Help, I can’t use my eBay gift card!

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By Christopher Elliott

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.

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.

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But that doesn’t matter. PayPal still can’t help itself to the rest of your money. It’s just not right. (Related: Help! eBay accepted my return but never sent a refund.)

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. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

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.

My advocacy team and 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.

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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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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