Help, I can’t use my eBay gift card!

After Murtuza Cutleriwala’s PayPal account is frozen, he can’t use his eBay gift card. The reason? They’re linked. Now what?

Question: I am writing to you with the hope of recovering my eBay gift card balance for $135, which is linked to my frozen PayPal account.

I bought a $500 eBay gift card from a Safeway store and used $365 of it for a purchase through PayPal. The PayPal account was frozen.

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Now I can’t use this gift card balance because it is linked to my limited PayPal account. PayPal is not willing to give me a refund of $135 nor issue me a different gift card of $135 value or even de-link this gift card so that I can gift it to someone else. PayPal is saying I will forfeit the $135.

I bought the gift card from a store and paid the full purchase price, so they can’t keep it. I spoke with a few folks at PayPal and eBay and they seem to point me to each other for help without anyone helping me.

I believe it’s absolutely wrong to take away my eBay gift card balance. Your help as mediator is highly appreciated. — Murtuza Cutleriwala, Santa Clara, Calif.

Answer: PayPal isn’t entitled to the $135 remaining on the card, no matter what you did with your account.

I’ve reviewed your correspondence with PayPal regarding your permanently suspended account. You can get suspended for violating the PayPal user agreement. I’m not sure why you didn’t fight the suspension. You’re either very busy or guilty.

But that doesn’t matter. PayPal still can’t help itself to the rest of your money. It’s just not right.

Looks like you were stuck in what I call a form-letter vortex. Each response resulted in the generation of another form letter, resulting in a seemingly endless vortex of pre-written emails. That’s not good customer service.

We’ve run into this problem before with Starbucks, and apparently companies feel as if they can just keep your money when there’s a terms-of-service violation. I don’t like that precedent, so I decided to get involved.

I contacted eBay on your behalf. You also sent an email to [email protected], appealing your sentence to the form letter vortex. One of the two — we’re not entirely sure which one — worked. You received a call from someone in the PayPal “executive” office. The company is releasing your $135.

This story was first published on June 11, 2015.

4 thoughts on “Help, I can’t use my eBay gift card!

  1. Did she actually violate PayPal’s rules aside from the gift card issue? I’m wondering why she’s not fighting that, but that’s the only reason I can come up with.

  2. I suspect there is a lot more to this story than we are being told. It is of no value to readers whatsoever to read a story like this as it offers us no lessons at all. I suppose it is good that Elliott & Co got the money released, but it isn’t so much an issue of a gift card as whether the paypal account was permanently frozen for good reason, or not.

  3. PayPal’s default reaction to almost any anomaly is to freeze the user’s account. They’re supposed to tell you why they did it, but they often don’t, and it might be something as simple as having had a legitimate, legal transaction with someone who has been flagged as a fraudster. Also, unless you have the kind of account used by merchants to collect credit card payments, it can be difficult to get a live human to look into whatever triggered the computer to freeze you out. If the account is permanently limited, this is likely because they believe fraud has occurred.

  4. This kind of problem with businesses confiscating customers’ money without due process sounds like a job for the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau. If Pay Pal has sticky fingers, they need a good regulatory hand washing, or slapping. I’m sure that Pay Pal tries to looks a bit like a bank and a bit like a credit card company, even though their legal department tries to make them look like they’re not subject to any pesky gubbamint regulation.

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