Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Regretsy and PayPal

UPDATE: PayPal made nice with Regretsy and not only refunded all of the donation money, but also made a $100 donation themselves to each and every family Regretsy was helping. Unfortunately it took a LOT of media attention, a lot of lost users, and some pretty serious ragging on PayPal to get them to acquiesce.

I don't often post about social justice and such; I've done so a couple of times in the past but unless it involves natural parenting or attachment parenting, I try to avoid making mention of mainstream things and news. It doesn't seem worth it to me; you can turn on a TV or head to one of the many news sites and find out everything you need to know. But today I am changing that for something that, to me, is a VERY big deal.

Maybe you haven't heard, but PayPal just fucked Regretsy pretty hard.

No, really, go read that and come back here, then think on it for a bit.

To summarize: April Winchell, the Queen of Awesome over at Regretsy, and her team have set up a donation system every year during the winter holidays to help out the less fortunate. This year, their goal was to help out low income children, and so they accepted donations via the "Donate" button on PayPal. They ended up getting enough money to not only buy a gift for EVERY SINGLE ONE of over 200 children, but to also send a monetary donation along with said gift for every family to use however they pleased. They used a pretty intensive vetting process, took applications, and generally ensured that the people they were helping genuinely needed their help.

Then PayPal stepped in and said this was against their ToS, and shut down the donations (and froze the account, which also contained unrelated funds).

(In case you aren't aware, there are a LOT of "shady" things you can donate to via PayPal; just last year you could donate to a woman who had a shopping addiction and of course those donations helped her buy more useless shit, and there's also a site where you can donate to a woman to help her get a breast augmentation. Among others.)

They claimed that Regretsy wasn't a legitimate non-profit charity (because the lady who needs bigger boobs obviously is), and therefore had no right to use the donate button. So Ms. Winchell decided that since she had already actually purchased all the toys she was going to give away anyway, that she would offer them up for "sale" on the site, consider the money a donation, and then ship the toys to the intended families anyway. An ingenious idea, if I do say so myself; kids would still get gifts, families would still get the money they'd been promised, and Regretsy would have completed another year of making life a little brighter for those in need.

Guess what?


They basically ripped Winchell a new one, and while on the phone with a representative, "When I asked how to close my account, he said I had to 'refund everything, write a letter saying you understood what you did WAS WRONG AND YOU WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN, and then request permission to close your account.'" (Via Regretsy, emphasis their's)


The problem is that this isn't the first time PayPal has screwed over businesses that were accepting donations for legitimate reasons. There's a list here of just a few of the times they knowingly took over something that they had no business taking over. It's eye-opening, to say the least.

So what can YOU do to help Regretsy out?

First, if you're able, close your PayPal account. There are a number of (admittedly less well known and thus less often accepted) options to pay online, with a huge list (complete with reviews) available for different countries from Screw PayPal, and a list from WebDistortions that has 17 different suggestions.

Second, go flood PayPal's Facebook page with information on what you're doing, and let them know that you're aware of what they've been up to and you don't approve (but make sure you click the option to see everyone's posts, and not just PayPal's; also keep in mind that you don't need to "like" them to post on their wall).

Third, go sign this petition, created by one Kevin Malone of Chicago, IL to tell PayPal to get their heads out of their asses and stop freezing the accounts of any large group that asks for donations without having a non-profit status.

Fourth, contact PayPal's president (Scott Thompson). Keep it short and to the point, and most of all, keep it polite. (EDIT: I have been informed that the emails I provided earlier for several other individuals at PayPal came back as undelivered. With that in mind, here are a couple of phone numbers to use! In the US, call 1-888-221-1161. Outside the US, call 1-402-935-2050 but be aware that fees may apply. I will post accurate emails as soon as I have them.)

If you're still with me, fifth, contact MSN/The Today Show, CNN, and as many local news networks as you can to let them know what PayPal is doing and what they've been up to while we've been casually looking away. Then, contact your local state representatives and Congresspeople to ask them to start pushing for regulations for companies like PayPal, and to force them to keep their hands off of other people's money as long as it's being used for legal purposes. Their ToS doesn't state that only IRS registered 501(c)(3) charities can use the Donate button, so how Regretsy (or any other organization or individual) chooses to use it is irrelevant.

The only way to stop PayPal from continuing to be as destructive as it is is to call them out and show them that we're paying attention. If you get a response from PayPal, PLEASE share it here!

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