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Simplification? No, let’s double the complexity (from four pillars to eight)

Some of you may remember that I had a fraud alert involving Braintree a month ago.  The alert was raised by my credit card provider, after they detected a suspicious transaction for $699 via Braintree.  Luckily, as I’m a little bit in the know, I knew that Braintree is part of PayPal but, even so …

Eventually, it was reported as a suspicious transaction – I had no idea what it was for – and a new credit card was issued to me.

So imagine my surprise when I receive a very threatening email yesterday:

From: Vaway Booking [mailto:booking@vaway.com]
Sent: 07 October 2014 10:43
To: chris.skinner@fsclub.net
Subject: Felony Theft Charges

Chris,

               We will be filing felony theft charges on the booking you are disputing in which you reserved at our hotel online. If you do not resolve the dispute in which we have also challenged you will also have legal ramifications to deal with in the United States. Your dispute is considered fraud and theft and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent including extradition as a felony. 

What?  I have no idea who Vaway are, but they attach the confirmation of the hotel booking that I am staying at next week in America.

Aha!

So now I have discovered the issue.

I made a booking for a hotel room via a website called booking.com – a good place to make a booking – a month ago.  The room was confirmed with payment in British pounds via PayPal.

It turns out that booking.com process the booking via this company called vaway.com, who process the booking in US dollars.

There’s the issue.  A GBP transaction processed with booking.com via PayPal came through as a USD transaction processed with vaway.com via Braintree.

No wonder I was confused.

So rather than antagonise the guy, I write back:

On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 3:50 AM, Chris Skinner <chris.skinner@fsclub.net> wrote:

First I've heard of this. What's the problem, as I believe  have a perfectly good booking with you?

Sent from my iPhone

They reply:

From: Vaway Booking [mailto:booking@vaway.com]
Sent: 07 October 2014 10:55
To: Chris Skinner
Subject: Re: Felony Theft Charges

Chris we show you are disputing the charge on our processor and in the Hotel. 

On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 3:57 AM, Chris Skinner <chris.skinner@fsclub.net> wrote:

No.  My credit card firm rang me and said a charge had been made on my card and was it fraudulent?   I said yes, but this was with a company Vaway via Braintree, and I had not heard of either of you. 

Sent from my iPhone

From: Vaway Booking [mailto:booking@vaway.com]
Sent: 07 October 2014 11:12
To: Chris Skinner
Subject: Re: Felony Theft Charges

Chris,

         Braintree is our processor and the charge was legitimate. We don't want to have to press charges but you will need to honor your booking or we will have no choice but to file criminal charges. The amount is over $500 and is a felony in the United States. I suggest you call your card company and explain your mistake immediately and correct the issues at hand. We will await your email and confirmation that this has been resolved. 

Sean Michael

1-877-829-2951

OK.  Apart from the shitty attitude from these guys, I decide to sort it out and call the credit card company, who are the reason why we’re in this mess for asking if my transaction with two third parties I have not dealt with is suspicious or not.

They um and ah for a while, and ask me to call the firm to recharge it, as that would be easiest.

So I call the firm Vaway on the number above and … “no agents are available at this time.  Please leave your name, email address and telephone number”, which I do but, as yet, no call back (24 hours later and three messages and two emails sent).

The net:net is that we used to talk about the four pillar model of merchant, acquirer, bank and card issuer.  I’ve just encountered the eight pillar model:

  • Merchant (the Hotel),
  • Acquirer (Hotel payments processor),
  • Sub-merchant (Vaway.com),
  • Sub-acquirer (Braintree),
  • Intermediary (Booking.com),
  • Intermediary acquirer (PayPal),
  • Bank, and
  • My card issuer.

No wonder it’s getting confusing.

 

 

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Nihat Erdem

    This is in fact a good example for the “What happens when something goes wrong?” case. This question must be asked to every player of the payments game. For being so long on the operations side, I would say no operation is fail safe. A system is as useful as its capacity to solve a problem, anticipated or not, which may occur during a normal transaction.
    Take Ripple for example: It is so easy to make an overseas payment, and that’s OK. But what happens when the transaction fails. Say you press enter, and internet is down, you get a timeout error.
    -Who you gonna call?
    -Those Bastards.

  • Interesting how some things have become further complicated when the aim is to simplify. On another note however, I think this is a good example of why storing the receipt against the payment transaction would be so helpful; you would have been able to resolve the issue before it became a problem. A recent TechCrunch article – http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/19/the-big-picture-on-digital-receipts/?ncid=rss) – talks about this idea.