Dear Paypal, Why Do You Think I’m a Thief?

I woke up to a disconcerting letter from Paypal today. After being a customer for years without incident, suddenly I am classified as a high risk account, and they will hold all payment for put to 21 days. The only incident I ever had resulted from a buyer giving me the wrong address, and then opening a claim with no communication when his item did not arrive. It was resolved when the Post Office delivered the package back to me, and I sent it to him again, at my cost. 100% the fault of the other party, and I resolved it to the buyer’s satisfaction. That was years ago.

Now, I get this email. No explanation, just notice:

“Hello Scott Link,

We’re writing to let you know about a change to your PayPal account.

Starting 12/2/2011, money from payments you receive will be placed in a pending balance for up to 21 days. By doing this, we’re making sure that there’s enough money in your account to cover potential refunds or claims.
Why are my payments being held?
We reviewed your account and determined that there’s a relatively higher than average risk of future transaction issues (such as claims, or chargebacks, or payment reversals). We understand that it may be inconvenient to have your payments temporarily held but please know that we didn’t make this decision lightly.

Before deciding to hold payments, we consider many factors. These factors include account and transaction activity, the rate of customer disputes, the type of business a seller runs, average delivery timeframes, customer satisfaction, performance and history.”

So, I dug through the Paypal website and found an email address. I sent a message:

Hello, after years of loyalty, with only one incident years ago which ultimately was resolved in my favor, I got an email today saying my account has been changed so that all future payments I receive will be placed in pending balance for up to 21 days.


Why does my account have a higher than average risk of future issues, when there have been no issues on my part in the past? You said you didn’t “make this decision lightly’ in the email, I’d like a detailed explanation as to why you did make this decision.

I know that modern western civilization doesn’t value honesty and integrity very much anymore, but I do. And I take offense at your actions. It is just shy of calling my a thief, with absolutely no reason. In fact, my history shows that I have been nothing but above board.

I’ve been a loyal customer for years. I deserve to know why this has happened.

Scott Link

I received an immediate form letter:

“Dear Scott Link,

Thank you for your email. Customers who contact us using this form tend
to have questions around money being held from an eBay sale. In order
to provide you with assistance as quickly as possible, I have included
some basic information that may help you.”

The form letter goes on to describe multiple situation where this could happen, none of which apply to me.

I went and checked my seller rating with eBay. My performance is Standard. My policy compliance is High. My ratings range from 4.8 to 5.0. I have 100% positive feedback. And have had it since 1997.

Paypal is one of the few online businesses that has a fairly easily located phone number. So I called them. The first person I talked to confirmed that confirmed that this really isn’t about high risk accounts, but is about the number of transactions I execute. I asked to speak to his supervisor, who also said the only reason I am labelled “high risk” is because I do not sell a lot of stuff.

I asked her to pass on my feedback. I take my integrity seriously. I do not like being classified as higher risk when my actual account history shows I am very low risk. I suggested they reword their nasty-gram email to reflect the real reason they have decided to hold my payments: I don’t do enough transactions that generate enough fees for them to take any risk at all. I understand their business decision. I don’t like it but I can understand it.

But Paypal really needs to do better PR. Both the email and the form letter response left me feeling like a person of suspicion. I’m no theif, and Paypal has no reason to think I am. They really shouldn’t imply it in their emails.

Update: I got an email reply from a real person, who basically said what the other customer reps on the phone did. I replied to him with the same thing I told them. Then I got a survey from Paypal about the whole matter. I took the time to share my honest opinion with them.


EZ Up Sell: Integrity is Worth More

So I’m at a conference this week. I almost never get a rental car, but the hotel is a bit of a drive from the airport in DFW, and the shuttle was $112 one way! For an extra $26 I got a car online through EZ Rental Cars (Or something. Little known company, by me at least.) I arrived at the rental car facility at DFW, approached the desk and presented ID.

In the course of paperwork, the clerk offered me the EZ Toll sensor (Classic up sell), which when placed on the windshield auto pays the tolls around the area. The cost for the rental was about $30, plus the cost of tolls. My route was going to take me east and out of Dallas, so I was not going to be traveling any toll roads. As soon as I declined, the up sell picked up speed. I was told that I needed the device to keep from being charged $50 when I ran a toll booth. Driving around town, there was no way I wouldn’t run onto a toll road, and end up paying more than the cost of the sensor rental.

I am not one to just blindly follow a sales suggestion. I live in Orlando. We have tons of toll roads, and two toll companies to pay (Sunpass and E pass). I know how to get around toll roads. It is not required for people to drive on them. I almost grabbed my cards and went to another rental place, paying more just to not have to deal with a company that would do something this slimy. But, I also don’t like it when sales people try to take advantage of folks from out of town. So I began to probe this assertion, vigorously. I never raised my voice, but I did not let this lie, well, lie. The subjects we covered in the conversation were:

– What roads were toll roads? And weren’t the main highways still free?

– Why could I not pay cash at the tolls booth??

– I used to live in DFW, and never owned a toll sensor, and never got a ticket for running one.

– If, as he said toll gates no longer accepted cash, what were the booths at the airport parking/toll gates where people were handing money to toll employees?

– How did tourists who drive into Dallas/Ft Worth without a sensor not get a $50 ticket if this was required to drive around town?

– If there is no way to drive legal without a sensor, why is it even an option? Just roll it into the price of the car.

– And finally, just to be clear, was he telling me there was no way to drive off airport property without getting a $50 ticket for running a toll?

That last one allowed him to back down. During the conversation the sales guy kept saying that I would invariably get a ticket if I didn’t get the sensor. I refused to believe it. His colleague was sitting nearby, with his head in is hands while this went on.

He replied, that no, I could drive off the airport property without getting a ticket for running a toll. I said I must have misunderstood him then, when he had said just the opposite a few minutes before. He then finished the paperwork, checked the car, and off I went.

I know that was uncomfortable for the salesman. He made a statement that was a lie: I would get a $50 fine without his sensor. Instead of backing off when I pushed him, he pressed forward. Yes, if I ran a toll booth I would get a fine. But depending on where I was driving, I may not need the sensor at all. His lie had put him in a bad place. Maybe he was trying to make up the discount I got from using a booking website. Either way, he was trying very hard, and not being truthful

It didn’t have to be that way. He could have tried to sell me the sensor rental, and if I was driving in areas with toll roads, it might have been worth my trouble to get it. As soon as I said no thanks, he could have backed down. But since he started with the lie, he had no where to go. Short of admitting he had told something short of the truth, he was locked into his lie. That kind of life is no fun. He might have lied to me and gotten an extra $30 for his company, but what would he have personally gained?

Living a life of integrity is much easier, and much more fulfilling. The thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to try to remember what lie you told. You just tell the truth. There’s no stress. There’s no worry, and you can sleep at night. Whatever short-term benefit you might gain from lying isn’t worth the cost of losing your integrity.

By the way, I arrived at the hotel and didn’t pass a single toll booth.

Honesty Costs

Today, being honest cost me $1.79.

I was at McDonald’s. Ordered a sausage biscuit and a large Coke. Breakfast of champions. I was charged $1.07. I saw the receipt and just thought she had forgotten the Large Coke. But then she handed me the cup. I kind of blinked at her. $1.07 is about 1/3 of what it should cost. After a second or two it was obvious she wasn’t going to realize her error, so I mentioned that I had not been charged for the Coke.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it for free, but you didn’t charge me for it.” I said.

So she rung up the Coke and I made a second transaction for $1.79.

There were several people standing around the counter, I got the feeling at they were all looking at me like I was an idiot. I mean, hey, wasn’t my mistake. But for me, that whole sin of omission versus commission is pretty clear. If the cost of integrity is $1.79 today I’m OK with that.

Sometimes it costs more. My wife told me about something my son said the other day. He was at church, and was asked to give an example of someone being honest. He told a story of a trip to the farmer’s market a couple towns over. We were walking around, and I saw some cash on the ground. Turns out it was quite a bit of cash, over $100. We didn’t keep it, we turned it in.

I could have used that cash. The likelihood of someone coming back to that spot and asking the vendor if someone has turned it in was very slim. But it wasn’t mine. It was the right thing to do, so we turned it in. You never know if your kids really learn from watching you in those moments until later. What’s his example of integrity? Turning in a wad of $20s.

Sometimes honesty costs more than money. What’s it worth to you?