PayPal – The Worst Customer Service Experience of My Life

For a large portion of our websites we use PayPal to receive payments. Sometimes we use them exclusively and sometimes we offer it as an alternative payment option. Either way, we rely on them quite heavily as I’m sure a lot of businesses do.

Keep in mind while reading all of this that yesterday was my birthday and the whole experience was that much worse because it was supposed to be a relaxing and happy day. It’s also no secret that PayPal has been in the process of upgrading their site the past few weeks so there’s clearly a possible explanation for any unexpected errors.

Here we go:

For the SportsLizard Price Guide we use PayPal to manage the subscriptions (free for the first 7 days and $4.99/month thereafter). We have hundreds of paying subscribers, so every morning my inbox is flooded with You have received a subscription payment emails from PayPal. Thursday morning there were no such emails. Odd. So I went into my PayPal account to investigate. Without sifting through all of our users, I was able to quickly identify five or six payments that should have been made that morning. For those who don’t know – when a user signs up for a PayPal subscription they are automatically billed on payment days and the money is withdrawn from their account.

So I did what anyone else would do. I contacted customer service. Thursday night (8/30) around 10 PM I submitted a request for PayPal to look into the subscriptions. I included several specific subscription numbers for them to investigate. Here’s what I got back at 10:58 PM.

Dear Adam McFarland,

Hello, my name is Ronda and I am happy to assist you with your questions regarding the issues you are experiencing with your subscription payments that you receive.

After further review of your account, I can see that you have received subscription payments for Aug. 30, 2007 however, 5 payments have been cancelled. It looks like 4 were cancelled by the buyer and one was cancelled by you.

Usually there is a problem with a subscription because a payment fails.
Failures may occur for a variety of reasons. For example, a payment may fail because of insufficient funds.

If a payment fails, either the subscription can be canceled or the payment can be reattempted. If the Subscription Terms call for reattempts, payments are reattempted three days after the failure date. If it fails a second time, we will try once more five days later. If it fails on this last attempt, the subscription is canceled.

Note: eChecks are automatically re-presented only once and three days after we notify the user that it failed due to insufficient funds.

To avoid overlapping payments, reattempts do not occur if another payment for the same subscription is scheduled within 14 days of the failed payment.

A notification email is sent to you and your subscriber if a payment fails.

I understand your frustration regarding this matter and apologize for any inconvenience it might have caused you.

PayPal Community Support
PayPal, an eBay Company

Yes, there were several subscriptions cancelled.  No, I did not receive any payments from those subscriptions (if they are cancelled, they aren’t billed…duh). But there are also several ACTIVE subscriptions that were not cancelled and should have been billed. When the next day began (8/31) and there were more missing payments, I replied with the following:


Thanks for replying. Please investigate these subscriptions that are NOT cancelled. All were supposed to be paid either yesterday or today, and have not been. Please let me know when these payments will be deposited.


All of these are ACTIVE and say “Next Payment Date: Aug. 30, 2007”. Or “Next Payment Date: Aug. 31, 2007”



At this point I was so stressed that I had to pick up the phone and call. Why did PayPal all of a sudden stop charging my customers? Everything had been working fine since we launched in May! We haven’t touched the source code in well over a month.

At 10:39 AM on 8/31 I picked up the phone and began what would be a 20:12 call. The service rep was a nice guy and I tried not to be too mean to him (after all it’s not his fault). However, it took him an inordinate amount of time to understand the problem. Finally, I walked him through a subscription. I gave him the S# and also the customer email address.

I said, “take a look at the ‘Next Payment Date’ on the subscription”.

He replied “it looks fine – the next payment is due on August 30th…would you like to change that?”

“You do realize that August 30th was YESTERDAY don’t you?”

At this point he recognized the problem (probably 18 minutes into the 20 minute call). He then told me that there could be an issue with that particular customers credit card or account and that’s why he wasn’t charged.

“But I also have a list of at least 10 more customers that this happened to yesterday…and I have hundreds of other subscribers and have never had this problem before yesterday,” I replied. Not to mention, I also receive a ‘Subscription Payment Failed’ email whenever a payment does not go through.

At this point he was clueless. I asked if I could give him a list of subscription numbers to look into, and if he could assure me that the customers would be billed if in fact it turned out that they should have been.  He gave me no such assurance – he told me to hang up and email in the list. Which I did (I literally copied and pasted the previous email).

Then I received this extremely unhelpful reply at 11:26 AM yesterday.

Dear Adam McFarland,

Thank you for contacting PayPal.

Hello my name is Joseph, I am sorry to hear about the situation regarding the status of your subscription payments, and understand your frustration and concern over this issue. I am happy to assist you with your questions.

To find the current status of your Subscription and Recurring Payments, please follow these steps:….

And the rest of the email proceeded to tell me how to check the status of my subscriptions. Never mind I mentioned in the email that all of the subscriptions were active and should have been billed yesterday.

I replied at 12:05 AM:


I have called and emailed several times and still have not gotten my question answered. I know how to check the status of the subscriptions!

All of the following are ACTIVE and should have been paid yesterday or today. Please investigate and let me know why they were not, and when they will be deposited. Considering that they are NOT cancelled and say “Next Payment Date: Aug 30, 2007” which was YESTERDAY, I’d say that there is a problem on your end and it would be nice if you acknowledged that.

Here’s the list again:



I was pretty upset (as you can tell from my tone in that email). I decided to drop it and go out for my birthday lunch with my cousin Alaina.

After returning, nothing had been solved so I picked up the phone again. This time I was determined to not get off until I got an answer. The call was made at 2:33 PM and lasted 44:33.

Again, the operator was very friendly but had trouble understanding the problem. I spent at least the first 20 minutes explaining how PayPal subscriptions work (she kept telling me that I didn’t invoice the customer and they probably hadn’t had a chance to pay yet). This was pretty frustrating. The idea of a PayPal subscription is not that complex and everyone in the company should understand that the consumer is auto-billed and the money removed from their account per the terms of the subscription.

Once she grasped that concept, I told her that I had a list of examples and asked if she would walk through each one with me. I showed her the same example as I did the previous operator and we went through the same banter as before.

Her: “it could just be a problem with this account, you should email that customer.”

Me: “But I have a whole list that this is happening to? And besides, I get an email when a subscription payment fails and I didn’t get any emails in this case.”

She tried to get me off the phone without a resolution. I said I needed to speak to a manager. That took about 10 minutes. Finally she returned and told me “there have been reports that other people are experiencing the same problem. Our programming team is aware of it and is working on a solution”. I pressed for more information – specifically whether or not they would be billing the missed subscriptions for me – but she didn’t have any answers. I thanked her for the help and hung up.

At approximately 3:15 PM, after wasting my entire day I FINALLY got an answer. Here’s what gets me: I understand that the majority of calls are questions that can be answered with cookie cutter replies and FAQs, but what if someone actually has a REAL PROBLEM to report? It doesn’t feel good to have rep after rep not believe you and not understand the problem even when you can show them the evidence.

And then to add salt to the wound. At 3:43 (a half hour after the rep on the phone admitted to the problem) I received this golden nugget:

Dear Adam McFarland,

Thank you for contacting PayPal. I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry. I understand how important this is to you, I have full attention on your account now and I will be glad to help you.

As per request, I have checked your PayPal account and I do not show here any active subscriptions at all. Actually Mr. McFarland, your list doesn’t match the cancelled subscriptions on your account.

Umm. Yes, that’s because my list was for ACTIVE subscriptions, of which there are HUNDREDS on my account. On top of that, you just admitted to me over the phone that there was an issue! Shouldn’t all of your reps know about the problem?

Now it is Saturday 9/1 and I missed another day of payments. The subscriptions in my account all look like this one (screenshot taken around 10 AM on 9/1):

PayPal Subscription

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that August 30th is in the past. Yet it was like pulling teeth with PayPal just to get an admission of the problem. Still though, I haven’t heard back from them about what they are going to do. There’s no assurance that they will back-bill my customers. No assurance as to when my customers will begin being billed again.  I’m completely left hung out to dry.

If they don’t back-bill my customers, shouldn’t PayPal reimburse that money? I don’t think that I should have to contact each customer and manually bill them. That will tick them off, and they did nothing wrong. It’s unfortunate that PayPal doesn’t post issues like this somewhere on their site to control the damage.

The sad thing is – I still like PayPal overall. I want to continue to do business with them because I think they are the best option for our company in many cases. Sometime in the next few days I’ll do a post on how PayPal and other companies should handle their customer service, although in this case it seems pretty obvious. I personally answer 20+ customer service questions for our sites on a daily basis, and I’d say that PayPal broke every single golden rule (other than being polite…the reps were always very polite).  I wonder what the people over at The PayPal Blog would think about this?

Whew. What a horrible situation.  I’ll never forget this birthday.

56 comments on PayPal – The Worst Customer Service Experience of My Life

  1. David Ryan says:

    Ha ha! I see that this thread is 6 years old now and still nothing has changed at Paypal. Im trying to get a problem fixed for 2 weeks now and all I am getting to is morons that pass you from one to the other.

    Well done PayPal keep up the bad work hopefully you will be found out soon and a better provider with good support will replace you.

  2. Craig says:

    I’ve been browsing online greater than three hours as of late, but I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is beautiful price enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made excellent content material as you probably did, the web will be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  3. Excellent blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you advise starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Many thanks!

  4. Jeffrey Keyes says:

    Now its 2018. I think Paypal has lost their way & gotten worse. Or they took lessons from Comcast. I used to rave aout Paypal and how you could actually talk with somebody over the phone. Be prepared for endless verbal bather from the automated call attended that offers you every choice under the Sun except anything related your topic. Then you will transferred a minimum of 4 times to different departments that are actually the same two departments ping-ponging you. I’m all for verification, but come on it is an internal transfer by the person who already verified everything. The hold time between these rounds is only 3-5 minutes each time. Fun!

    Bottom line: It’s a tie with Comcast in the race to the bottom. Somehow it will cost you.
    They always get your money. My Paypal “Customer Experience” was truly & unnecessarily awful over $7.36.

Comments are closed for this post.