KNOW YOUR PAYPAL

Using PayPal for online sales can be great, but know the drawbacks of PayPal before you get burned.

I found out the hard way that online shopping can be a dangerous thing.

I’ve shopped on Ebay for years, back in the day when its url was actually eBay with a jillion letters and stuff, and many vendors didn’t even post pics of their products. And I was an early user of PayPal, too. It guaranteed your money was safe with Ebay transactions, and it made everything soooooo easy.

As PayPal expanded its services to other online venues, I continued to use it in good faith. I heard rumors of “issues”, but figured it was mostly the kinds of transactions I didn’t indulge in–gold coins, international purchases, deals that were somewhat shady to begin with, etc.

So when I found an ad with a great deal for custom-printed T-shirts on Facebook last month, I didn’t think twice about ordering a bunch for our family. (“I’d Rather Be Watching FIREFLY”, in case you’re wondering.) I paid with my Paypal account, which actually had a balance for a change.

Weeks went by. No T-shirts. I checked back at the website to email the company.

When I clicked on the “contact us” tab, a funny message appeared. And not “funny ha ha”, either.

It said the company was experiencing “problems” processing orders. And it said to be patient and wait “a few more weeks”, as orders would be processed in the order they were received.

Warning bells started ringing. For one thing, the vendor hadn’t been proactive and contacted me. I’d had to track them down. And “a few more weeks” would put me outside the 45-day safety period where I could still file a claim with PayPal.

I immediately filed a claim with PayPal, thinking of their buyer protection guarantee. But that turned out to be a little more difficult–and ultimately problematic–than I’d anticipated.

First the process and the form to fill out was a little confusing. I was asked over and over to contact the seller myself to resolve issues. Been there, done that, did NOT get the T-shirt. Duh!

Then I was asked to submit “documents”. What documents are there in an online transaction?? I left that blank. For the rest of the process, a stern and rueful “You did not submit documents!” glared at me from my report.

Then I was told I had to escalate the claim before any action could be taken. But if I waited too long, the claim would automatically be dropped.

I waited a few days, then escalated.

I waited a week for a report on my claim. And the results shocked me.

PayPal had indeed determined that I had paid for goods I had not received. They had determined the seller was not responded to emails. And then they determined the seller had no money in her account. Hence, no money could be refunded to me.

So the case was CLOSED. Thank you for using PayPal, the safe way to shop online.

I could not believe it. I called PayPal, and got the same answer.

Short story: PayPal guarantees buyer protection only for transactions made through Ebay. No other transactions are guaranteed.

I think of the hundreds of transactions I’ve made over the years buying books, craft supplies, all the shopping I’ve done on Etsy and other vendors over the years, and I’m floored.

I asked what happened to the vendor who’d disappeared with my money. “Oh, we’ll watch and make sure they don’t open another PayPal account!” Huh? How are they going to do that?? They don’t have any way of contacting this vendor other than an email address, and yet they were sure they could “identify” this person if they ever open up another PayPal account…..??!! Yeah, we all know how hard it is to get a new email account.

I feel fortunate. I am sadder, $36 poorer and wiser. But all I lost was less than $50 and a few hours of my time. It could have been worse, much worse.

And I’ve learned my lesson. I now make sure that when I pay with PayPal, I select the “other funding options” which puts the money on my credit card instead. I may pay extra fees, but if I have a dispute, my credit card company will do battle instead. And I believe they will take better care of me than PayPal did.

So be forewarned. Read the fine print. If “guaranteed buyer protection” means “We kinda tried to get your money back but we didn’t have much luck”, then that’s a guarantee I can do without, thank you very much.

Hellooooooo Visa!