Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And that about wraps it up for Paypal

Over 10 years ago, I gave up in frustration over eBay's capricious bureaucratic decisions. And now Paypal has decided to screw me over in the exact same way. So now I'm rid of them too. And any other web site that is associated with them.

And good riddance. Read on to hear the entire (rambling, but hopefully coherent) story why.

Many years ago (this would be something approaching 18 years ago now), I had an eBay account. I didn't use it much, but I bought several items from auctions and was happy with the result. That account was based on my e-mail account which at the time was from Erols Internet.

Several years went by with my not using eBay for anything, during which time my Erols account was closed and I got a new mailbox from my new ISP (Earthlink.) During that time, I had also moved and changed jobs. eBay had locked my account due to disuse, and I couldn't unlock it because every method of contact they had on file no longer existed.

Fine. So I tried to create a new account using my Earthlink mailbox. The first thing that happened was that they would not let me use the account for anything without storing a credit card number on file with them. I never needed to do this in the past (I paid for my auction items by mailing cheques) and eBay's own policy said that having a card is only needed if you want to be a seller. Nevertheless, the system wouldn't let me use the account.

A few calls to customer service later and I learned that they have a blacklist of e-mail domains. Servers that they believe are "free mail" accounts and are therefore untrustworthy. They claimed that Earthlink is such a service. Never mind the fact that it was my ISP and that I was paying them nearly $80 a month for my service from them. There was no way to argue the fact. They did say, however, that if I wanted to, I could mail them notarized copies of all kinds of personal identity documentation and they would unlock my account with that.

Needless to say, I told them to do some things that are anatomically impossible, hung up and closed my account. Actually there was no way to close an account, so I changed my personal profile to contain lots of nasty comments about eBay corporation, changed my password to something random, promptly forgot the password and never looked back.

Now fast forward to recent history.

I am aware of the fact that eBay and PayPal have been merged for several years. It was for this reason that I resisted ever doing anything with PayPal. I know that they're run by a gang of idiots and that no good can ever come from doing business with them. Until this past December.

About a year or so ago, ePinions (a product review site that I used up until today) was bought by eBay. ePinions is a site where you write product reviews and, based on a secret "income share" formula, you get paid based on how helpful your review is, how many people click through your review to buy the item, and other similar information. When your account balance builds up to enough money, you can have them send you a cheque for your share of the income. Over the past many years, I earned several hundred dollars through this.

Well, as of December 31, ePinions changed their policy. They no longer send out cheques. They will only deposit funds into PayPal accounts. No PayPal, no income. So I created a PayPal account for the purpose of receiving these payments. Since then, about $5 had been deposited.

Now fast forward to today.

I wanted to buy a product on-line (what it is doesn't matter) and the seller only accepts PayPal. I didn't want to use the PayPal account itself, because it is tied to my secondary credit card (I didn't want my primary card associated with a service that could run up massive fraudulent charges in the event of someone hacking the account.) So I clicked the link for paying directly with a credit card (to pay with my primary card instead of the PayPal account), entered my information, and I get back a most curious error. It said that my card could not be used (not that the charge was rejected) and that I should use a different card. When I called the bank, they said that there was no attempt to process any charge.

Strange. I assumed it was a momentary glitch, so I tried again the next day. Same response.

So I called PayPal. After going through the most aggravating voice-menu system imaginable, I was finally able to speak to a human being. He said that my credit card and e-mail address were both locked out. I though this was very strange, since I had used both to buy something else via PayPal back in September. I asked if they detected any fraudulent activity - no, there was none. They decided that the e-mail address I used (my normal spam-trap address) was not trustworthy, so they locked it and locked the card that I used to make purchases with that account.

I thought this was very strange, that they should suspend an account for no reason other than the fact that they suddenly decided that a perfectly valid e-mail address (which, remember, I had successfully used with PayPal in the past) was now untrustworthy, and that any card used with that address is automatically assumed to be fraudulent. The PayPal person said that they locked them shortly after I made my previous purchase, and that it was for no reason other than the e-mail account's domain name.

I never received any notification that they were suspending anything, although the operator insists that people are always notified. Maybe it was one of the hundreds of "your account will be suspended unless you click this link" e-mails that I delete every day, assuming them all to be phishing scams. It wouldn't surprise me if PayPal's official correspondence is indistinguishable from criminal spam.

Anyway, I asked them to fix this. He said he could unlock the credit card number, but I would have to make my purchase with a different e-mail account, because that account would remain locked unless I (imagine ominous music playing now) send them notarized copies of personal ID information to prove that the mailbox is not fraudulent.

Excuse me? There's no record or complaint of anything fraudulent. And they are willing to accept the credit card, but the e-mail account is unacceptable and will require sending them more information than I gave the bank for my mortgage? Are they serious.

Yes, they are absolutely serious, the operator said. That's policy and there's nothing I can do about it.

Well, there is something I can do about it. I told him to do several anatomically impossible things and hung up on him. I then proceeded to delete my PayPal account (which, fortunately, I could do - better than eBay) And then, since there is now no possibility of getting paid, deleted my ePinions account. From now on, I'll post my product reviews here or on Amazon or anywhere else that is not controlled by eBay.

And now, and forevermore, I will have nothing to do with eBay/PayPal corporation or any of their affiliates ever again. They are the only company I have ever encountered on the Internet with these crazy policies, and there is no way I am going to give them enough information to steal my identity in every civilized country worldwide. They want more ID information than I gave the US government for my passport or that I gave the bank for my mortgage.

I strongly recommend that everybody reading this do the same. There are plenty of good responsible corporations that would love your (and my) business and that don't have stupid useless rules like banning customers based on who provides their e-mail account. Do business with them instead.

Oh, and about the $5 (from ePinions) that was sitting in the PayPal account? After deducting a $1.50 check-writing fee, they're going to mail me a cheque for $3.50. I haven't decided if I'm going to cash it or just shred it in anger.

UPDATE 2017: Out of curiosity, I decided to visit ePinions, to see what became of them. According to their FAQ, they shut down on March 25, 2014 (less than a year after I wrote this article). I can only assume that I'm not the only person eBay/PayPal corporation pissed off. Good riddance.

No comments: