Update on September 12: Proof there is hope for PayPal: Here’s an email saying it won’t hold funds for some users

It began in May with a frustrated customer, Andy McMillan, discovering his PayPal had been locked. Nothing new. Frustrating, but usually remediable with a phone call or a couple of emails.

Over the course of several months however, McMillan, organiser of the popular Build Conference, attempted to work with PayPal to remove limitation after limitation on his now two PayPal accounts (PayPal requested he create another). Full details of the hoops and hurdles McMillan had to jump through can be found here.

The final straw came after waiting months for PayPal’s Executive Escalations department to respond. PayPal had now shut down one of his two accounts, with funds still being held; between both accounts PayPal held onto over £40,000 ($64,000).

PayPal eventually promised him an answer within a week, McMillan waited, but still no response.

After countless emails and phone calls, in desperation, McMillan pleaded on Twitter and lo and behold, @askpaypal responded. A representative named Olivia did all she could to help but the day after, McMillan received a phone call from PayPal to say they would not be releasing any funds to him, and that they considered the matter closed.

But today, out of the blue, PayPal’s newly appointment President, David Marcus, emailed McMillan directly to say:

Screen Shot 2012 09 08 at 12.10.42 520x340 This letter from PayPals President might just make you believe in the company again

It’s a remarkable turnaround for McMillan and perhaps the company too.

The cynic in me is screaming PR stunt. Marcus saw an opportunity to earn some positive press and praise from the web/tech community, a community who are are particularly vocal about their frustrations with the company. With competitors Square and Stripe hot on its tail, PayPal needs all the positive press it can get and a new company leader injecting himself personally into cases like this makes a great story.

The optimist in me however likes to think Marcus truly believes that PayPal earning positive press is of less importance than a relieved customer and the opportunity to truly improve the mechanics and policies of the company. And that’s why Marcus emailed McMillan.

Are you the cynic or the optimist here? Is this the beginning of a new era for PayPal? Or is PayPal’s PR & marketing team working overtime? Me writing this story should tell you how I feel.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first story this week where Marcus has decided to personally involve himself. The previous story similarly involved a furious customer who was left with inaccessible funds due to an account restriction.  Marcus responded to the case personally on Hacker News and said the following:

Hey, everyone — I’m David Marcus, and I’ve been running PayPal for the past 5 months. Hard for me not to comment on this thread. PayPal brought a lot of goodness to millions of merchants, and hundreds of millions of users around the world. But yes… as the company grew exponentially we were met with growing pains. And developers, merchants, and consumers sometimes had to pay the price for it. I still want to stress that when you manage money at such a scale, you always attract bad people with wrong intentions. Our intention has always been to protect our customers. Not to mess around with our merchants.

I want to share two things with all of you:

#1 — there’s a massive culture change happening at PayPal right now. If we suck at something, we now face it, and we do something about it.

#2 — you have my commitment to make this company GREAT again. We’re reinventing how we work, our products, our platforms, our APIs, and our policies. This WILL change, and we won’t rest until you all see it. The first installments are due very soon. So stay tuned…

Time will tell I suppose.

Update on September 12: Proof there is hope for PayPal: Here’s an email saying it won’t hold funds for some users

Image Credit / ATD | Source: Hacker News