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The problem with PayPal

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I’ve had a few things happen when making a payment. Sometimes to the wrong account; sometimes a fat finger 0; sometimes an issue with identifying the payee; etc. And the issue I run into is that the system does not accept questions about the payment I made. I cannot revoke a faster payment or a payment made in error. It’s all real-time and then there’s no time for the financial institution to deal with my issue and rectify it.

All of our operators are busy at the moment. You are held in a queue and you are number 149 in the queue. Please hold this line or call back later.


I hold the line as my latest issue is with what some people call a fintech, but I call it an incumbent. Their name? PayPal.

I made a payment with PayPal to my wife a month ago. Unfortunately, I used her old email address, which was the default on my PayPal account. She no longer uses that email address.

I rang PayPal and they told me that the transaction could not be refunded as it was to ‘friends and family’. WTF? They then promised that, if the funds were not downloaded or used, the transaction could be revoked one month later.  Shoot.

A month later, the funds were not refunded or used, so I called them again.

All of our operators are busy at the moment. You are held in a queue and you are number 88 in the queue. Please hold this line or call back later.

It turns out it’s not the email address that’s the issue, but the fact that that email address was her PayPal account in the past. Well, it isn’t today and my wife cannot access it. The reason? It’s an old email address linked to an old mobile phone that can only be reactivated if she uses her old mobile phone to do so … and that phone and phone number no longer exists so that’s impossible.

I then sit and wait.

All of our operators are busy at the moment. You are held in a queue and you are number 43 in the queue. Please hold this line or call back later.

I wait. As I’m waiting, I’m thinking this is ridiculous. A payment made in error should be reversible immediately if the customer identifies themselves correctly, which I did. What’s the issue?

The issue is that a payment made is a payment made. Due to faster payments, they had sent the cash to her old bank account linked to her old phone number and old email account, all of which are no longer used. Nevertheless, it cannot be challenged or reversed without an intervention. The question is why the sender or, more importantly, the customer cannot intervene?

The bank or, in this case PayPal, made it clear that I could not get the money back unless my wife approved it. Luckily she was here with me and then they asked her what bank account related to her old PayPal account. She didn’t know. At that point, they refused to let her approve the reversal of the payment to her old email address and old bank account that was no longer used.

All of our operators are busy at the moment. You are held in a queue and you are number 8 in the queue. Please hold this line or call back later.

However, we then finally reached the front of the queue and the operator was very helpful.

8:02 How can I help?

I explain that I sent money to my wife’s old email address. After some considerable discussion, the service person asked if my wife was there. Luckily she is. I handed the phone over to my wife and discovered that we now had to go through a PayPal account recovery process. My wife is more patient than I and, at 8:55, the whole thing was resolved.

And then I discovered that they charged a 3% fee for the payment made by my wife back to me, as they treat my account as a business account when, in reality, it is just a personal account.

Never using PayPal again.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, 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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