Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hello, My Name Peggy. What is Problem, Please?

We are on a strict budget.  My wife’s ‘job’, if you will, is to care for her mother.  My job is to assist her in any way possible without adding any additional burden to the task; either to my wife or to her mother.
What I mean by this is that I am on permanent disability  resulting from my stroke.  For the second year in a row, I will not get an increase in my disability payment.  Because this is my exclusive source of income, I watch the levels closely.
I’m not whining about our circumstances.  We live in my wife’s mother’s home with her.  The house is paid for, so her expenses are limited.  While she does not charge us room and board, neither does she really pay for anything we consume.  Our income takes care of food, auto expenses including insurance, all the phone, cable-TV and internet services and other odds and ends as they come up.  It is an understatement to say that financial surprises don’t sit well with me.  They are few and far between because I monitor them closely, but every now and then something beyond my control happens.
M-I-L falls victim to an snake oil salesman before one of us can get to the phone, or some sort of unplanned for expense rears its ugly head.
Or, something like this.
I’m a writer.  I sell the books I’ve written.  I set up an external account for online transactions for this purpose, and the extremely minimal income gathered in this way becomes our very minimal recreational play money.  And it works great when everyone is reading along at the same place in the same script.  It’s called PayPal.  Some of you will be familiar with it, and it is an easy secure way to transfer funds and do business online, which is pretty much the only place you can get my books.  PayPal acts as intermediary between me and the seller or purchaser, and most of the time it works very smoothly.
On the other hand, when PayPal screws up, you’re pretty much screwed.
I have my account set up so that PayPal payments have a default setting not my bank account.  However, I have to have an associated bank account to have the PayPal account.  Catch-22, and as I said, most of the time this works fine.  Twice, however, PayPal transferred funds from the wrong place to make a purchase.  Both times in question they debited my associated bank account for the funding instead of the other option I specified.  Both times it resulted in an overdraft, and when I sought to resolve it, the finger pointing began.  Remember, PayPal is the middle man here.  When a seller requests payment, PayPal looks to see what the purchaser’s options are, and issues payment.
I spent much of this afternoon bouncing back and forth between PayPal, who kept saying it’s not our fault just ask the vendor for a credit and then resubmit the transaction, and the vendor who says it’s not our fault.  We don’t even really see ‘you’ in the transaction, all we see is ‘PayPal’.  They (PayPal) determine where the funds originate.
And the sad part of this is that while they are busy pointing fingers at each other, I’m the guy who has to either swallow the screw-up or fight it.  Fighting it is almost pointless as long as both the vendor and the middleman keep pointing fingers at each other, because sadly, my patronage of either is so small that losing me as a customer doesn’t even register on their radar.
On the part of the vendor, they say that if I don’t take delivery of the product for which I’ve already paid by a specific date, they’ll issue a refund – not to my bank account, which they never see, but to PayPal, who will credit my PayPal account, not my now overdrawn by this transaction bank account.  Given that my bank recently lost a class action lawsuit that charges them with re-sequencing transactions to maximize overdraft fees, there’s little chance of avoiding that even with the letter from PayPal stipulation that the withdrawal was unauthorized.  They’re not taking responsibility, mind you, they’re just saying the transaction was unauthorized.
This pretty well brings an end to my PayPal business, and I recommend that any of my readers who utilize PayPal pay very close attention to your account.
At one point I actually asked one of the six PayPal customer service representatives with whom I spoke if his name was Peggy.
He was a foreigner – Indian or Pakistani – and had no idea what I was talking about.  If you have a TV you probably do.
Meanwhile, Bah-Humbug!
And Madam Attorney General, may I have a moment of your time?
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