I am in Quebec City now and I have $4 in Canadian. Since paypal has limited access to my account, I have no options but to get across Canada and down the west coast with the $4 I have. I’m not exactly outfitted for a long backpacking and hitchhiking trip. Since I have had to overdraw my other bank accounts, I have no access to overdraft money and I also have no credit cards.
I just got off the phone with a woman at Paypal who told me they will lift the limitation of my account. This is great but it comes a little too late to help since the $350 I have in paypal is only available to me through electronically transferring it to my $520 overdrawn Central Pacific Bank account. The transfer usually takes 3-5 business days so that still leaves me with $4 Canadian to get across Canada until next Wednesday.
The reason my CPB account is overdrawn is because of nearly $200 in fees and expenses I’ve incurred as a result of paypal restricting my account. My account was restricted because I accessed it from many different locations and they became concerned, despite the fact I’d told them I would be in those locations. They have asked me to enter pin numbers, fax them my passport, send utility bills (while I was in Morocco!) and more. I’ve managed to do nearly everything, but still, here I am.
UPDATE: It turns out that Danielle was simply lying. Instead of lifting the limitations, she actually placed new requirements on my account. I had to call back and go through the whole process again with another Paypal supervisor named Jessica who worked with me (not easy given my level of frustration) and after an hour on the phone managed to get my limitations lifted. So in 3-5 days I will only be $180 in the hole with my CPB account.
The problem is that Paypal is almost completely automated and as such makes limitations based on data without considering the human factor or taking into account situations where, like me, a person is almost constantly on the go. Furthermore, as a corporation they have created policies that are rigid and don’t take human considerations into account. This is the world we are living in and it is becoming more like this every day, so I ask you to consider:
What happens when the bank’s computers decide that you may not be you? I sent my passport, answered security questions, confirmed my personal bank account that is connected with paypal, had multiple phone conversations, and reset my passwords and still it wasn’t enough to prove to the computers and the policies that I am me and not someone pretending to be me. To get past all of that, it took a human being who was willing to duck and dodge through the bureaucratic quagmire of the computer and the policies.
Should we trust the computers that have our money? It’s essentially a matter of we are giving hours of our lives to computers that may decide they are not ours at all.
(Originally published 22 May 2009)