Monday, July 27, 2009


This morning I requested a transfer of funds to PayPal from a checking account that I am planning to close. The account is in a bank in another state five hours away. Using PayPal, I withdrew $60 from the account, which holds $90. I left $30 for unexpected-expected surprise fees that the bank is sure to levy for some thing or other before the account actually closes.

After requesting the PayPal transfer, I reviewed the “My Account” page in PayPal, where, to my dismay, the requested transfer appears not once but twice.

I waited a second. I refreshed the screen. Then, I checked the details.

Net amount: $60.00 USD
Date: Jul. 27, 2009
Time: 07:12:33 PDT

Net amount: $60.00 USD
Date: Jul. 27, 2009
Time: 07:12:34 PDT

No big mystery here. Finger spasm. Static electricity. I am sure there are other possibilities.

The real mystery is why PayPal has absolutely no feature in their program to prevent this from happening. How is it that PayPal’s transfer tool allows the entry of two unique transactions in one second without a security feature to question or confirm the separate entries? What if I had been transferring $2000 instead of $60?

Even more puzzling is why PayPal refuses to reverse the request. After wasting 2 or 3 minutes “chatting” with the virtual chat person “Sara” about absurdly unrelated issues, I called PayPal and spoke with a no more helpful but at least live representative who officiously informed me the deal was a done deal. Period.

Other than death there are no periods. None. Anything “done” can be “undone,” modified, or counteracted. The question is whether or not the company with which you are wrangling has instructed its customer service representatives to help customers resolve problems or to recite policy and procedure to them.

My assumption is that PayPal, like other businesses, wants on some level—at least rhetorically—to make its customers satisfied and happy, to create an experience that will leave their customers inclined to return and recommend the product to others. With that in mind, my advice to PayPal:

• the program needs a feature to prevent simple customer mechanical error from creating duplicate transfer requests,

OR, if that’s too tough for the programmers,

• the customer service people need to be trained/allowed to reverse accidental transfers or to apply a simultaneous credit to the bank account that will, in effect, cancel the order.

After beginning this blog, I was abandoned for 10 minutes on hold waiting to speak with a call-center supervisor. I hung up, calmed down, and called back. I spoke to another representative and then waited 15 minutes on hold to talk to her supervisor. Finally, the supervisor reconfirmed that the PayPal system is so inflexibly designed that nothing can be done to credit or reverse the transaction.

I will now get in my car, drive to a local bank where I have funds, and request an external transfer of $60 to the out-of-state bank. The transfer will cost me $12, which is better than the $30 overdraft fee I may otherwise incur from my bank when PayPal withdraws $120 from my underfunded account. Additionally, the whole fracas, initiated between the 33rd and 34th second in the twelfth minute of the seventh hour of this very morning has since cost me 2 hours and is bound to cost another.

While the spasm or electricity was probably mine, I am disappointed and annoyed that PayPal has done nothing to prevent the duplication from occurring in the first place. Moreover, in none of the conversations I had with PayPal representatives did I hear anything like an acknowledgment of the glitch or any whisper of interest in passing information about the problem along to the web techs. I am not even convinced that any of the customer service reps took the time to understand exactly what happened. I will stop obsessing over this now, but in closing, I wonder how many of the merchants with which PayPal does business also show such scant interest in their customers’ needs.

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