It’s Saturday morning after a particularly brutal week. Lots of things went wrong, but the highlight of the week was finding out on Thursday morning that PayPal, the service most of my customers use to pay, had, in the middle of the night, in an email, shut down my account, supposedly permanently and irrevocably. The way I found this out was when I tried to process orders that PayPal had authorized. When they wouldn’t go through, I logged into my PayPal account to discover it had been “limited” meaning I could not add money to the account, remove money from the account or receive funds from customers. When I checked my email, I found an email saying the account had been limited for a violation of their terms based on a single product that I have sold for years and that is commonly available pretty much everywhere. There was no warning. No appeals process. The basically said “We are closing your account. We will hold your fund for 180 days (six months). Then, we are done. Please remove any and all references to PayPal from your site. Thank you. Have a nice life.”
I immediately placed a phone call to customer service. The person I spoke with informed me the the department, the AUP department, does not take phone calls from anyone. She had no telephone extensions for them. They only reply to emails. I had already sent off about three emails. I was being told to just wait. I couldn’t do that. An hour or so later I called back. I got the same story I got from the first person I spoke with. Then I asked to speak to a supervisor. Alonzo was very empathetic. Alonzo listened to me tell my story and agreed their actions were draconian, the policy was obscure and he understood why I was frustrated that, while my store could not process payments, I was expected to wait 24-72 hours for a reply to an email. Alonzo found an extension to the AUP department and pleaded on my behalf. When he came back on the line he told me that they had told him, this was just the way they do things. The account was permanently in limited status. It could never be changed, never be appealed. I pleaded with Alonzo for another 15 minutes. I made Alonzo my advocate. He called them back. He then came back to me with a workaround. I could never re-open this account, but I could create a new account as long as my site wasn’t selling the offending product. I had to use a different email address for the account, but this should work. “What? That makes no sense. So, you will let me open another account using the same name, linking to the same website and you won’t shut that one down?” He assured me it would work and told me he would put his advice in my case notes. He would not give me a last name or a telephone number for him. I had to trust what he was telling me.
So, I started to employ this backdoor solution. It just didn’t seem right to me and I didn’t trust it. Also, coincidentally, I had opened another account with PayPal, due to a mistake when I was setting up the payment processing that had been my nightmare of the previous week. I turned this on, but since it used the same email address as my main PayPal account, I kept expecting to hear that account had also been shut down.
Meanwhile, I had a video conference call scheduled with my SoulPhone team. I was really not up for the conference, I was in the middle of crisis mode. But, I knew I had done all I could do for now. I might as well do something else. I did the conference call.
When I went to bed that night, the issue had still not been resolved. I had not received an email back from PayPal. The good news is I’ve learned to do what I can, then let it go. I ran through all the possible steps I could take today. I had done them all. So, I let it go and shut down for the night. There was no need to stay awake worrying about it.
The next morning I got an email from PayPal. My appeal had been rejected. Again, no detailed explanation. No recourse. It was just another boilerplate email signed by a person with a first name only and no way to contact them. In fact, I could not even reply to the email. I fired off another email to PayPal. This would not do. I told them I was tired of the boilerplate emails and I expected a full, detailed explanation of just exactly how I had violated their policy.
A friend had invited me for a walk. I thought about canceling on him. But, I thought “I’ve done all I can do. Take the walk.” We walked. I vented about my week, culminating in this PayPal fiasco. When I got back home, I had an email from PayPal saying my appeal was being reviewed. This is after getting an email saying there were no appeals, then an email saying my appeal had been rejected. Which appeal? I thought there were no appeals. This was around three in the afternoon on Good Friday. This was a ray of hope. I thought “This is the best I can hope for for now. Maybe next week they’ll see the light.” I sat down to do my mediation. As I meditated to a guided meditation that reminded me I am an infinite being having a temporary experience, I felt waves of peace wash over me. This too shall pass. Nothing in this world can harm me. I came out of meditation feeling refreshed, but nothing had been resolved. As I finished, I turned off the “Do Not Disturb” on my phone and heard the ping of an email coming in. I checked it. It was from PayPal. It was an apology, a full reinstatement of my account, and a bit of an explanation as to why they thought I might have been violating their policy- but I had not.
That’s a long story, but I tell it for a reason. I was raised in the 60s. As a black boy in the 60s, I was taught to be polite and respectful. I was also given the expectation that I would not get the same treatment as everyone else. I learned to settle. I would take “no” for an answer. I would not stick up for my rights. When I was in my mid 20s, I met a Jewish friend who taught me I was as good as anyone else and how to demand respect, to demand good service, and to be the squeaky wheel. When I went to work for IBM in sales, I learned techniques to get what I wanted. This incident with PayPal put all of that to the test.
I was really down this week and needing a victory. I was doubting my skills. It seemed nothing I was doing was working out right. Maybe I wasn’t the successful entrepreneur I envisioned myself to be. Maybe I wasn’t as good at sales and marketing as I thought. Maybe I should just start driving Uber. When the PayPal incident appeared I thought it was just one more setback. But, as I sat looking at their email yesterday afternoon, the apology, the reinstatement of my account, I felt victorious. In reality, I was just back to where I was on Wednesday. Having gone through having my account taken away and fighting through that, I felt more confident. This setback was an opportunity. It was a lesson for me to not take these things too seriously and to have confidence in my ability to work through them. Even though the PayPal emails kept telling me there was no appeal, no way to overturn this decision, I persisted. They told me that once the account was in the status mine was in not even God (well not in those words) could overturn it.
Never give up. Never stop fighting. And, have faith in your ability. Those were the lessons PayPal reinforced for me this week. Thanks PayPal, you scumbags.