<update date=”2020-06-23”>It’s a month later, and I noticed the BBB complaint page kept pushing back the required date for PayPal to respond, currently at the end of July. I took that as them not actually holding one of the world’s largest financial institutions to task, because scary things are going on in the world. So, back to square one, having no hope that my situation will ever be resolved.

I posted this observation on Twitter, and an hour later, they fixed my account and I got a call from PayPal Corporate Escalations regarding my BBB complaint. They claimed they had no knowledge of the tweet I just sent, or of the previous 11 interactions. What an amazing coincidence! I verified I could log in and immediately transferred all the money out of my account.

I did not hold back with my assesment of the situation, and also asked about the two promised “specialist” escalations from @AskPayPal that never happened, the fact that there has been literally no way to deal with account security issues for months now (and for months in the future, see below), the lies from @AskPayPal claiming the opposite of that, etc. The person I talked to was generically contrite, but obviously didn’t have any answers.

I’m relieved this is fixed for me personally, but obviously not happy. They said the current estimate for phone support to return is OCTOBER. From one of the world’s largest financial institutions. PayPal online chat can’t access your account. Their brand protection accounts on Twitter/Facebook/etc can’t access your account. Literally the only way to deal with account security issues at the present time is to file a BBB complaint and be as loud as possible. Maybe file a small claims lawsuit if you have money held hostage. This is just to get the attention of someone who can make a difference.

If you have money in your PayPal account, withdraw it immediately. If you use it as your primary account, find a different bank immediately. And if you’re in the same situation as I was for over 3 months, I’m truly sorry.</update>

<update date=”original (2020-05-26)”>They immediately responded with almost exactly what I predicted in the “What shouldn’t I do?” section. I’ve updated the counts below, we’re now up to 11 different PayPal representatives.

Seeing this was going nowhere, I filed a Better Business Bureau complaint against PayPal. I let PayPal know, and turns out they have a form reply specific to when people tell them they’ve filed BBB complaints. I don’t know why I found that surprising; must happen a lot.

This form reply stated they will wait to receive the complaint until they do anything. To be clear, filing a BBB complaint does not preclude PayPal from fixing the problem they caused until they receive the complaint. They are perfectly capable of fixing their problem, but are now explicitly refusing to, instead of leading me on. At least this is closure, in the sense that they can stop lying to me regularly and repeatedly.

And in case this goes viral, I am open to media inquiries. Yes, I have a grudge.</update>

First of all, I want to apologize to the average reader reading this. I know most people treat these sorts of grudge posts the digital equivalent of putting your hand at the side of your lowered head and walking by without making eye contact. I get it, and I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable. Instead, this post is intended to reach someone from one of the world’s largest financial institutions.

Short version: About two months ago, PayPal changed it so I can no longer access my account. Since then, I’ve had NINE ELEVEN PayPal representatives “try” and fail to help me, and have been lied to multiple times.

It used to be that when I logged in, it would ask security questions (mother’s maiden name, last 4 SSN, etc). Then they changed it so it tries to send a verification text to a cell number I haven’t had in years. This cell number I had explicitly removed from my profile, again, years ago.

When I click “Having trouble logging in?”, it says “Sorry, we couldn’t confirm it’s you. Need a hand? We can help.” The “we can help” link takes me to their knowledge base, which doesn’t address this scenario.

Any attempt to find a “contact us” link results in being asked to log in first. I explained the situation to @AskPayPal on Twitter, and they replied with:

Hi there! Thank you for reaching out to us via Twitter. We are sorry to hear that you are unable to access your account. Please send us a DM with your registered email address. We’d be happy to help.

Their “help” consisted of showing me exactly what sequence to click on the web site to be able to get to chat support without being logged in. It’s… not intuitive, and definitely designed to discourage people from finding it.

So, chat support. First two attempts involved them trying to send password resets. I explained no, my password isn’t the issue, it’s this old phone number that they’re trying to send a text to all of a sudden. I finally got someone who actually looked at my account, confirmed and understood the issue… and refused to help further. Login issues like that must be done over the phone, and their phone support is closed indefinitely. And then he immediately ended the chat session.

Now, here’s where the proper psychological abuse begins. I’ve since come to realize that @AskPayPal is not customer support. It’s brand reputation protection. They look for situations where their brand is being tarnished, and do their best not to remedy the situation, but to sweep it under the rug. They can’t look at accounts, or fix accounts, or do anything but quietly and discretely direct the brand problem somewhere else where maybe it will be helped, but honestly who cares at that point. The brand reputation problem has been mitigated. It’s possible they’re not even PayPal employees, but instead staffed by a marketing subcontractor.

I posted on my Twitter timeline about the chat experience, and that I’ve basically given up. A few days later, they replied publicly:

Hi there, thanks for getting in touch with us. We have responded to the Direct message. Please check. Thanks for your patience. ^MJD

And then the cycle begins again. They’ll ask a few token questions, and either stop responding, or tell me to go to chat support (which we’ve established will not help me). Any time I mention PayPal publicly, I get a response eventually, but it never goes anywhere. This has happened with SIX EIGHT different PayPal representatives (at least judging by the initials at the end; add the 3 chat support attempts and we’re at ~~9~~ 11). Twice they ended with promising to escalate to a “specialist”, but will then disappear.

Every time I feel like hope is properly lost and I can move on (did I mention I foolishly had over $700 in the account?), they’ll reply and ask to repeat the situation, or ask what happens when I try to log in, or suggest that if I contact chat support they can reset my password. With each response, I know that @AskPayPal cannot actually fix the problem PayPal created, but there’s still that bit of hope which makes me respond. But it ends the same each time, and honestly, I feel terrible.

What can I do?

So, you’re a member of the aforementioned brand protection team and have discovered this post. Is there anything that can be done to remedy this blight on the PayPal brand? Maybe!

  1. Read this post. Like, all those paragraphs above. They contain valuable information.
  2. Find someone who can actually get stuff done. Like, a programmer or someone. I assume since the web site is still up and one of the world’s largest financial institutions is still processing transactions (for accounts which haven’t been locked out, at least), there may still be people working for PayPal. On the chance that you’re actually a third party contractor, pick up the phone and call your escalation contact for dealing with problem customers like me.
  3. Okay, have we got someone who can make a difference? Excellent. Now, find my account (it’s not difficult to guess my email; my name is Ryan Finnie and you’re reading a post on finnie.org), remove the 2FA option you somehow added for a cell phone which isn’t even part of my profile (it ends in 72), and set it back so I can answer security questions when I try to log in.
  4. Optionally, if you want to have a chat, feel free to call my home number. It’s the primary number on my profile. Ends in 69. It’s actually a pretty cool looking number, and initially makes you think “wait, is that a fake phone number?” But no, it’s real.

What shouldn’t I do?

Please don’t reply with “I’m sorry you’ve had a bad experience! Please send us a direct message with more information, and we would be happy to help you.” That would be abusive and would make me more angry.

But you’re going to do that anyway. That’s exactly what they did. Gotta protect the brand.

Coda

I may have been a little irreverent there, but make no mistake, this is not something I wanted to write. I do not feel good writing this, and I just want the problem resolved. I’m currently out over $700, I cannot pay friends (which is how this all started), or buy on eBay, or buy from small businesses which only accept PayPal. I don’t want a 10th encounter with PayPal support, or a 11th, or… I’ve also left some parts out, as detailing each of the 9 attempts at service would make this post even longer. Suffice it to say, #9 was so incredibly tone deaf that it prompted me to write this post.