He ordered a camcorder but received a purse. Can PayPal help him with the wrong item?

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Christopher Elliott

Ken Engelman buys a camcorder online but receives a cloth purse instead. Can PayPal help him get his money back for the wrong item?


I recently bought a professional camcorder online. I received a small cloth purse instead. So I disputed the purchase through PayPal and sent a photo of the purse. 

PayPal claims that it spoke to the merchant, who provided proof of delivery of the item. But their “proof” doesn’t prove I received a camcorder. Can you help me get a refund? — Ken Engelman, McKenzie Bridge, Ore.


You should have received the camcorder you ordered, of course. But before I get to that part, a disclosure. You publish a newspaper that runs my Problem Solved column, and decided to avail yourself of my nonprofit organization’s advocacy services. We try to help everyone, so my advocacy team and I are happy to assist you. I’m also very grateful that you’ve decided to run this column, which allows us to help your readers.

PayPal offers limited protections against fraud. It states that if an eligible item that you’ve bought online doesn’t arrive, or doesn’t match the seller’s description, PayPal’s Buyer Protection “may” reimburse you for the full amount of the item plus postage. A careful review of PayPal’s Buyer Protection suggests that your camcorder is covered. 

But I’m worried about the “may” in PayPal’s agreement — it sounds kind of noncommittal. Your records suggest PayPal reached out to the merchant, which assured the company that it had sent you the camcorder, not the wrong item. But then PayPal simply closed the case without really getting your side of the story. That’s not what I would call due diligence.

I list the executive contacts for PayPal on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. You might have reached out to one of them for help, although lately, even emails to PayPal executives meet with form email and bot replies. PayPal has also had its fair share of scams, one of which almost ensnared me.

How to resolve the wrong item case with PayPal

The key to solving your case was in the “proof” the merchant sent. The camcorder weighs 3 pounds, but the package you received was lighter. Therefore, they couldn’t have sent you a camcorder. 

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I reached out to the merchant, but the listing site was permanently closed. That made me wonder if PayPal had indeed contacted the merchant, or if it just said it did. I contacted PayPal. It reviewed your case and refunded your purchase.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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