Spread the word about PayPal's sneaky tactics

By Katharine Swan On Thursday, March 06, 2008 At 9:14 AM

Since I posted about PayPal's personal account changes last night, I've been thinking a lot about how they've handled the changes. I've come to the conclusion that they are deliberately not telling members about the changes in order to trick them into having to upgrade to the business (read: expensive) account.

Think about it. Now that I know that I can only accept $500 via PayPal this month, I can start asking clients about alternative payment methods, and hopefully avoiding going over $500 (and therefore be able to keep my personal account as is). I have control over the situation, because I found out at the beginning of the month.

Now imagine I hadn't found out when I did. I would have reached $500 by mid-month at the very latest. When I received the payment that pushed my total for the month over $500, I would have been given the "choice" to upgrade my account in order to accept the payment. Which, of course, is no choice at all, because when you are expecting — and needing — the payment, who is going to deny it?

I recently read a book called Gotcha Capitalism, which talks about how businesses use sneaky fees to rob their customers. One of the things he talks about is how credit card companies and banks can send their Terms of Service changes on little itty-bitty slips of paper, and that by doing nothing you are in effect agreeing to them.

That's bad enough, but in my opinion what PayPal has done is even worse. Their Legal Agreements start out by saying:

This User Agreement ("Agreement") is a contract between you and PayPal and applies to your use of PayPal's Services. You must read, agree with and accept all of the terms and conditions contained in this Agreement. We may amend this Agreement at any time by posting a revised version on our website. The revised version will be effective at the time we post it. In addition, if the revised version includes a Substantial Change, we will provide you with 30 Days' prior notice of Substantial Change by posting notice on the "Policy Updates" page of our website. We last modified this Agreement on January 25, 2008.

In other words, they "notify" you by posting changes on their website. It's your responsibility to check for changes. Whether you know about the changes or not, you've agreed to them simply by continuing to be a PayPal member.

This whole thing seems sneaky and a little dishonest to me, and many people are going to have a rude awakening when they hit $500 in incoming payments this month. Therefore I'd like to ask everyone to spread the word about PayPal's policy changes, either by blogging about it or by sending emails to everyone you know who accepts payments using a PayPal personal account.

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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