Sunday, May 25, 2008

Misunderstanding the User

A while ago, I wrote about some good technical support by NetGear. Now here's some absolutely abysmal support by PayPal.

Like most PayPal customers, I use them because I have to, not because I want to. PayPal has a monopoly in online payment systems and there are things that I can't buy (or are much more difficult to buy) if I don't use PayPal. So, I use them a few times a year.

Recently, I bought something from a seller in Hong Kong who would only take PayPal and required that I become "verified" in order to sell to me. Now, I've been a PayPal user since 2000, but I never bother to become "verified" because the advantages don't matter to me. But, I figured, what's the disadvantage? I would add my checking account, then remove it after I'm verified. Unfortunately, that doesn't work.

When I removed my checking account, I once again became unverified. Apparently, nobody at PayPal bothered to look up the definition of "verify" and proper use of the past tense. Once I am verified, by definition, I cannot become unverified.

To make things more confusing, PayPal and the merchants who use PayPal have two different meanings for verified. In the one coherent response that I got from PayPal support, they even acknowledge this.

Becoming Verified will show others you have confirmed your identity in the PayPal system and the Verified status will increase confidence within the PayPal community.

Verification is also necessary to lift the sending and withdrawal limit on an account. Once you've reached these limits, the only way to continue to use your PayPal account to send and withdraw money is to become Verified.
Never mind that there's really no such thing as a "PayPal community" -- I think that's wishful thinking on their part. But it is true that someone I might transact with has a greater confidence in me if I'm verified. But I could care less about the limits. This support person also wrote:
The key to this is not that you suddenly become "not real"; we understand that you remain the same person who verified with us.
Interesting -- PayPal understands that I don't become "not real," yet they fail to communicate this to people that I transact with. Is there any logical reason for that?

By the way, if I were to give up and leave my checking account attached to my PayPal account (and I considered that), PayPal defaults to sending money from my checking account, not the credit card that I've used for 8 years. Every time, I do a transaction, I have to manually change it back to my credit card. Why?! And there's no way to change the default back to my credit card. I know that PayPal claims I'm 100% protected with my bank account, but I'd still rather use my credit card where the protection is mandated by Federal law.

In the process of figuring things out, I tried to get PayPal support to pass on a message to the people actually responsible for this, but they were completely incapable of doing that. They misunderstood what I was saying and sent me the same canned responses repeatedly. For example, in my last email to PayPal, I sent the following (this is an excerpt):
Personally, I could care less about sending and withdrawal limits or any of the other benefits of being "verified". If you insist on "unverifying" people who remove their bank accounts, you really should provide an indicator that the person has been verified as real. Hey, how about calling that "verified" and using some other word to indicate "currently has a bank account attached"? Please pass this information on to someone who can do something about it.
The canned response gave me the same instructions on how to remove my bank account that I'd already been sent before.

PayPal does two things wrong here:
  • They're setting things up for their convenience, not their customers'. I would guess that there is an advantage to having my checking account be the default funding source and I would guess it has to do with revenue. But why should that inconvenience me?
  • Their technical support staff lacks information they need and it looks like they respond to support queries without actually reading the questions they are responding to. When I send a message that says, in its entirety, "Will you pass on my feedback to someone who can actually change it instead of just sending me back canned responses? Pretty please?" and it gets a canned response repeating something I've already been told, it gets pretty comical.
I'm hoping that maybe somebody from PayPal reads blogs.


Anonymous said...

You might also try Get Satisfaction. There are several PayPal employees who hang out and answer customer satisfaction issues on their site. Not sure if any of them are exactly the right employees to help with this, but it's always worth a shot.