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PayPal is not your Pal

Well... not mine, anyway.

I had a bit of a run-in with the online payment-processing "service" and I'm rapidly finding myself in the anti-PayPal camp. No wonder once an alternative like BidPay came on the scene, people have been fleeing PayPal. You don't have to look hard for the discontentment: there are several eBayers who voice their dissatisfaction with PayPal in their "me" pages, and even in their auction listings.

My particular complaint concerns what I think is a deliberate attempt to steer you to using a particular funding option—namely your bank account—in favor of alternatives like a credit card. Once you've been verified, you'll see that it becomes the default funding choice, and there is no way to alter the default. You have to click the Credit Card option on every transaction, and then confirm on a subsequent page which tries to talk you out of making that choice.

This isn't just bad design, in my opinion; this is a deliberate, calculated effort to steer you back to the direct withdrawal option. If—after selecting the Credit Card option—you make any other changes to the transaction (like changing the ship-to address to, say, your work) you will notice that PayPal has abandoned your funding option of choice and once again selects your bank as the primary funding source. You'll have to go through the funding options pages—including the are-you-sure nag page—all over again.

You have to be very careful. In my case, I didn't catch it one time, and a fairly hefty transaction got billed to my bank account. Now I should point out that I do not let PayPal or anybody else have access to my primary account. With identity theft as rampant as it is, that would be plain stupid. Instead, I have an old account that I never bothered closing, containing only chump change, attached to an ATM card... you know, emergency money. And it did the job as far as PayPal's verification process was concerned, too.

Only PayPal didn't listen to me when I said "no, don't use that account" and its meddling insistence cost me not one, but three penalty fees: an overdraft charge, and two NSF charges. I say two, because PayPal's blurb about one's credit card being a "backup funding source" is basically nonsense. PayPal insisted on trying the bank again (and failing that, sent me an email saying I had better fund the account because it would try once more.)

So I got on the phone to PayPal's customer service folks today, and was told by an obviously harried and curtly inflexible representative that once I hit the submit button, there was nothing I could do, and nothing they could (would?) do either.

This is not exactly what I consider "valuing the customer" (as heard prior to talking to the rep) and basically gives lie to their claim that customer satisfaction is their first priority. (They claimed—on the lead-in before talking to the rep—that I may get an email survey in a few days... if I do, I'll give them a piece of my mind ... ;-)

So, my opinion, based on my experience: PayPal really doesn't care about your wishes and intents. Neither the web design nor the customer service showed any indication of respecting the customer, and they feel it is perfectly acceptible business practice to ignore you and do what they want to do.

That sort of hubris is exactly the sort of thing that has me looking for alternatives, and now, like I said, I think I'll see about dumping my one-time pal.