Sooner or later you’ll pay, pal
I had an interesting conversation with Paypal today.
Apparently I got some misinformation, and so did you. So I’m going to take this opportunity to set things straight, and then we can all get on with the important business of drinking ourselves to death.
THE DONATION BUTTON
I was initially told that all of this was triggered by my incorrect use of the Paypal donation button. “Only a registered nonprofit can use the donation button,” they told me, and that’s what I told you.
Except that turns out to be false.
Anyone can use a donation button. For anything. That’s why you see them on blogs, raising money for bandwidth or medical bills, or even beer money.
According to the Paypal executive who called me today, “The information you were given about using the donation button was definitely incorrect, and at the end of the day, it was an error in judgment on the agent’s part.”
So… it’s just that one guy then. It’s his fault. Good enough. Let’s run with that, because I’ve got 19 Judge Judy episodes on my DVR and they aren’t going to watch themselves.
Except he’s not the only one I heard it from. I also got that information in two separate emails from Paypal. And that means that Paypal’s donation policies are so poorly worded and vague that even the people who work there don’t understand them.
That’s not just bad for me, it’s bad for anyone who uses Paypal. Because as long as policies are this ambiguous, people will come up against this kind of crap and see their assets frozen. How many of them are going to be able to ratchet up the public shaming that was handed out in the last 24 hours?
And I think we all know that Paypal’s apologies and reversals were motivated by the intense scrutiny they’ve been subjected to. If I were Sally’s Soap Shack, I would be waiting out that six month hold right now and wondering how to make Ramen noodles taste like Christmas ham.
WHAT TRIGGERED THIS EVENT
According to Paypal, the red flags started flying because of how fast the donations came in. It wasn’t that we did anything wrong – it was that we did it too well. As I told you in this post, we were overfunded very quickly – in a couple of hours – and that set off a review process at Paypal.
And you know what? I have no problem with that. I have a 10+ year record of fundraising through Paypal, including over $150,000 raised in just the last two years for various causes. So I should pass any review with flying colors.
But this is where it all went wrong. Because according to the Paypal executive, this part of the process is “subjective”. At this point, a representative makes a call based on very sophisticated and nuanced criteria they don’t have to disclose to you, and by that I mean, I had a big lunch and I’m tired.
So it’s a crapshoot. And anything can happen. And it did.
“The normal protocol would have been for the agent to tell you that once you reach a certain threshold, your account is triggered for a review. And when the agent looked at your account and made a subjective decision, he made a very, very incorrect one.”
And really, not just because fucking with poor kids at Christmas is a really terrible idea from a PR standpoint, but because I am a good, solid customer. I do a lot of business with Paypal. But the days of a company rewarding you for your loyalty are just over. No one knows how to treat you anymore. No one cares.
I think this is why this whole thing has resonated so deeply with people. We are all working very hard in a bad economic climate, and every cent we spend really matters. And corporations continue to treat us like they’re the only ones who are hurting.
We see the erosion of customer care in every sector. No one knows your name. No one makes eye contact. No one thanks you. Even doctors are practicing a completely different kind of medicine now. They have to see so many people to make the same money they used to that they’ve become more like mechanics. They forget your cancer is attached to a person. And Paypal forgets your fees are attached to people who are trying to make a living, or facilitate something good for other people. It makes sense doesn’t it? No one in their right mind would crap on poor kids at Christmas, unless they just weren’t paying attention.
WHAT THEY DID
In addition to an apology, Paypal has unfrozen both my personal account and my business account. It’s a nice gesture, but I’ve already refunded thousands of dollars in donations, so they’ve basically just given me access to money that wasn’t in issue to begin with. And they’re refunded $77 without explanation, and I have no idea what that represents.
They have also offered me the opportunity of doing unlimited business without fees through the end of the year. It’s really the only way I’d use them at this point, since they won’t be getting anything from me.
Then there is the issue of the “donation.” They came out very early this morning and said they made one, but that hasn’t happened yet. We did discuss it on the phone today and they offered to make a donation to the charity of my choice, but that isn’t what I wanted.
Instead, I asked for a $100 gift card for each of the 200 families we’re helping. This was my original intention, and this is what I wanted to do with the money in the first place.
In perhaps the only part of all of this that has surprised me, they seem to like the idea.
I’ll let you know how that progresses.
Do I think all of this will make a difference? Do I think this will usher in a new era of accountability and raise the level of service Paypal provides their customers?
But I will say this: we got someone to pay attention.