Thursday, July 28, 2011

iTunes and PayPal FAILs, aka The Little Guy Gets Screwed

Here comes another rant. But the information is pertinent to anyone who uses iTunes and/or PayPal, which these days is a large portion of the community.

Two days ago I decided that a friend needed an app that I use all the time on my iPhone. So I see that iTunes has this thing set up where you click a button and can gift that app. Lovely. Just what I need, since it should send her an email with a redemption code and she gets the app. Sounds perfect.

Step one fail: you can't pay for the gift out of the balance in your iTunes account. Um, what? How does that make any sense whatsoever? I had problems a few months back with someone hacking into my iTunes account, so I had disabled any connection between iTunes and any credit card or PayPal account, just in case. But now that's all they'll take for the gift - a credit card or PayPal account? Well that's incredibly ridiculous. Almost enough to make me forget the gift-giving and just give my friend the $10 and say "get this app". Except I don't trust her to take the money and buy the app herself. She's politely stubborn like that.

OK, I'll enable the PayPal account just for this and then disable it again. Fine.

Good, email sent from iTunes, should be fine.

Till I check my email the next day. No exaggeration, 17 emails from PayPal saying I've paid $9.99 to iTunes. Panic - has someone hacked my iTunes account again?? What's going on here? Maybe PayPal just sent out a bunch of emails for the one transaction. Check my PayPal - 17 individual payment transactions for $9.99, and they all have the same order number from iTunes. Something's wrong here. One more email from PayPal: "your account has been limited until further inspection." Fabulous.

Email iTunes customer service (since it's pretty much impossible to get them on the phone). "I'm not paying 17 times for one transaction!" Go through the steps with PayPal to get my account limits taken off (after I've made sure no one actually has hacked anything and after disconnecting it from iTunes). Go to the gym to work off the massive annoyance. And glory of glories, by the time I get back from the gym it's actually all been refunded in my PayPal . Hallelujah! Perhaps this will all work out after all.

Not so fast. I wake up this morning to emails from my bank account saying, your account balance is low. Um, I haven't spent anything, how could it be low? Check the bank account, and there are the transactions from PayPal taking out the seventeen $9.99 transactions (well, not all of them, since my balance wasn't high enough to cover them all, so the rest were charged to my credit card - at least PayPal didn't overdraft my account, which they have done twice before). But what's going on? They were refunded! Why are they still processing them out of my bank account? And now I have to be at an appointment in half an hour and I have no gas in my car and no money to get any! Let the cursing commence.

Get PayPal on the phone.
Me: "WTH is going on?"
PayPal: "Oh, well the refunds won't be processed for 3-5 business days."
Me: "What??? But they were refunded within the same day! Why are they even being processed as taking out the money to begin with?"
P: "Sorry, that's just how it works since it was an instant transfer. It'll be refunded within 3-5 business days. We can't expedite anything. Sorry." Circle after circle after circle. Getting nowhere. Hang up angrily.

So now my bank account is empty and I won't have any money refunded until possibly next Wednesday, and all you can say is sorry?? It's just such a colossal fail on so many levels that I don't even know who to complain to - except that I have complained to all the parties involved, and they don't care. "Gee, sorry that happened to you," seems to be the reigning response. iTunes: "Gee, sorry we charged you 16 extra times, but we fixed it on our end." PayPal: "Gee, sorry the money was refunded, but we still have to run through the process of taking the money out and waiting to put it back in."

Would it have been better if I had used my credit card instead of PayPal? I'm not sure, because then I wouldn't have seen that iTunes had charged it 17 times until the statement came to me a month later, and I would have had to broach it with iTunes then. And they would have charged me interest on it all. But I would have had money in my bank account at least. It's really a toss-up.

Thank goodness my wonderful husband put some extra money in my account so that I could actually get gas and make it to my appointment today. But if I didn't have him, I would have been royally screwed over by both Apple/iTunes and PayPal. For absolutely nothing I did wrong. In fact, I was just trying to be a nice friend. Next time I'm just giving her the cash and taking my chances.

Is there a lesson here? Never use iTunes' app gift-giving process. Other than that? PayPal really needs to re-think their processing system, especially when the customer is the one getting screwed over. And someone over at Apple needs to get off the itchy trigger finger. Good lord people, 17 times? Really? But where are the repercussions to the people who messed up in the first place? There are none. And I can't cancel my iTunes unless I never want another app on my iPhone. And I love my iPhone too much to give it up, I admit it. And I can't cancel my PayPal unless I cancel my Etsy store. So they all win and I lose. Crap-tastic.

See update to this story here

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