Brainless Stupidity #2

As a general rule I deal with the day-to-day vagaries of modern life by, if not quite ignoring them, at least treating their impingements on my consciousness with what I like to think of as a placid stoicism. By and large, to use a modern idiom, IDGAF.

Sometimes, though, only a rant can help. Like when I was confronted by the procedures for buying fuel in Belgium. Or the madness that is Etisalat. This is another of those occasions.

Let me tell you about my recent dealings with Paypal (with whom, in the interests of editorial balance, I should make clear I have had an account for a number of years, with very little cause for complaint).

Last week I was visiting family in the UK. I tried to log in to my Paypal account – to make a payment, believe it or not.The nerve of me.

Immediately I got a message that my account had been blocked due to detection of ‘unusual activity’. Fair enough; typically I’m directed to Paypal from a seller’s site rather than accessing it directly, and I’m usually at home in France when I do so. I’ve also been asked for additional verification by card issuers on similar occasions. This I don’t mind, but what followed with Paypal was just completely bizarre.

I was asked to log in to my account (what exactly did they think I was trying to do in the first place?), confirm my email address and change my security questions. That’s right – not answer my security questions but change them. So, if I was someone else, who had stolen my computer and tried to use my Paypal account, I had to prove nothing except the fact that I knew the email address associated with the account.

So I harrumphed a bit – just for therapeutic purposes, you understand – and, once I’d recalled the name of my first pet and my great-grandmother’s shoe size (you know the sort of thing), carried out their instructions.

Not good enough. Not for these jokers. My account remained blocked and I found myself stuck in the limbo of what Paypal somewhat sinisterly refers to as its ‘Resolution Centre’ – the `Guantanamo Bay of payment authorisation.

Now  – and here is where the last links with any kind of common sense were finally severed – they wanted me to send them a photo ID. Or maybe a copy of my birth certificate. Or something. Well, just about anything really:

“We’re reviewing your account and unfortunately you cannot gain access yet. We still need more information to complete this process. Please follow the instructions below:
– Please provide a copy of your driving license, passport or government issued photo ID. Please make the image as large and light as possible. If you do not have a photo ID, please provide a copy of your birth certificate”


That’s right, a photo ID. Which they’ve never had from me before so have nothing to compare it with. And which they have no means of verifying. Although I did wonder whether the next step would be to present myself at their head office for some kind of identity parade.

I replied, making this point too them – somewhat trenchantly, it’s probably fair to say. This was the response I then received:

“To ansewer your previous email, we need a proof of identity to be sure that it was really that was getting access to your PayPal account from a different location. It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal”

Now, leaving aside the typo, and the fact that the first sentence isn’t even a sentence, what really gets my goat is that they really appear to believe that they had been of assistance. Could anyone help me out here? Did I blink and miss something?

Ultimately, it came down to a choice of complying with their ludicrous requirements or do without my Paypal account, and the fact is that using Paypal when buying something online is convenient – and generally a lot quicker than laboriously filling in credit card numbers, expiry dates and CVC codes on a retailer’s website, and probably having to go through a verification procedure with the card issuer as well.

So I harrumphed therapeutically quite a lot more, but finally sent them a scanned copy of my passport and they unblocked my account. They still haven’t answered my question, though.

Nor, it would seem, have they grasped the most fundamental principle of customer service: ‘a happy customer might tell a friend, but an unhappy one will tell the world.’ 


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