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PayPal Makes My Head Hurt

March 27, 2009

Before we left for Colorado, Mr. Karen wanted to buy something online and have it shipped to me at work so we didn’t have to worry about it sitting on our porch while we were gone. I thought this would be no problem; my employer is fine with me and my coworkers getting personal packages at the office, and I’ve had everything from fabric to books to skis shipped to me. Turned out, it was a problem because the vendor would only ship to PayPal confirmed addresses, and my work address was not confirmed. That’s the first time I’ve had that happen; I guess the other people I’ve paid via PayPal and had ship to my office were more trusting or ignorant or something. In any case, this particular vendor who wouldn’t accept the address didn’t get a sale because I didn’t have time to sort out the address thing with PayPal before we left on vacation.

It’s sorted now, but the whole exercise was way more annoying than it had to be, mostly because PayPal’s help is not helpful. Where’s the explanation of what it means to associate a credit card with an address other than the billing address for that card and if that’s even possible? I never found it, so I didn’t go that route. Instead I chose to try Alternate Address Confirmation, a rather bizarre process combining communication methods from the last two centuries: a secret code would be sent via U.S. Mail which would then be used online to generate a cover page that needed to be faxed in along with certain additional documents. Which documents? The help page did not say. I went ahead and requested the secret code anyway, figuring the letter would list acceptable documents. When the letter arrived over a week later, it did refer to “additional verification documents”, but did not say what these might be. I went ahead and entered my secret code into the appropriate webpage, figuring the special fax cover page would surely list acceptable documents. It did not. There was a phone number in the letter, so I tried calling that, giving up after failing to get through to a person despite trying various responses to the automated commands, which is probably exactly what they hoped would happen. Since searching help at their site still didn’t turn up any useful information about the mysterious verification documents, I used the contact form to send an e-mail. After a day or two, I got an automated response which included seven or eight paragraphs of information I hadn’t asked about before finally coughing up the goods: I needed to fax a photo i.d. and a business card. My office no longer has a dedicated fax machine but rather a multi-function behemoth that copies, prints, scan, faxes, and probably analyzes DNA. Since I live in the now, when internet-based communication is the norm, I’d never sent a fax with it before and found that the process is not intuitive; putting the documents in the top, entering the phone number, and pressing the send button seems like it should work, but it does not, and the machine’s help is only slightly more helpful than PayPal’s. I evidently did manage to get it through eventually because today I got an e-mail saying PayPal had received my documents and my alternate address is confirmed. I sure feel special.

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