We've been using PayPal for ffconf since 2009. The first year it took the full 6 months of sale to sell ~200 tickets. In 2010 it took 3 months to sell 283 tickets. 2011, 4 days - and that was the first of the trouble. 2012 to 2015, it's taken under 10 minutes.

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The first trouble

The troubles that PayPal had with effectively killing conferences was well documented.

PayPal had "limited" our funds the first year (2011). There was an "unexpected spike" in our transactions which caused a red flag. Fair enough. The funds were locked until the event was over in November 2011 (IIRC we'd moved most of the funds out quickly and they were only holding around £6,000) - but it's important to note that Julie and I have always bank-rolled the year's event with the previous year's profits.

Specifically, we know that the event covers our costs (both expenses like the venue, and our operating costs). So we can afford to pay the venue ahead of time without the funds from the tickets.

A hero in the midst

In 2013 it happened again, and somehow Bill Scott got wind of our troubles and explained that he was carrying the message back to the very top dogs (at the time a new CEO was in place and working hard to change PayPal's reputation).

He did an amazing job. Something had shifted in PayPal and they (the company) appeared to understand recurring events and how transactions would work.

2014's tickets sold and there wasn't a peep from PayPal at all. It seems like it was all good.

But...

2015 and 1 month after selling out

We released tickets for ffconf 2015 a month ago. We sold out in (two batched totalling) 7 minutes.

As usual, I removed some funds from PayPal, and left around £15,000 for any refunds and anticipation of any queries from PayPal (old habits and all).

And here's when it goes all wrong...

This account is so there's something written about how it's going wrong, because I'm having a lot of trouble getting information into PayPal directly.

Going wrong

The timeline:

  • I get a phone call (good) at 10am - but no information, just that "John" is calling from PayPal to speak to me, and that they'll email.
  • I get an email, asking for the following from me:

Your account has recently been reviewed by our merchant team due to the following:

  • Increase in volumes processed

We tried to call you on 10/08/2015, but we couldn't reach you. To allow time to review this in more detail, we've temporarily limited what you can do with your account until you submit the information you need to provide and take the actions listed.

Check that you've answered all questions and provided all information we ask for to restore your account as soon as possible.

  • When is the event taking place?
  • What kind of service do you provide? (accommodation, registration, tours, etc)
  • Is the event organised by you or you are acting as intermediary between the buyers and the event organiser? (if so, please provide us with the contract with the event organiser).
  • How many tickets are being sold? How many tickets are you planning to sell via PayPal?
  • What is the average ticket cost?
  • Have you previously hosted events? (if yes, how many years have you hosted these events?)
  • Are the proceeds from Ticket Sales required as capital to run the event?
  • If so, can you provide an Event expense List and projected payment dates for each expense? Specifically, details on the expenses that need to be made in advance of the event.
  • Do you have a venue booked for the event? Need confirmation for the venue booking? Confirm capacity of the venue?
  • Do you have insurance in case of event being cancelled? Can they provide details of that insurance? (PayPal may be added as beneficiary to this insurance as a partial mitigant).
  • Expected Total Payment Volume to receive via PayPal? Is PayPal the only processor of this event? If no, what is the % processed through PayPal.
  • How often are you expecting to conduct these events?
  • What is the cancellation policy for this event?

Once we receive the information, we aim to complete our review and respond to you within 72 hours.

  • I reply, mostly to say I've given this information before, but include some other points...
  • The email bounces back... deep breath
  • I visit PayPal.com - it doesn't say how much my account is limited by, just that I need to "resolve" the "check your email for more information"
  • I try to upload the text email I replied with...
  • "Send files" won't disable, I notice that I can only send PDF, PNG or JPG...
  • I print my email reply to a PDF, then upload that...

Now I just wait. God knows how they'll get in touch, or whether they will again. I've provided all the information about our transactions in previous years, and what annoys me the most is that the spike in our transactions is consistent with previous years.

Honestly, I don't really care what they do. I'm expecting the funds to be held until after the event has finished (or 2 months after...which is just as annoying), after which I'll be expected to somehow prove that people didn't want a refund post event.

So, yeah, I thought PayPal was better... Filing under "Funsies".

Updated 2015-08-11: the account limit has been removed. I'm not 100% sure why, since the only information I provided was a slightly ranty email. It's quite possibly this blog post that helped, or not. I'm not entirely sure!.

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