Start a disaster relief fund, get busted by PayPal

With the recent Katrina Katrina Hurricane aftermath going on up north, a lot of donation services have been set up.

Some sites also created fundraisers to help the people affected by the hurricane. Such was the case with everybody’s prefered interweb stupidity mill, SomeThingAwful.com.

However, half a day after they started their donation campaign – having gathered $20,000 so far – PayPal decided there was something suspicious on their account and locked it. The awkward thing about it is that, no matter how legitimate the account usage was, there is no way to prove it to PayPal anyways – they need proof something was successfully shipped from the account, but since the account is used for donations only, nothing was shipped. So there’s simply no way to get it fixed, and now PayPal has in their pockets money that would be used for disaster relief.

That’s, in fact, a common source of problems with PayPal. If they decide your account looks weird for whatever reason, it’s locked for good – the only way to get it unlocked is to provide some information that might not even exist in the first place. A similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago – long story short, my account was locked because a credit card I used with it was cancelled (by myself – it had been lost) six months after I created my account, and to unlock it I would have to send them a copy of the credit card. I didn’t have it, of course (and I received the warning another six months after I cancelled it), but PayPal wasn’t taking any of this – there was no way to contact them to solve the matter as the contact form blocked any message I tried to send them, saying I had to solve the credit card issue first. In the end, there was anything I could do so the account remained locked.

Luckily for me, I didn’t had any money on the account – I had only used the account once, to pay for some stuff I ordered a few months prior to the incident – but the way the thing was handled by PayPal was enough for me to get really scared of what could have happened. Like facing ED 209 telling you to drop your weapons when they’re already on the ground.

SomethingAwful.com seems to have the same problem – faced with some suspicious activity, PayPal simply decided to lock them until they prove something that is impossible to prove. That’s the PayPal way, and you can find a lot of similar stories on sites like PayPalWarning.com and PayPalSucks.com.

In the end, PayPal works just like a bank, but a bank that can lock your money when/if they want to, then giving you some impossible ways to get it unlocked and not talking to you until you unlock it. A Kafkaesque process at its best – that’s how I felt when I had my credit card problem with them, and how I felt when I’ve read SomethingAwful.com’s story. Makes a man feel so powerless.

Edit: Luckily for SomethingAwful.com, Lowtax (SA’s main shareholder, CEO and JeffK in disguise) got ahold of PayPal’s telephone “customer” support and things are starting to be sorted out.

I still think it’s strange that they use such a system to make arbitrary decisions which can’t be solved (in SA’s case, showing a page listing 0 shippings that had to be proved) and putting their “customers” on a deadend, but again… it’s the PayPal way.

  • thomas c. gardner

    Everytime I try to sign in to have a bill paid by paypal they keep telling me I have the wrong password. Even changed password and still no response. PLEASE HELP ME.