PayPal Gives S#%*$y Legal Advice
We all know the story. You order an irreplaceable antique and you get something a little bit different than what you ordered. So, you chop the antique up into little bits and demand a refund. Problem solved.
Believe it or not, this is actually how PayPal suggests resolving a dispute. I recently ran across this little gem on Regretsy:
Dear Helen Killer,
I love your site and was thrilled to hear of your “win” against PayPal. I recently had a heartbreaking experience of my own with them.
I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.
This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.
Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as “counterfeit” even though there is no such thing in the violin world.
The buyer was proud of himself, so he sent me a photo of the destroyed violin. [Editor’s note: photo up top]
I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.
I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.
It’s true. PayPal does suggest that items be destroyed under certain circumstances. Specifically, when they unilaterally declare an item counterfeit. Here it is in their Buyer Protection Policies):
Comply with PayPal’s shipping requests in a timely manner.
For SNAD Claims, PayPal may require you to ship the item back to the seller – or to PayPal – or to a third party at your expense, and to provide proof of delivery. Please take reasonable precautions in re-packing the item to reduce the risk of damage to the item during transit. PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction (emphasis added).
How is the Claim resolved?
Once a Dispute has been escalated to a Claim, PayPal will make a final decision in favor of the buyer or the seller. You may be asked to provide receipts, third party evaluations, police reports, or any other information or documents reasonably required by PayPal to investigate the Claim. PayPal retains full discretion to make a final decision in favor of the buyer or the seller based on any criteria PayPal deems appropriate. In the event that PayPal makes a final decision in favor of the buyer or seller, each party must comply with PayPal’s decision. PayPal will generally require the buyer to ship an item that the buyer claims is Significantly Not as Described back to the seller (at the buyer’s expense), and PayPal will generally require a seller to accept the item back and refund the buyer the full purchase price plus original shipping costs. If a seller refuses to accept the item, PayPal may award the Claim in favour of the buyer, provided the buyer has provided satisfactory evidence to PayPal that the item was sent to the seller. In the event a seller loses a Claim, the seller will not receive a refund on his or her PayPal or eBay fees associated with the transaction. If you lose a Significantly Not as Described Claim because the item you sold is counterfeit, you will be required to provide a full refund to the buyer and you will not receive the item back (it may be destroyed)(emphasis added).
I’m not going to get into how unfair this can be to a seller, that’s been done a couple of times on the internets. What scares me is how much PayPal’s advice could hurt the buyer. It may break PayPal’s heart, but they aren’t the final arbiter’s of the dispute.
If PayPal is right and Erica is a dirty, dirty, violin counterfeiter, Mr. Smugbuyer (probably not buyer’s real name) is in the clear. But what if Erica isn’t running a moderately-priced violin counterfeit conspiracy, but instead sent Mr. Smugbuyer the wrong violin?
As much as he may want a refund, Mr. Smugbuyer is now stuck with $2500 worth of antique shims. It isn’t rocket science. If you order something and then chop it into tiny pieces, you can’t demand a refund.
Mr. Smugbuyer is perfectly within his rights to chop his own violin into tiny little pieces. Doing this implies he accepted the goods, and thus Erica should be paid. If he did not accept the goods because he expected to receive a different violin, the violin did not become his property; it stayed as Erica’s. It is illegal to chop someone’s antique violin into pieces and ask to be paid for the service. Even in Canada.
I asked PayPal if they would compensate Mr. Smugbuyer if he is forced to pay for the violin because he chopped it into pieces. They haven’t answered, but I doubt they would come to the rescue.
So remember, next time PayPal tells you to destroy something you want to return, don’t. They give really s#$*%y advice.