As the growing rift between the haves and have-nots casts a Dickensian atmosphere this holiday season, could it be that PayPal recently received visits by three ghosts, and maybe even its dead money-changing partner, Jacob Marley?
Tuesday morning, the Internet raged at reports that the online payment service didn't just shut down a charity drive headed by Regretsy, an insanely popular satire site that pokes fun at the insanely popular craft marketplace site Etsy.
According to Regretsy founder April Winchell (who writes as "Helen Killer"), PayPal claimed Regretsy must return the money to donors — even though many of the charity drive gifts had been purchased — while PayPal kept a portion of that well-meaning dough as processing fees. Oh, and PayPal's handling of the whole Regretsy affair? The stuff of ghost stories.
With a seemingly Scrooge-tastic change of heart however, PayPal is now telling Digital Life, other media outlets and its customers that that it has released the funds donated to Regretsy, is making an additional donation to Regretsy to help family needs, and as such, is "working directly with the account holder on this matter." It even posted an apology on its blog.
The only person PayPayisn't saying "my bad" to, it seems, is Winchell.
"Paypal has issued a statement saying they have made a donation and they are working with me, but I have not spoken to anyone yet. I will let you know when I do," Winchell posted on Regretsy. Digital Life reached out to Winchell and we'll update this story when we hear back, but it seems PayPal made the only possible move in this epic tale of awful customer service.
Chronicling the charity drive debacle in increasingly (and many agree, appropriately angry) posts, Winchell stops short on sharing whether PayPal originally suggested prisons or union workhouses for Regretsy's charity drive recipients — 200 hundred families in the Regretsy community "who might not get much otherwise."
Submissions came from families overwhelmed by medical bills — from either a sick parent or child, from parents who couldn't afford to replace a beloved toy broken by the neighborhood bullies, and families who had just fallen on hard times.
Secret Santa isn't the first Regretsy charity campaign — the site has conducted many. It seems though it is the first time Regretsy mistakenly used the "Donate" button — only allowed for nonprofits. For-profits collecting for charity still need to use the "Buy Now" or "Shopping Cart" buttons.
According to PayPal's official statement on the Regretsy matter, "we have clear guidelines for any business who uses PayPal to accept donations."
("Clear," is relative however, if you take a hop, skip and a jump over to the Green Geek's blog, where, in a post titled "Why Paypal is wrong regarding Regretsy, according to its own policies," the PayPal Terms of Service legalese is deconstructed, and evidence is presented to support this thesis.)
Long story short: even though the Secret Santa campaign surpassed its $4,000 goal in mere hours, it ground to a halt when PayPal noted the error.
"Because I used the wrong button, they have made me send them everything from bank statements to Articles of Incorporation to affidavits and notarized statements, even though I have been a verified business customer of theirs for 10 years," Winchell writes.
Following a form letter of the icily polite variety, Winchell made calls to PayPal, posting highlights such as this one on the website:
PAYPAL: Only a nonprofit can use the Donate button.
ME: That's false. It says right in the PDF of instructions for the Donate button that it can be used for "worthy causes."
PAYPAL: I haven't seen that PDF. And what you're doing is not a worthy cause, it's charity.
ME: What's the difference?
PAYPAL: You can use the donate button to raise money for a sick cat, but not poor people.
Now PayPal claims it's not forging any chains in life, just following what the law requires of any regulated payment service. "We appreciate that this can be an inconvenience, but we have a responsibility to all our customers – both donors and recipients; or buyers and sellers," PayPal told Digital Life. "In this instance, we recognized our error and moved as swiftly as possible to fix it."
So swiftly in fact, PayPal forgot to include Regretsy in its acts of contrition. No worries however, the Internet is happy to help them remember. Across Facebook, users share stories of charity outrage and as of Tuesday afternoon, "Regretsy" broke into Twitter's top trends.
"I would also like to say that I did not expect this kind of global outpouring of support, and I truly believe that had you not all made your voices heard, no one from Paypal would have ever felt compelled to make this right," Winchell posted Tuesday. "There is no real support or appreciation for the consumer anymore. The customer is always wrong."
"I am extremely grateful to all of you for your efforts. If Paypal is sincere about allowing us to make these gifts, you will have made a difference for 200 children and their families this holiday season."
Still, one wonders if at least one particular PayPal customer service representative will suffer the spectral symptoms of an "undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese."
More on the annoying way we live now:
- Etsy scans your Facebook friends for gift ideas
- How to monitor major Twitter twantrums
- Reddit raises $31,000 for child's medical care -- in 12 hours