The last day of 2011 started innocently enough. It was a weekend, and one of the last days of my Christmas/New Year break. I was pretty relaxed…
Then I got an email from PayPal with We’ve limited your PayPal account in the subject line.
(My highlights: I can’t send or withdraw funds, so in effect they’ve frozen my account, though I can continue to receive payments; they *may* remove this limitation — then again, they may not!; no, my PayPal account is a validated business/merchant account, NOT a registered charity or non-profit — that statement is just plain wrong!)
I glanced through the email quickly, then went directly to the PayPal website from within my browser (I didn’t click the links in the email in case it was some sort of phishing scam).
Once I’d logged in to PayPal, the first page had this:
So I clicked the Update Now button and got taken to the Resolution Centre page, which had this (my highlights to show what I *can’t* do with my PayPal account):
I got angry — this is MY money, and now I can’t touch it!
I went searching on Google for other instances of PayPal limiting people’s accounts and mostly found stuff about dispute resolutions over eBay payments, non-delivery of goods etc. Nothing seemed to fit my situation. So I decided to contact PayPal by phone — they are open for phone contact every day of the week except Sunday, and as this was a Saturday, I gave it a try.
I spoke to Tim in Arizona. He knew straight away what I was calling about and said it was because I’d started using a PayPal Donate button on my website (this blog) recently and that I needed to be a registered charity to do that. What the…? I couldn’t recall a single thing on the PayPal web page where you create buttons where it said you could only use the Donate button if you were a registered charity. However, I did recall a pre-Christmas incident that went viral on the internet about some stuff Regretsy.com did.
Tim agreed that the purposes for which I was using the ‘Donate’ button seemed fine (I use these small donations to pay annual WordPress fees to keep this blog free of ads, use my own CSS etc.) and he said that would’ve been what he would’ve chosen under the same circumstances. However, he said that PayPal wouldn’t lift the freeze until I’d submitted the documentation requested (things such as my Australian Business Number, Certificate of Registration for my business, letterhead giving me authority to act on behalf of my company, and two pages of information about my purposes for using the button, my expected transactions [in dollars] per month, and my company’s mission statement).
Tim also suggested that I use a different sort of button on this blog — still select the ‘Donations’ category, but instead use my own image. I tried that, but WordPress.com blogs won’t accept FORM code and there was no email code I could use like that of the previous ‘Donate’ button.
I was also to remove the existing PayPal ‘Donate’ button from all blog posts that had it — some 68 of them (how do I know? ‘cos I spent about two hours replacing them with the old e-junkie code I’ve used for much of the life of this blog).
Five hours after receiving the email from PayPal, one phone call later, documentation filled in, scanned, and uploaded to PayPal, and 68 blog post updates later, I get a phone call from Dee at PayPal in the US to tell me that my use of the ‘Donate’ button is acceptable based on the documentation I’ve sent in, and that my PayPal account would be unfrozen in minutes. She also said she’d send a confirmation email and that I could continue using this button and that that was it as far as PayPal was concerned.
Note: Nowhere in this email does it explicitly state that I can continue using this button. I only have the account reinstatement and Dee’s word in a phone conversation that I can.
So, with that, I’ll start using the PayPal ‘Donate’ button again. But this was five hours of worry and panic and phone calls and updating blog posts I could have lived without on a holiday Saturday. Plus another couple of hours changing those 68 blog posts back.
BTW, after all this, I went back into PayPal to the ‘create buttons’ area looking for information that restricts the use of the Donate button, and found NOTHING. Here’s the popup for the ‘What button should I use?’ link:
And part of the Regretsy saga documented an email received by them from PayPal, which clearly states there is no right or wrong way to use the Donate button or the circumstances under which it can be used.
If PayPal does have restrictions on the use of some of their buttons, then they should make that absolutely clear on their website, in the place where people are going to create these buttons. There’s NOTHING there.
Update 2 January 2012: In today’s email I received a request from PayPal to complete a survey about the limitation process. So I did, and had my 2 cents’ worth to say in the only Comment field they offered. I wonder if anything will come of that.
Update 23 January 2012: Today I get ANOTHER email from PayPal limiting my account and telling me I have to submit doco again! This time I called the Australian support centre straight away (1800 073 263) and spoke to a nice man in the US (Chris) who looked my history over and said that the limitation would be lifted within 24 to 36 hours, and no, he didn’t know why I was limited again. Unbelievable.
Update 24 January 2012: Some 28+ hours after limiting my account and me making the phone call, the limitation was lifted.
[Links last checked December 2011]