She never receives her Macklemore concert ticket. Why can’t PayPal help her?

These aren't the concert tickets she ordered.

When Heather Murphy Secrist never receives the Macklemore concert ticket she orders online, she turns to PayPal for help. Why won’t it respond?

Question

I recently paid $60 for a ticket to a Macklemore concert online from a woman named Emily whom I met online. I used PayPal to make the purchase. Emily promised me a floor ticket but instead offered an arena ticket. When she tried to transfer the ticket through TicketMaster, I refused it.

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The seller told me she would refund the $60. But when I called PayPal that night, they had no record of her attempting to refund the money. She stopped responding to my emails and never refunded my money.

I disputed the transaction through PayPal, invoking its buyer protection. PayPal denied my claim. I also left messages for the PayPal executives. Not one person answered, and not one person ever returned a voicemail that I left. That is why I am contacting you. Can you help? — Heather Murphy Secrist, Shoreline, Wash.

Answer

Buying a concert ticket from someone you just met online is like shopping at a thrift shop — you never know what you’re going to get. You were smart to use a payment system that promised to protect you, but unfortunately, PayPal didn’t come through.

Let’s have a look at PayPal’s “protection.” It promises that if you don’t receive the item that you ordered, or it shows up if it significantly differs from its description, you “may qualify” for protection under its program. Ah, there’s the first sign of trouble. The weasel-word “may.”

PayPal cites one example that comes closest to your situation: A purchaser buys a book, but receives a DVD. The actual item would have to be significantly different from the one you ordered to invoke the guarantee. You were offered a Macklemore concert ticket, just not the exact one Emily promised.

This is two cautionary tales rolled into one. First, it’s about buying from a questionable source. For all I know, Emily is a wonderful person; but at best, she doesn’t pay attention to details. At worst, she tried to steal $60 from you. You deserved the ticket she offered at the price you agreed on.

It’s also a commentary on the value of PayPal’s protection. Pay close attention to “guarantees” offered by big companies. They may not cover you if you get into trouble.

PayPal should have helped you. Did it have to? Under its protection program, perhaps not. But it was the right thing.

I list the executive contacts for PayPal and executive contacts for TicketMaster on my consumer advocacy site. You left voicemails for them, but you might have also written them. I notice you kept excellent records of your transaction, including screenshots and emails. Well done! A clear paper trail is the fastest way to a successful resolution.

After you contacted me, you reached out to the company again, this time in writing. I also contacted Emily on your behalf. You received a full refund.

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