Don’t Use PayPal: An Inexpensive Lesson | Vol. 3 / No. 42.5

This week’s #FeministFriday post is postponed until tomorrow, because talking about Feminism and the Rio Olympics is not a small subject. Instead, please take this: a rant about PayPal.


I had the lovely experience of having a story published recently. It’s called “Hello, World,” and it’s in a publication called The Colored Lens. You can buy a digital copy for $3.00 over at Amazon if you like, or, if you’ve got Kindle’s subscription service you can have it for free. Three cheers for shameless self-promotion. Anyway.

I was paid for my writing. (I know!) It was a nominal fee, twenty bucks, because it’s a publication that sells for $3.00, but I didn’t mind. I still don’t. What I mind is that I agreed to be paid through PayPal.

That will not happen again.

What’s the cheapest way to pay someone $20 from a distance in America? Well, you could use Venmo, which for cash seems to be free. You could use Circle, too. You could even use Bitcoin, which is free once you have bitcoins, but it could cost you a small fee to buy them, “because currency exchange.” Hell, you could buy a $0.47 stamp and mail a cheque, which at 2.35% of that twenty bucks would still be cheaper.

Paypal charged me eighty-eight cents. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but then, if you’re looking at it proportionally, that’s 4.4%.

“But surely it’s faster than mailing a check,” you might say. But indeed you would be wrong. If you send me a check in the mail, it’ll get to me in two to three days. Three days is precisely how long Paypal held my twenty dollars. Now it’s nineteen dollars and twelve cents. And there’s still however long they say it’ll take to get to my bank. It’s been four days so far, and I still don’t have my money.

And you know what? I can’t actually find any money handling service that takes a 4.4% cut of your profits, just for the privilege of taking someone else’s money and giving it to you. Except maybe Western Union, and frankly I think of them the way I think of “Payday Loan” companies. I don’t think Visa even charges that much.

So, Paypal, mea culpa. This emptor did not caveat, and that’s on me. But I’ve learned a lesson today. That lesson is that nobody should ever use PayPal, under any circumstances. I can certainly promise it’ll never happen again on my end. And you can be sure I’m going to tell everyone and their friends never to use your service if there’s ever any other option. I’m actually so twigged about it, I’m probably going to do really inconvenient things in the future to go out of my way not to use your “service.”

I suppose I should be grateful that it only cost me eighty-eight cents to learn that lesson.

I wonder how much it’ll cost you to keep teaching it.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.