Is my money lost & gone forever?
April 27, 2011 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Money intended for me was PayPal-ed to the wrong person. Any chance I can get it back?

I do freelance work for a company whose operations are ill-managed and largely based overseas. They pay all their freelancers through PayPal. At the beginning of my work with them, the PayPal address they had for me was incorrect by one letter. I'm not sure whether it was a their typo or mine, but either way, my first payment of $52 did not reach me.

The company made some feeble effort to get the money back, but now they've effectively washed their hands of the situation, saying "Unfortunately we cannot issue a refund as the transaction went through and the amount was sent to an excising [sic] account. All your future payments will be sent to your valid PayPal address. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

I have a very common first and last name, and the e-mail address that is one letter different from mine does have a PayPal account associated with it. I've tried to contact this person twice so far, both through PayPal and through regular e-mail, explaining the situation and politely asking that they remit the money that wasn't intended for them in the first place, but I haven't heard anything back.

Do I have any other recourse? Will contacting support at PayPal do any good? It's not a *ton* of money, thank goodness, but fifty bucks is fifty bucks.
posted by shiu mai baby to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you have some sort of contract with the company, even if it is verbal, I believe they have an obligation to pay you, and not just pay somebody and consider it a done deal. That said, how much time and money are you going to invest in recovering $50 bucks?

You might consider buying a domain name and running your email through it, as it sounds like you are using a GMail or Yahoo address and if your name is that common there is lots of room for error on the left side of the @ symbol. Invest $10 in a domain, forward it all to Gmail or whatever, and you won't have this problem again.
posted by COD at 8:34 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Long and short of it, Paypal sucks. The company that issued the payment should be able to rescind payment, but they need to make the effort to do this. From Paypal's perspective, you are an unassociated 3rd party to the transaction, so will not do anything for you.

The larger question here is do you really want to do business with a company that can't be bothered to pay you properly? The fact that payment went to a valid address is not an excuse. They need to fix this before it's a $500 payment that gets "lost".
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:35 AM on April 27, 2011

Um, the company hasn't paid you. It's not YOUR money that's gone astray, it's theirs. They still owe you the money.

I would seriously reconsider working for a company which does not regard paying you as their intrinsic obligation in the relationship.
posted by endless_forms at 8:36 AM on April 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Personally, I probably wouldn't work for these people again and I would politely but firmly demand my money. Their responsibility is to pay you for your work. That means you need to actually receive your payment. It is more understandable if the problem is because of your typo (can you search through your sent mail to confirm who made the mistake here?), but if this was their error, they need to put it right. This company isn't ill-managed, they simply don't care whether they pay you for your work or not, and you very much shouldn't reward that behavior.
posted by zachlipton at 8:38 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The company needs to file a claim. Since the recipient does not have a tracking number for shipping to the company, most likely the company can get paypal to refund the payment.
posted by Slinga at 8:49 AM on April 27, 2011

Agree with the above. Your client has paid someone (so they say), but they have not paid you, which is all that matters to you. Your invoice to them is still open. Their excuse is on the order of "the dog ate my homework."

And if they can't pay $52 to cover their own mistakes, you can't afford to do business with them anyhow. What happens when they're into your for a couple grand?
posted by adamrice at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2011

Thanks so much for the answers so far. I will say that I've received subsequent payments from them without issue, so this was just a one-time thing, as it was the first payment they ever attempted to send to me. I don't have an e-mail to be able to trace the origins of the error, as it was an online application form. I don't often misspell my own name, but given the fact that it was an online fill-in form, it is certainly possible the error was mine.

The company sucks, big-time, but it's easy, easy money for what I do. Far easier than some of the other providers of this service, I'd hazard.

My concern with raising a stink with the company is that I've heard they black-list troublemakers, putting their account on hold while they "investigate quality issues." Which is pure bullshit, but again: it's remarkably easy money, I take a job only when and if I feel like it, so it offers a tremendous amount of latitude that other freelance gigs do not. Also, this is freelance, not my primary source of income, so I'm far less invested in this than if it were my only revenue stream.

Summary: I'm not ready to break up with them. Yet. But the $50, it bugs.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2011

I'm also thinking this might end up being an exercise in letting go, and if that's the hive mind recommendation, I can live with that.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2011

For $50, I'd approach the company with a "I understand it's hard for you to get your money back from your faulty initial transaction, but my invoice for $50 is still outstanding". I'd try one or two polite emails and if I didn't want to kill the relationship, I'd either abandon $50 based on how much time I'd spent trying to get it, and then either try and recover it through work later or just let it go.

Basically, there's a high chance that you need to let it go, and if you only lose $50 on a freelancing gig, you are extremely lucky. I'm still owed $750 from 3 years ago, and had to let that go in the end as I left the country. I'm also still owed about $2K from a job 4 years before that. Get $50 in perspective and let it go for you own sake. It really is nothing in the scheme of things.
posted by Brockles at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Think about it this way. Suppose you submitted your completed work by US Mail instead of electronically. Further assume that your output is not easily replaceable, such as original artwork or hand-knitted scarves or something. How would the company feel if you said you sent the work to the wrong address and showed minimal interest in rectifying the situation? Would they pay you? Would they give you more work in the future?

Why is the situation so different when it's reversed?
posted by zachlipton at 10:19 AM on April 27, 2011

Also, this is freelance, not my primary source of income, so I'm far less invested in this than if it were my only revenue stream.

Some people rely on freelancing for their entire income, even if you don't, and I think you perhaps ought to bear this in mind before allowing this company to get away with not paying you for your work (they haven't paid you. That's the important thing).

That said, it's not much money and it might not be worth dying on this hill. But you do need to tell them firmly that they have not paid you, and that you expect to be paid. If you filled in your details on a form, you should be able to have access to those details (certainly under most European privacy laws you would have to have access) so you should be able to find out whether it was your error.
posted by altolinguistic at 10:49 AM on April 27, 2011

as others said, easy money or not it speaks to the quality of character of the company, but more-so the people running it. I would send them another notice stating your 50$ is still outstanding, but if they don't follow-up just treat them with some bad reviews online and be done with it, 50$ is not worth getting in an argument for, or letting it sit in the back of your mind for years.
posted by zombieApoc at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2011

The company sucks, big-time, but it's easy, easy money for what I do.

Bear in mind it is very easy for this company to reverse all the other paypal payments they have made to you, even if you electronically deposit the money into your bank account paypal can just reverse those deposits.

Just ask yourself how much further you want to trust a company that has already ripped you off for $50
posted by Lanark at 12:10 PM on April 27, 2011

You didn't cause them to send it to the wrong person. They still owe you.
posted by brownrd at 3:51 PM on April 27, 2011

Assuming you've got a contract punched up proper, they owe you for your services. You may find the following video helpful
posted by Senator Howell Tankerbell at 5:48 PM on April 27, 2011

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