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PayPal or Pay Hell?

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Do you still use PayPal?

I wish I didn’t.

Lately, I’ve been noticing how reluctant I am to use PayPal. When I see something I want and I have to buy with PayPal, I often choose not to buy. PayPal is a new barrier that is blocking more and more of my buying decisions.

Are you having a similar response to PayPal?

My reluctance predates tonight’s UI hell experience. Tonight that reluctance stepped up one big notch.

The Spinal Tap amp just went up to 11.


I think PayPal released an update to their User Interface in the past few weeks or months. But I think their monkeys should have stuck to writing Shakespeare or switched to better typewriters.

Here’s my nightmare so far.

The PayPal Experience

About a month ago, I bought a Twitter product (not made by Twitter, though) — it was a digital product that showed how to get more value out of Twitter ads. I thought it was a one-off payment and was made none-the-wiser when I got the automated email from PayPal.

It said (among other things):

Payment details
Receiver email: xxxx.com
Amount: $27.00 USD
Transaction date: 28 October 2015

I just looked at it again and there’s no mention of recurring payments and “completed” might sound like the whole deal is completed rather than simply completing the first payment. But that’s just me.

Then there was also another email that came from jvzoo, the selling platform used by the vendor. In it was this:

Thank you for your subscription.

For support contact: support@xxx.com

Your Login Email:
Please use your existing JVZoo password

Use the above information to access your
purchase at: http://customer.jvzoo.com/

Purchase Details:
Product: xxxx
Payment Id: xxxx

That word “subscription” set off a tiny alarm (I could easily have missed it, though).

So I decided to checkup in my PayPal account.

What I Could See in My PayPal Account


Here is what PayPal told me when I searched for all my Subscription Agreements between 4 August and 20 November (the date of the search). You can see that I have selected “All your transactions in one place” so I think I had good reason to trust PayPal’s answer: “There are no transactions for this date range.”

PayPal wrote back to me (details below) and they told me why the monthly subscription payments were not showing in my PayPal account. The recurring monthly payments are sent to them from jvzoo and PayPal is simply honouring them one-by-one.

Those charges do not show as a subscription in jvzoo so there is no option to control them from there. In fact, jvzoo requires that the refunds/subscription-stops are between the buyer and the seller. Digital sellers are increasingly NOT honoring their money-back guarantees; PayPal has withdrawn its protection for digital sales/refunds and jvzoo, well, they are just jvzoo and their bias is completely with the sellers who pay to use their system. No protection for buyers who pay those same sellers.

I wondered why I had missed that this was a subscription purchase so I went back and looked at the sales page. It says “Get XXXXX for the discounted price of not $147 per month just $27″ — it does not say “Get XXXXX for the discounted price of not $147 per month, it’s just $27 per month” I thought I was paying $27 rather than $147 per month!

As far as I can see, "per month" is only mentioned here and it's crossed out. Every time "$27" is mentioned, there is no PER MONTH

As far as I can see, “per month” is only mentioned here and it’s crossed out. Every time “$27” is mentioned, there is no PER MONTH

Surprise, Surprise — PayPal Makes Another Auto Payment

The following notification arrived in my email box, today. Still no mention of a subscription.


So, off I go back to my PayPal Account.

The PayPal Interface

Again I look for subscriptions so I can turn them off. But still nothing shows.


Where is PayPal getting their authority to spend my money? It is not showing on my account and I cannot turn it off.

Here’s Where The Nightmare of Dealing With PayPal Comes In

As a paying customer, I expect to be able to quickly raise my issues with PayPal so they can be quickly fixed.

How old fashioned.

Can you see a button that leads to a Contact page? I can’t — but there is a 12pt Help link way down towards the bottom of the page. Maybe that’s it. Let’s try that, shall we?

What PayPal means by “Help” is really “Self Help” — that’s the actual title of the page: www.paypal.com/selfhelp/. In amongst the “Common questions”, there’s a link to “Email us” along with the promise that “We’ll do our best to respond within 24 hours“. I now know what they mean by that and, a bit further down, I’ll expand on their smooth process for helping customers who pay them.

Let’s click, anyway and reach out to PayPal.


It turns out to be a little bit deceptive because it’s not an “email” at all, it’s a common contact form.

Frankly, I don’t have a problem using a contact form instead of an email so I can’t understand why PayPal thinks it’s a good idea to pretend that they are the same thing.

You may not feel as deceived as I did, so I’ll move on.


There’s no topic that fits what I am contacting them about — not even an “other”. Are they trying to stop any other type of conversation?


I choose the nearest combination but it is not correct. Mine is not a Dispute nor a Buyer Complaint. If I don’t choose the nearest available option, I have no avenue to contact them. PayPal offers no other communication channel for matters that fall outside their tight field of view.


Up pops my next what-the? “select the ‘Get Transaction ID’ button“… where is it? They offer no directions for locating it. I don’t see it anywhere. They could simply link to it, anyway. This is the internet-thingy and links-to-pages are pretty common and helpful for users. PayPal says No.

“Once you have this number, please select the Contact Us link at the bottom of any webpage to send us an email.”

What is that about? I am already on the page, filling in their contact form. Why are they sending me to another link somewhere else? And if you think that’s weird, how about this…

…they don’t have a Contact Us link on ANY page I have seen on the site.


This is the PayPal footer that is common on all? pages. Where is that Contact Us link “at the bottom of any webpage”?

PayPal Need Professional Help

I sent in my form submission along with screenshots to show what I was facing in trying to use their site:

Over the past month, I have been looking for a recurring payment that I suspected was live. I wanted to make sure it was stopped.
[4 screenshots were included]
The 4 screenshots were made (in frustration) at my last attempt on the 20th of November, one week ago.
I could find NO “Subscription agreements” anywhere – even after using the PayPal search function. Even though the search showed no such subscriptions, I have been charged again today.
Again today I can not find this Subscription on my account.
Please cancel this subscription and refund the latest payment.
How does a client use this form?
“To obtain your Transaction or Case ID, please select the ‘Get Transaction ID’ button. You may be asked to log into your account to obtain this information. Once you have this number, please select the Contact Us link at the bottom of any webpage to send us an email.”
I cannot see a ‘Get Transaction ID’ button anywhere and this form does not link to it nor does it say where to find it.
What is the point of the second part? It is on the page where I am already trying to contact you so why does it direct me to “select the Contact Us link at the bottom of any webpage to send us an email.”?
This is an unhelpful and frustrating UI even after PayPal’s recent attempt to fix it.

PayPal’s Response to The “Email” Contact Form Submission


The response to the web contact form gives dozens of links that relate to the drop-down choices but has no relationship to the content IN the form

In other words, the contact form serves only to trigger an auto-responder reply based on the drop down selections the user chooses. They ignore the contents of the Form’s body and thereby waste the time of their customer.

I find this to be an appalling and insulting user experience. One which could be so much better if only they used their own site and if only they made it clear to the user what could be expected at each stage.

PayPal is clearly trying to avoid human responses that may not require their staff’s time. I understand that imperative but it would be far more friendly, helpful and effective if it did not pretend to be giving what it does not.

As a user —and this is not just a PayPal problem— I feel totally insulted, cheated and antagonised when a company pretends to be treating me courteously when it is actually slapping me in the face.

  • “Your call is important to us”
  • When most people see the word “Help” on a website, they think they are being offered help. In PayPal’s case, it means “Help Yourself”.
  • “We’ll do our best to respond within 24 hours” means you will get an immediate auto response that totally ignores what you wrote but then asks you to write again.

It wasn’t all that long ago that banks stripped out as much human interaction as they could. They made everything self-serve and machines replaced humans.

Now they are falling over themselves to offer as much human service as they can bear. It’s all packaged up as if it was something new.

Wake up Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and PayPal.

Your customers are humans and they know bullshit when they smell it.

RESPONSE: PayPal needs your feedback

As I write this, it’s a couple of days later and I’ve heard no more from PayPal. I did write a second time to formally take the next step of giving them more detail. It included a link to this page so they could actually get “more detail”.

So far there’s been no further contact or movement on my attempt to locate and stop the automated payments out of my account.


But this morning, I did get another auto email from PayPal and this time they wanted me to complete a survey on my recent experience with their “email customer support”.

As part of PayPal’s commitment to excellence, we invite you to share your experience about your interaction with our email customer support on 27 November 2015.

I just put their email title into Google and it seems I’m not the only one having issues. I don’t know why they ask for valuable feedback when they simply ignore it.


They haven’t dealt with my issue and yet they want my “feedback”.

Customer service of a high level, continuing…

PayPal Explains Why There is No Subscription

Yesterday, I finally got a response from a human at PayPal.

It was a well measured email that answered the most immediate part of my enquiry — why the recurring payment wasn’t showing up in my account.

The reason is all to do with jvzoo. It’s not a recurring payment from PayPal, it’s coming from jvzoo.That was news to me so I headed over to jvzoo and was unable to see any sign of there either. I could also NOT see any way to contact jvzoo about it either as they put it all off onto the vendor.

Phew, the run-around.

I contacted the vendor and am in conversation with him.

However, the first PayPal writer extended an offer to have me let PayPal cancel the ability for jvzoo to be paid from PayPal.

Please confirm if you would like to cancel the last adaptive payment so I can action on it. As for the refund though, you will have to contact the merchant directly as only your merchant can issue refunds, not PayPal.

To which I replied:

Yes please action the cancellation of that recurring payment. I will contact jvzoo also to see how it shows up on their site. And, yes, it is confusing – I guess that’s the idea.

Now, today, I got another email from a different PayPal human who first off gives me the process that shows me how to “cancel an automatic payment on a merchant-by-merchant basis.” Then he tells me that those steps with PayPal do not affect my liability to the vendor.

PayPal Email:

Note: Canceled automatic payments can’t be reactivated. Canceling a payment does not relieve you of your contractual obligation to pay the merchant.

What Is This Email Telling Me?

Is it telling me that —

  1. the first person is not going to fulfill his offer to “cancel the last adaptive payment so I can action on it“?
  2. even if I do what they advise me, it will make no difference?
  3. it’s a complete waste of time using PayPal?

Neither of these writers addressed issues I raised about PayPal’s user interface, non-existent links and generally poor customer experience.