How can I give this reclusive billionaire the $300 I owe him?
March 18, 2017 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Last year I ordered some items on a Canadian website and had to pay with PayPal as they would not accept a US zip code in their CC authorization info. I was charged twice for this transaction, but have subsequently been refunded three times. The monies due to the vendor are in a credit balance in my PayPal account, but the vendor believes they have been paid and refuses to acknowledge their accounts are wrong. How can I fix this?

On Black Friday last year I purchased some gifts for family on the online Canadian version of a well known multinational retailer "Vendor". Because their online billing system could not accept a US zip code, I had to use PayPal to complete the purchase. I ended up being double charged for the items, but this was corrected within a few days, with my CC being refunded and my PayPal account balance going to zero after a few days with a slight negative balance due to a different exchange rate. In February I received a collections letter from one of PayPal's companies claiming I owed them the full amount of the transaction. After calls to PayPal and the vendor, both refunded the whole transaction amount again, leaving a positive balance in my PayPal account. PayPal claims the issue was an error in the vendor's accounting that they would be unaware of. Vendor claims they have their money, I have my items and I should stop calling them. How can I get these people their money in the proper way so that they will not come after me again in the event an audit discovers the error?

Firstly, I realize most people's advice would be that I have already gone above and beyond what most people would do and I should keep the money if they do not want it, but I would like to try at least once more. This vendor is likely to go through bankruptcy and possibly liquidation this year, and at the least heavily audited. I would prefer if my family at the shipping address not get a letter stating the widgets were never paid for.

I received from a friend a secret email address at vendor's domain that is monitored by an executive at the company, possibly by the CEO as well. This resulted in a call and resolution of a billing issue that occurred around the same time. If my account surplus has not been corrected in this time I will try an email to this address, but am not sure what I should say.

A call to vendor's 1-800 number got to a supervisor that assured me they were the most senior person I would be able to talk to and also assured me that their records show they have been paid by PayPal and they do not see the error that PayPal claimed they wouldn't know about that showed they had not nor would ever be paid unless I intervened. He admitted that they had attempted to refund the double charge several times and had used incorrect codes, but all of those refunds had been cancelled, except one that had been successful. Apparently one of these cancelled refunds was more successful than they assumed.

Contributing factors:
-My credit card was charged twice and refunded once. My PayPal account was charged twice and refunded three times, leaving a credit balance in Canadian dollars on PayPal.
-There was a large storm in Canada a few days after the order was placed. The delivery was even delayed a day due to the storm. Large areas were without power for extended periods. Vendor's shipping and billing systems may have crashed during this time. I was not billed for these items until 4 days after they were delivered and received an email they were now shipping 7 days after they were actually shipped.
-One of the cancelled refunds seems to have been coded as a return. The call center employee I first talked to today believed I had returned the items, but later confirmed I had the items and they had the money.
-Vendor was transitioning between two ordering systems at the time and apparently had a third system running to verify there were no discrepancies as data was transferred from one system to another during the busiest shopping week of the year.
-Call center employees assume you are mentally ill if you continually tell they you owe them money if their computer is telling them you do not.

So is anyone more familiar with Canadian vendor and PayPal relations and may have a better understanding of how to explain the problem to Vendor? For what it is worth, the Supervisor I talked to at PayPal indicated this transaction ended up being extremely complicated from an accounting standpoint. There are a total of 11 entries on my PayPal statements concerning this one transaction.
posted by Yorrick to Shopping (13 answers total)
You are a good person for trying to return this money. They clearly don't want it. Donate the money to a charity in their name?
posted by magnetsphere at 3:50 PM on March 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

How much more of their money do you want to make them spend to make them understand that you owe them $300? You're been diligent, it appears, and they're satisfied with what they have. Every time you marshal their accounting clerks and call center employees and so on, you are costing them more money. Why not save them further expense by calling it their loss? They have made a mistake in your favor, and it will cost them even more to remedy that mistake, so you're returning a favor, after all your efforts, by not bothering them anymore.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:51 PM on March 18, 2017 [33 favorites]

Have you considered the hassle you'll go through if Paypal decides that all this payment and credit back-and-forth is some kind of fraudulent activity? Do you know that they can freeze your account for 180 days if they do? Even if it's linked to your bank account?

Do a web search for "Paypal froze my account" and consider how much more you want to poke this issue:

"There are many potential triggers. Computer algorithms can flag accounts based on things like location, dollar amounts, and frequency of transactions. PayPal employees can also trigger reviews. For example, a customer service employee may trigger a review after you contact them or if they need to verify information. Similarly, a risk department employee may trigger a review if your account has chargebacks, explosive growth, trigger words, or if they receive a report from another business."

From here, emphasis mine
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:40 PM on March 18, 2017

Call the most senior supervisor at the vendor (whom you spoke to last time) and ask them to send you a letter on company letterhead (or a fax or an email) stating that you owe them no money and your merchandise has been paid for in full. Make sure they include their name, position with the company, and date the letter. That should be enough to satisfy anyone who tries to come after you later about this money, unlikely as that may be. And I agree with The Pluto Gangsta w/r/t Paypal; those jokers are messed up enough. Don't rattle their cage any longer unless you like courting trouble.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:53 PM on March 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

-Call center employees assume you are mentally ill if you continually tell they [sic] you owe them money if their computer is telling them you do not.

Why are you wasting all this time writing and phoning people? If you feel so strongly about getting rid of the money, how about just mailing them a check? Try a little efficiency.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:55 PM on March 18, 2017

How can I get these people their money in the proper way so that they will not come after me again in the event an audit discovers the error?

If you must do this, just send them a postal order (money order) tracked and signed-for delivery and keep the receipts etc.

But in all honesty, what's the problem with just paying them the money if, as and when they ask for it? You've done everything reasonable to bring it to their attention. It seems entirely appropriate to just leave it in your bank account and see if anyone ever asks for it.

No-one is ever going to ask for it.
posted by howfar at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2017

Sounds like it's going to cost them more than $300 in internal costs to clear this up. They're already written it off, and they don't want it back.
posted by scruss at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

Maybe PayPal is the one who is out the $300 due to a write off on their end?
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 11:06 PM on March 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Why not take a middle ground, order another $300 of stuff from them, some advance christmas presents perhaps. If they go bust and the stuff never arrives you are still square, if the items arrive then at least they will have made some profit and if they mess up this order in the same way, then perhaps they really do deserve to lose money and go bankrupt.
posted by Lanark at 3:55 AM on March 19, 2017

Per Monopoly: Bank error in your favor. Collect $300.

You really only owe them the courtesy of bringing the situation to their attention. If they are content, you can be content. You can't​ fix the world.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:40 AM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could also end up getting someone in the accountig department in trouble for this if the loss has been written off incorrectly. These kinds of weird charges/refunds can cause real problems in accounting if they stay 'open,' so sometimes they are just 'closed.' Stop harassing these poor people about this and let them keep it closed out. It's not like those workers are going to get that $300 in their pocket for all the extra work you're putting on their plate either. Also, there is every possibility this mistake lies with Paypal, and the original company has lost no money on the mistaken transactions. But seriously: let everyone go on with their lives and go on with yours. Maybe donate the money to a good cause if it's creating this much strife for you.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it really, really, super, uber bothers you, buy a bond with the money. If they call you on it in five years, cash out the bond, give them the 300 bux, pocket the rest. If not, hey, enjoy your retirement 300-and-then-some richer.
posted by eclectist at 4:40 PM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the company is in financial distress do you really think your billing query is a good use of senior executive time? Shouldn't they focus on turning the business around? I know you mean well but nthing everybody who said to let this go.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:58 PM on March 19, 2017

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