I thought The Onion's feature on Kafka International Airport was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Then I started living in a Kafkaesque nightmare, and it's not so funny anymore.
My Dell laptop is coming to the end of its useful life, so back on July 24 I ordered a new one directly from the Dell Australia website. For a largish purchase like this, I figured the safest and easiest way to pay would be to use Pay Pal.
Oh, what an innocent creature I was back then.
By 31 July my computer hadn't arrived and there were no updates to the order status, so I contacted Dell. They told me the payment was showing as Pay Pal decline. Odd, I thought, there had been enough money to cover the transaction in my account the whole time, but whatever. My Pay Pal account showed the payment as pending confirmation by the merchant, so I figured I'd cancel the order with Dell, get my money back in a few days surely, and order the laptop anew.
And so the nightmare began. The Dell order was showing as cancelled, but the status of the payment in Pay Pal never changed - and I never got my money back. As days turned into weeks, I had a series of frustrating interactions with PayPal trying to have the money released. Both by live chat and by phone, PayPal agents told me the funds were held until the purchase was completed. I informed them that the order had been cancelled entirely and I needed the funds to be released. PayPal informed me only Dell could release the funds. I contacted Dell again who assured me the order was cancelled and funds would be released. They were not. After a couple of weeks, Dell started telling me flat out there was nothing they could do and Pay Pal would neeed to release the funds. And these were the interractions with customer service staff who understood what I was saying. Half the emails I sent received replies from some agent who'd skimmed my text and completely misunderstood the situation.
I tried calling, but that was even worse. There's no option on the automated system for my situation and getting anyone to understand was pretty much impossible. Despite my sometimes snarky online persona, I'm a pretty timid person and I'm always extra nice to customer service staff; I've worked scruds* of retail and call centre jobs and I know exactly what it's like. I'll put up with a lot. So when I'm on the verge of shouting and demanding managerial attention, things are dire.
I said the status of my transaction in Pay Pal never changed. That's not quite true. The supposed authorisation date for the transaction has been updated every week or so to that current date. I had found an article on Pay Pal's site saying that if a transaction hasn't been completed after 29 days, it is automatically cancelled and funds are returned. Well I thought, at least I'll get my money back eventually. But I won't, because the 29 day period is restarted over and over again.
I lodged an official complaint with Pay Pal. All they did was repeat their policy that they can't release the money. I started begging Dell just to tell Pay Pal I'd cancelled the order, but by now Dell no longer had any record of the order.
So I'm ticked off at Dell, but it's really PayPal to blame here. Dell never got the money. And what do Pay Pal mean they can't cancel the transaction? They're the ones holding the money. What happens if there's a pending transaction with a company that's gone out of business? Is the money trapped in PayPal forever?
I made an official complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. So far all I've gotten is a case number and a sense of dread at having to explain the situation to a new bunch of people. I can't even think of the amount of time I've spent on this during the past 6 weeks and if it was about $50 would have given up, but this is a not insignificant amount of money. I don't want to start a sit in outside Pay Pal's Sydney office, but I'm starting to think it might come to that.
Edit: apparently there's an ongoing problem with payments made through PayPal in AUD on international sites being declined. But despite it being PayPal's problem, they've demanded Dell and I do the work. I'm furious.
Especially after receiving a reply from the Australian Financial Complaints Authority saying they've contacted PayPal in the first stage of the complaint process, resolving the issue between us directly. You know, like I've been unable to do for the past month. Will I ever get my money back.
* This is the collective noun for customer service jobs.