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When 24 Hours Is 23:59 Too Long

PayPal's Verification Wait Irks a Business Owner - Haggler

When 24 Hours Is 23:59 Too Long

THE Haggler's recent column about PayPal, the online money transfer company, summoned forth a fresh round of "I can't stand PayPal" e-mail. This one stood out.

Q. My company is new, and as yet has processed just three transactions using credit cards through PayPal. In all of these cases, the payment has been held up for about 24 hours because the buyer was "unverified." This has happened even when the credit card was the corporate card of a well-known company. Twenty-four hours may not seem long, but in my case it is critical.

My company sells schedule risk analysis software. It can be downloaded from the Web for a 30-day free trial, at the end of which the user must buy a license key to continue using the software. This key is delivered automatically, by e-mail, within seconds of the purchase - except when this purchase is made through PayPal, in which case it takes 24 hours or more.

Furthermore, while PayPal informs me of the delay, it does not apparently inform the buyer. This is allegedly meant to be a protection for me, but other Internet vendors accept credit cards without question, and I don't see why PayPal should be any different. Also, in my particular case, if I were not to get paid for some reason I can retrospectively disable the license key. So I don't need or want this protection. I have tried to make this case to PayPal several times, but I get bland responses that avoid the key points. Can you help? Tony Welsh

A. The Haggler got in touch with a publicist at eBay, which owns PayPal, and learned that Mr. Welsh simply misunderstood a key detail about payment review, as this feature is known. Namely, that he can opt out of it.

Which led the Haggler back to Mr. Welsh: Why didn't you just say you wanted no part of payment review?

He had. Several times. He sent the Haggler a few of the many e-mails between him and PayPal reps. One was this bracing no-way-Josť from an Executive Escalations team member: "You asked why you are unable to opt out of the payment review process. Payment review is an automatic process within the PayPal system that cannot be overridden. It is a tool we use to prevent loss for our customers and ourselves. If PayPal allows an unauthorized transaction to process, we are at risk for reversals from the credit card companies."

Not only does this contradict the notion that anyone can forswear payment review, but it says that opting out isn't possible because it's "automatic." Further, it contradicts the point of the program, which a publicist said was all about protecting merchants. Now we learn that it's about protecting merchants and PayPal.

It gets better. The Haggler was told that most reviews occur in a matter of seconds; 24 hours is a worst-case-scenario number. But Mr. Walsh was told, in yet another e-mail, that a review "usually takes 24 hours, although in some cases this time frame can extend to 48 hours."

The Haggler bundled up all this information and forwarded it to eBay/PayPal. Katherine Hutchison, a senior director at PayPal, apologetically explained that her underlings had given Mr. Welsh wrong information. She added that as a result of his experience, the company was in the process of retraining its reps so they understand that payment review is optional.

The Haggler doesn't doubt that the PayPal phone and e-mail agents are about to be retrained. But the Haggler can't help but notice a pattern. The previous column was about the thousands of eBay sellers who were chagrined to learn that their money would be held by the company for as many as 21 days. In that matter, as with this current one, eBay/PayPal spokespeople said that preventing fraud - not enhancing profits, by accumulating bank interest - was the point of hanging on to the money.

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Exposing the sleazery of ebaY and PayPal

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