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PayPal’s Worst PR Decisions

07 May

 

 

PayPal is almost synonymous with online buying and selling, being used to pay for everything from online subscriptions to artwork to Ford Mustang parts, including classic Mustang parts. Of course, being a market leader means that you are under somewhat of a microscope, and PayPal certainly doesn’t always make the best PR decisions. Check out these biggest PR disasters that PayPal has had to live with.

Ordering an Antique Violin to Be Smashed to Pieces

One of the conditions of using PayPal is that you cannot use it to receive payment for counterfeit goods and if you do, the payment will be refunded once the buyer destroys the counterfeit item. Unfortunately for one seller, this simple-seeming condition gets a little more complicated when it comes to musical instruments.

Verifying the authenticity of musical instruments is quite complicated, and the buyer filed a dispute with PayPal. Instead of giving the seller a chance to take back her antique violin, they ordered the buyer to smash it to pieces, and reversed the payment.

In the world of music, instruments, especially older instruments, are almost sacred, and the treatment of this seller and her instrument caused a real storm. It’s likely that much fewer musicians will be using PayPal for such sales in the future!

Stopping Regretsy from Raising Money for Sick Kids

With Paypal accounts so ubiquitous and an easy-to integrate ‘Donate’ button available, it’s only natural to consider using PayPal to raise money for worthy causes. In fact ‘worthy causes’ are precisely what this button is for.

So, the Regretsy website community used the button to raise money to buy Christmas 2011 presents for sick children. Imagine the surprise when Regretsy’s fundraising account was frozen, along with the site-runners own personal account.

While essentially stealing toys from sick kids is bad enough, this is not the end of the PR disaster. After all, some publicity nous could have had it resolved quite quickly. Sadly, this is not what happened. Emails flew back and forth between Regretsy and PayPal, and the site owner was informed that while using the button would be okay if she had a sick cat, helping poor people was not allowed. PR disaster!

The issue was finally solved, but PayPal still has yet to apologize, simply hiding behind their privacy policy to avoid discussing it.

The PR problems that PayPal has are quite obviously due to the difficulty of coming up with one-size-fits-all policies. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse and should serve as an important lesson for anyone who runs an online business. The online world allows one complaint to snowball into a cavalcade of bad publicity, so make sure to start off on the right foot!

Post by guest blogger James, a writer who enjoys blogging about technology from online payment systems to CJ Pony Ford Mustang parts.

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