Why is PayPal still so incredibly awful?

By | August 12, 2023

A few days ago, I created a new PayPal account for the non-profit charitable organization I lead (I frankly didn’t want to use PayPal, for reasons which will be clear by the time you finish reading this posting, but LiberaPay recommends it). I provided PayPal with every single piece of information they requested during the account creation process. I successfully linked the new PayPal account to a valid bank account and verified the bank account successfully. The PayPal web site claimed that my account was fully set up and ready to be used and that there were no problems with it.

Then, yesterday, for the first time, someone had the pure, unmitigated gall (/s) to send the organization a donation through PayPal, which was the whole point of setting up the account. I received three email messages literally within one minute of each other:

  • “Notification of Payment Received”
  • “Your funds are on hold – here’s what to do”
  • “Action needed: Help us with a quick account review”

The last two of these tell me that I need to log into my PayPal account to provide additional information to resolve this issue. So this morning, I tried to do just that. And… I can’t. PayPal won’t let me log in. It won’t tell me why; it just tells me that I need to call PayPal to resolve the problem.

OK, that’s annoying, but whatever, so I call PayPal.

The first person I spoke with made me do all of the stupid, useless things which they always make people do. I reset my password (twice!). I tried logging in from a different device. I tried clearing my browser cache and history. None of this works, because (duh!) the problem isn’t on my end. In fact, all of this left me worse off than before, because now PayPal won’t even let me enter my password! When I try to log it, it just asks for my email address, and when I enter that and submit the form, I get this:

What “code”? There was no “code”.

I spent twenty minutes on the phone with the first person, during which all she could tell me was that the “security system” was blocking me from logging in, she had no idea why, and the only recommendation she had left was for me to try waiting for “some time” (could be hours, could be days, could be weeks, could be never, apparently) and then trying to log in again.

I finally asked for her to escalate the call. I then spoke to a second person who was able to provide me with a little more information. He claimed that I couldn’t log in because my phone number had not been successfully verified. He also said that he’d never heard of Google Fi and couldn’t tell me whether PayPal would be able to successfully very a number with that carrier. He also confirmed that it could be hours, days, weeks, or maybe even never before my phone number was successfully verified, and that if it wasn’t successfully verified, I would never be able to regain access to my account. He insisted that there is absolutely no escalation path for this and all I could do is sit on my hands and wait and see if PayPal ever decided, out of the goodness of their little old shriveled up corporate hearts, to let me log into the account with my money in it.

To recap: I provided PayPal with all of the information they requested, when they requested it, while setting up this account. At no point during the account set-up did PayPal inform me that there were any problems; indeed, on the contrary, their site assured me that everything was great and my account was fully set up. They then locked me out of my account without the web site telling me why I couldn’t log in and without sending me email telling me why I couldn’t log in; on the contrary, they sent me several emails telling me that I needed to log in to fix newly amorphous, undefined problems with my account, while at the same time not allowing me to do that.

I can’t even.

I am going to wait two weeks, and then if I still can’t log in I’m going to file a complaint with my state Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. I suppose I’ll also ask LiberaPay if they have back channels they can use to resolve this, since they presumbly send a lot of business to PayPal and might therefore have more influence. We’ll see if any of that causes a new escalation path to suddenly materialize. If not, the next stop will be Small Claims Court lawsuit to reclaim the the money people have donated through PayPal that I can’t withdraw because I can’t log in.

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