I wrote the following blog post yesterday; see update at the bottom.
I’m fit to be tied and have been pretty much out of business for the last 13 days.
Sometime in May, PayPal put a little Red Dot on my business account page. I clicked, as one would: they were looking to update my business information. I followed the link. Apparently, owing to new government (Canadian? US?) regulations, they needed more business details than had been provided when the account was set up 14 years ago.
This didn’t seem too hard to deal with…
Little did I know!
I looked at the list of requirements: they seemed to need confirmation that my name, address and business were all correctly associated.
The first hurdle appeared to be that the name on my PayPal account somehow read as Lucy Neatby Designs rather than the registered company name of Tradewind Knitwear Designs Inc. No idea how it came to be that way, but that had been set up 14 years ago.
The online document listed a list of the items that they needed. Many of them were quite personal, with confidential information that I would not normally share.
Initially, I set out to submit all the information documents requested but not the entire sheet. For example, they asked for a company bank statement with address and bank account details – IMHO they really didn’t need to see my balance or transactions, so I submitted only the top halves of several of the sensitive documents, which included the requested address and company name, etc.
Satisfied with having now fulfilled my obligation, I moved on.
A couple of days later I received the first (of many) emails with a subject line of “Request for Additional Information”. I called customer service; apparently they don’t accept partial documents. Every document must show all four corners of the sheet.
OK, privacy be damned! I resubmitted the full documents. A couple of days later, another “Request for Additional Information” was sitting in the Inbox.
I had to go out of town for a week. Upon my return, a second Red Dot had appeared, informing me that, if I didn’t comply, I might experience ‘service interruptions’.
I sent more documents and received more rejections. What points was I missing? It was very unclear. At least my personal profile now appeared satisfactory…
Just after the first of June I attempted to pay my Ravelry invoice through my PayPal account and found I was not able to access the funds in my account. Consequently, I could not pay the invoice. Ravelry gives a few days grace in which to get an invoice paid, so I figured that, as soon as I got the PP issue sorted out, I would pay it.
Our sales record on-line led me to discover that our last sale had been on May 29th. Nothing since. Nor any notification from PayPal. I was starting to receive messages on Ravelry asking why PayPal was refusing to allow my customers to make any purchases.
The enormity of the situation was beginning to reveal itself: PayPal was holding my funds from May. They were denying all purchases, both through my website and Ravelry. As an on-line business owner, I began to realize the absolute vulnerability of my situation.
And so began my romance with the customer service department.
I would call customer service. Most of the customer service agents tried very hard to give me an explanation of what document was still needed. I provided the documents (often duplicates of ones that had already been sent).
Every time I hung up feeling as though everything was now in place and life could commence as per usual, only to receive another banal “Request for Additional Information” 24 hours later.
To add further psychic pain, every time I rang PayPal they would let me know that I have a balance of $1472.91 in my account! That’s nice. Can’t touch it. Apparently money in PayPal is theirs, and not yours, until you have transferred it.
After each rebuttal, I uploaded more documents, but didn’t receive any indication that they had been received or inspected.
I eventually made it to 13 customer service calls! I spoke with a number of very pleasant guys called Jason, and one *** who simply read the “Request for Additional Information” email back to me. Another one kindly gave me access to a link where I could upload multiple documents at a go.
I fell into a routine of uploading, and then calling Customer Service (I know all the codes and questions by heart now), to let them know what had just been uploaded and if there was anything else that they could suggest. I requested expedited service – this just resulted in faster rejections. Lovely.
The ninth guy I spoke with assured me that, in his opinion, all that could possibly be asked for was there, and said that if that was rejected he wouldn’t know what else to suggest. So…the next rejection read that they now needed a “- Published Annual Report, eCertificate of Corporate Status or Articles of Incorporation.”
I don’t have a published annual report; I’m not listed on the stock exchange! My accountant’s year-end report didn’t count. I hated giving it to them, too. I sent the Corporate summary, Memorandum of Association and the last signed page of my company book. I sent all 35 pages of it. I sent the listing on the Joint Stocks Registry.
Update on Wednesday June 12th:
After yet another call with PP Support in the morning, I was ready throw in the towel. Done. No more of this insane stress.
And then, it would seem out of nowhere by this time, within the hour of that call, what should appear to my wondering eyes but the following email:
Subject: PayPal has confirmed your identity.
Dear Lucy Neatby,
Thank you for using PayPal. You’ve completed the procedure that helped us confirm your identity. Now you can use PayPal to receive payments.
Last night I slept.
Today I’m feeling very grateful for all the messages of support and advice that you have all given me. Also, THANK YOU for the many of you who have generously made a purchase of a pattern or DVD, or have placed a yarn order since we have been allowed to resume business.
I feel that the PayPal treatment I received was very high-handed and arbitrary.
During this period, since the first Red Dot, I had a pre-arranged week away, and four days given over to working with the team from KnitStars and being filmed. These are the commitments I have to honour and give my full attention to.
I have been unable to concentrate on my preparations for an upcoming private 3 day workshop that I am to host very soon; I have made little or no progress on a new sock pattern for my Adventure Knitting gang heading up to the North West Territories next month. The Pyramid DK Blanket has made some small progress, but essentially my time has been spent fighting for my business and the folks who work with me.
What stressed me out was the circular and vague nature of what PayPal were asking for.
Over the course of this saga I submitted:
- A power bill from NS Power
- A Canada Revenue GST statement
- A full business bank statement
- A full credit card bill
- My company accounts published by my accountant
- Proof of GST payments to Revenue Canada
- A paid invoice from a supplier
- A selection of documents from my lawyer relating to the incorporation of my business, including the company details and the signed pages.
- Later on in the process, having checked with my lawyer that there was no other form of document that could be considered to be ‘Articles of Incorporation’, all 35 pages of my company book. This contains not fewer than 7 repetitions of the business address. (The subsequent PayPal response was that they needed confirmation of the business address.)
- A printout of — and an active public link to — the Provincial Government Registry of Joint Stocks NS, documenting my incorporated business since 2002.
In return, as always, I got the phrase: “The document we received from you could not be accepted as a Business Registration document. Please provide us with a valid document.- Published Annual Report, eCertificate of Corporate Status or Articles of Incorporation.”
In the end, I purchased and obtained a Certificate of Status from the Registry of Joint Stocks NS. This was the last document I submitted. It didn’t answer the description eCertificate of Corporate status, but it was my last hope and it came good. Don’t know why.
This whole experience has made me very aware of the lack of regard the PayPal entity has for their customers. They are large, we are small and mostly powerless.
We are now done with this drama, and I have to move on and get caught up.
I apologize if I haven’t answered every comment (time was a scarce commodity), but we here certainly do appreciate the support you have shown us.
PS There is still one ominous Red Dot on my account….