Monday, January 14, 2008


PayPal is a lot of things, most of them good. But one thing they do is not so good. I won't go into specific details about what happened that made me want to write about this, as it involves people who are not me.

When you go to PayPal to pay an invoice, or an eBay auction checkout, or to "Send Money," you get a page that lists everything you need to know about the transaction, and has a "payment method" drop down box near the bottom. It will default to your primary bank account, because PayPal makes more money if you pay with your bank account than if you pay with a credit card. That's not a problem, it's easy to choose another method if you wish. There's even a link to add a credit card if the one you wish to use is not already on file with PayPal. So far so good.

The problem is after you go to the page to add the new credit card, type in all of the information about it, and follow the menus to end up back at this page, it still defaults to your bank account, even though it's obvious to all involved that you meant for the credit card to be used. I'm not sure about all browsers and screen set-ups, but on some at least, you don't even see the drop down box to choose your new credit card as method of payment unless you scroll down, and there is a "Pay Now" button at the top, so it's very easy to think you've done everything right to charge this transaction to your credit card, but you haven't.

I'm sure for most transactions of $20 or so, once you've accidentally used your bank account instead of the card you wanted to use you just open up your checkbook and note the transaction, no big deal, and PayPal makes a few extra pennies. But what if you were talking about a larger transaction, like, just to pull a number out of thin air, $2000? What would you do then? Would you simply edit the transaction on the confirmation page before it's final? I bet you would, assuming you received a confirmation page, which you didn't. You received a page that said Transaction Complete. This could be a problem if you needed that $2000 to pay bills that week. It could be a larger problem if you don't have $2000 in that account. It could be an even larger probem if you do have $2000 in that account, and have just mailed a bunch of checks that are now all going to bounce because PayPal takes the money first.

This is still not a problem, because you can just call PayPal and tell them that since their system is designed to make you make this mistake, could they please fix it? Interestingly, they answer very politely, but in the negative. Further pleading and pressure, even threats to close this stupid PayPal account and never use them again, are greeted with further polite replies. All negative.

If there were a confirmation page, making it clear to the customer exactly what transaction they were going to perform before clicking the "Pay Now" button, politely declining to help would still be a terrible way to handle this situation. Since there isn't a confirmation page, it's an almost unforgivable way to handle this situation. Since they DO offer a confirmation page if you successfully choose to use your credit card, a page on which they offer you three or four bullet points to pitch the idea of using your bank account instead, it makes this handling of the situation seem almost criminal. Almost like they did it on purpose.

I'm completely certain that is not the case, because if I were certain, and I said so here, I can see how they might want to do something about it. And we've seen their tactics already, so I don't want to do anything to incur their wrath.

I'm certain that this was a design oversight, and that they will have it fixed as soon as they can get around to it.

- Trevor.
Denver, CO

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