My first dilemma was how to spell “dilemma” but having figured that out, my real dilemma is whether to pay $650 to re-activate my PayPal account, or live with a second PayPal account that forces me to live life in the shadows.
It all started in 2003. The sun was shining, birds were singing, I had just sold Mindwire and was starting MWI, and if the future had looked any brighter I would have had to borrow Rick Astley’s shades. As I was starting MWI I went on a spending spree buying computer equipment and software, and most of what I bought I bought on eBay using PayPal.
One of the pieces of software I needed was the Adobe Creative Suite that contained Photoshop and Illustrator. Having recently been a college student, I was well aware of the difference between educational or academic software and normal software. You can buy academic software for 1/10 the price, but you’re only supposed to use it if you’re a registered student, and you’re only supposed to use it for personal, theoretically academically-related purposes. You’re not supposed to use it in your business. However, not everyone on eBay clearly listed their software as academic.
So when I found a great price on a copy of Adobe Creative Suite that said it was the full version I didn’t trust the listing but contacted the seller and asked them if it was the educational version or the full version. They informed me that it was the full version. So I made the purchase.
Lo and behold, the software arrived and it was the academic version. There was a big sticker on the front of the box saying so. I emailed the seller and told them I wanted a full refund and I would send the software back. They refused, claiming that the academic version was just as good as the full version. This is true in the sense that it provides the same functionality, but seeing as how it’s illegal for me to use it, I couldn’t exactly take advantage of that great functionality, now could I?
No argument worked with the seller, so I started investigating other avenues to get my money back. PayPal offered a $200 guarantee, but I had just spent $650. $200 was hardly enough to make me happy. I signed up for a mediation service offered through eBay which cost me $20. The idea was to help me and the seller work through things. But unfortunately again, I would only be satisfied with a full refund, and the seller would only be happy if allowed to keep all the money, so mediation failed.
After trying every avenue I could think of, I sent the software back, and did a chargeback on my credit card. I got my money back, and everything seemed fine for a while. Then one day my PayPal account stopped working. When I contacted PayPal they informed me that I would have to pay them $650 to have it reactivated. They told me that when I did the chargeback it didn’t take the money from the seller I was going after, but had taken it from PayPal, and PayPal had no recourse to get the money from the seller. From their perspective I was stealing from them.
I tried to explain the situation but they said what I needed to do was get the money from the seller, and then I could pay PayPal back and they’d reactivate my account. Well, I had just tried for several weeks to get my money from the seller so I knew that wouldn’t work, so I just lived with my PayPal account turned off. A year or two later I contacted them again to see if there was any process I could go through or anyone I could talk to, but they said short of paying the $650 there was no way for me to get my account reactivated.
So I set up a second PayPal account. This meant using a different email address, address, bank account, and credit card. I couldn’t allow any of the unique information to match or the PayPal system would detect it and say that information was already in use. The email address and other information wasn’t a problem, but I only have one business account which was being used, which meant I had to attach my PayPal account to my personal checking account. A bit annoying, but manageable.
You might think that after six years PayPal would say “Obviously we’re not getting the money back from this guy, let’s just delete his account.” But that’s the thing about computer data–it costs nothing to keep it. To this day I cannot login to my original account nor attach a PayPal account to my business checking account. If I sell something for the business through PayPal the money goes into my personal account. If I buy something for the business I have to pay for it from my personal account and then get reimbursed. Annoying, but worth $650 to get around?
I recently called up and was able to talk to a real, live human at PayPal about this. He told me that if I could prove I shipped the software back to the seller that they could release my account, but otherwise for all they knew I still had the software as well as the money. Trouble is, I don’t have receipts from five years ago. I can’t find any email receipt or shipping information or anything. In fact, almost all my data related to the incident is missing, although I must admit that wading through a bunch of six-year old email was a charming romp down memory lane. I wish they would have given me this option six years ago when I was going through all of this.
So I still haven’t paid the $650. But now I’m looking at doing hundreds, perhaps thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of transactions through PayPal based on a new business I’m launching. Is it worth paying the $650 to have convenience and piece of mind? I’m always a bit paranoid that they’re going to find out I have another account and shut that one down too. Or if I really don’t want the money going into my personal account should I just set up another business account? Or should I just have it go into my personal account and deal with it? Ah, some days it’s tempting to just pay the $650, but then I start thinking about how many pints of Ben & Jerry’s I could get for that much, and I just can’t do it. Sorry PayPal, guess you’ll have to wait.