think at this point we want to go through all the complications and governmentalisms of a 501(c)(3). Not now and maybe not ever (some of the founders of TZP would like the option of being political, which a 501(c)(3) can’t do). But if anybody has any ideas for creating an “official,” joinable, though not tax-deductible, group, I’d love to hear.

  4. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal October 26, 2014 5:50 pm

    I’ve had a couple of problems with fraudulent Paypal charges over the years- plane tickets and motels in India, for one- but they have always been great at cancelling the charges and have been polite and helpful. And fast, too. I guess it depends on who you get on the phone.

  5. Claire
    Claire October 26, 2014 6:11 pm

    “I guess it depends on who you get on the phone.”

    Or on the nature of the problem.

    Fraudulent charges are, alas, pretty routine. My situation, apparently not. The individual reps I talked with were all friendly and seemed to want to help, but clearly they were also all just going by scripts. When the scripts failed they had no answers other than to send me off to half-hour-long holds for departments the scripts told them to send me to, even though said departments were closed. They didn’t even have enough information or independent judgment to know when various departments were open — or not — and to respond accordingly.

    It was maddening, the way they all, one after another, kept suggesting the exact same things, even when I explained that I’d already tried that once or twice or three or four times already.

  6. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal October 26, 2014 6:50 pm

    Robots can’t handle unexpected data.

  7. MJR
    MJR October 26, 2014 7:11 pm

    I stopped using PayPal a while ago when someone tried to take me for $2495.00 I was lucky it happened on a holiday weekend and I regularly check my accounts. No more PayPal for me ever after the grief the hack caused.

  8. Claire
    Claire October 27, 2014 5:21 am

    UPDATE: I set an alarm for 4:00 this a.m. so I could have enough tea in me to be coherent when calling PayPal collections when they opened at 8:00 EDT, 5:00 my time. Took about five minutes to get money into the account. Whew!

    Still felt very weird to call a collections dept, but they didn’t treat me like a deadbeat.

  9. Claire
    Claire October 27, 2014 5:24 am

    Whoof, MJR. That would have seriously sucked. And I wonder how PayPal would have handled it had the hacker managed to pull the money out. They’re not a bank, so no FDIC protections (far as I know), and I’ve never heard of them defending their customers from fraud like cc companies do. Egads. Glad you caught that.

  10. MJR
    MJR October 27, 2014 6:13 am

    Actually Claire it wasn’t that bad. PayPal tried to debit my Visa and that is where I caught it when I checked the Visa statement. The occurrence took place during the July long weekend. On the Monday morning I checked (as I do every Monday) my transactions and I noticed the strange debit on the account. The good thing was that the transaction was still pending. All I had to do was call Visa and despite the charge. After a five minute conversation the transfer to PayPal was stopped and I had a new credit card. All is well that ends well.

    BTW I’m glad you got your PayPal issues sorted out.

  11. Claire
    Claire October 27, 2014 6:46 am

    Ohhh. That’s good. And since they were trying to debit your Visa instead of ripping off an existing PayPal balance, you would have been protected. Still … unnerving.

  12. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau October 27, 2014 8:03 pm

    Claire, for getting paid for something you might try Boston T. Party’s dodge: he always asks for payment in cash. People send FRN’s in an envelope apparently he’s always (or at least almost always) received it.

    And then there’s bitcoin, heh.

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