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the Architxt's Journal

21 Jul '11 | New Media Thoughts

PayPal's schizofrenic support

I’m trying to close my UK PayPal account as I am now in Australia, getting nowhere via the website but getting good feedback via Twitter.

To close a PayPal account you need to Confirm Account Ownership, which is the screen that follows when you click on ‘Close account’.

Here I am told this:

To begin the process of requesting a security code, please let us know where you can be reached.

And given the option to select my old UK home address or ‘other’.

The logical thing to do would be to change my address to my current Australian one but that is not possible: PayPal UK accounts are only for UK residents and I can’t set a non-Uk address.

So I head back to the Confirm Account Ownership page and select ‘other’. Here I specify that I’m no longer in the UK and submit my request. At this point I’m asked to get in touch with them by phone. But I’d rather not spend time and money on this, thank you very much.

Contact Us

PayPal’s Contact Us is reassuring. It looks like a well designed system offering all options, including what I want to do: Email Us.

Next, I choose Managing My Account as a topic and Close my account as a sub-topic. This doesn’t generate a form or email address but more self-help instructions:

PayPal strives for complete customer satisfaction. If you’re having problems with your account, please see our Help Centre.

Help Centre

Closing your account is final and both your account history and reputation number will be lost. There is a cheque processing fee of $1.50 USD (or the equivalent amount if your balance is in another currency). If your balance is the equivalent of $1.50 USD or less, you will not receive a cheque.

Close Account

The Closer Account link sending me back to where I started: the Confirm Account Ownership page. Oh well.

So I go back up the Contact Us path and fire off an request via the File a complaint against PayPal option hoping that someone on the receiving end would forward on the appropriate department. No chance.

Twitter to the rescue

Somewhat surprisingly the good people behind the @AskPayPal handle were very prompt and helpful. They listened to me and forwarded my concerns to the relevant person — Harry — in the Compliance Department of the UK office. A few days later I receive an email from him that half resolves the situation.

My account had been flagged as requiring some kind of action to comply with EEC rules — not a show-stopped for closing an account. This has now been removed. The email also included the following instructions:

Log in to your PayPal account.

Click Profile near the top of the page.

Click My settings.

Click Close Account in the Account type section and follow the steps listed.

Back to square one.

Replying to the email, of course, resulted into a ‘We want to help you but we’re not able to respond directly to emails sent to this address.’ auto-response. Foolish to me to assume I would be interacting with a real person… a Harry, for example.

The automated response included the usual prompts to check out the help section and how to ‘Contact Us. Been there, done that.

So, just like at the end of Finding Nemo… ‘now what’?

I’ll head back to Twitter and point them to this blog post so that they get an idea of the catch-22 situation I am in.

Is PayPal’s customer support crap?

No, I don’t think so. Their online help is good and contact options reasonable. I’d say that they’re just as good or bad as most big companies and that I’m unlucky to have an issue that falls in a poorly defined process.

This is my main criticism, in fact. That they are not able to properly support those who’s issues are non-standard. Before getting onto Twitter someone should have recognised my issue as requiring special attention. Instead, it seems that no one has take responsibility for it.

But they are being inconsistent by offering very good support via Twitter, which explains the title of this post.