Beware Paypal!

Am I wrong about this? I believe that PayPal has not dealt fairly or correctly with me. I have a personal PayPal account.

I recently ordered a movie through eBay (The Incredibles – great film by the way) and did not receive it. So I followed up with the seller and received an automated response from them. I then contacted PayPal to retrieve my money. Here is a summary of my contact with them and their response.

Reason for Dispute:
Non-Receipt
Buyer’s Comments:
Seller tells me that both PayPal and eBay have questioned their legitimacy as a seller and have frozen their assets to allow purchasers to recoup their money. I include an excerpt from his response here:
To all of my Ebay Customers: As of March 29th PayPal and Ebay have forced me out of business. They saw my successful DVD auctions with 200 sales in 3 days as “suspicious” activity, at which point PayPal froze my access to all of the money you have paid me for your DVDs and other products. Even after 2 days on the phone confirming every piece of information that Paypal asked for… including proof of enough product for all customers that have ordered… Paypal still froze my accounts. They have informed me that they will hold all monies for 180 days (6 months) for you to ask for refunds. Of course, this whole time they will be earning interest on your money. I am seeking legal action against Paypal and Ebay for their actions these past few days and for forcing me out of business even after proving that I am a legitimate dealer and answering every question they have asked. In the mean time, feel free to ask for your money back from PayPal, as they are the ones with your money, not me. I am sorry that you have been caught up in this. I have done my best to protect your interests in this sitution, but you can’t fight big business sometimes. Thanks, J.M.

Date of Complaint:
Apr. 14, 2005
Status:
Case Closed
Status Details:
We have completed our investigation of this case. We attempted to process a refund from the seller’s account to your account. Unfortunately, the seller’s account does not contain the funds necessary to cover this refund. We were able to recover $0.00 USD. We have taken action against the seller and are working to recover the remainder of your refund. We will contact you when we have more information. No further action is required of you at this time.

The amount of money in question is only $10. But I’m rather disappointed to find that I have no protection and no recourse under Paypal’s system. Prior to this I was comfortable and confident that Paypal’s service offered some degree of protection. Below is their buyer protection statement available here (you may need to log into Paypal to see this online).

As I read it PayPal is underwriting the purchasing risk to the tune of up to US$1000. But that is not what they are telling me.

At PayPal, your security is our top priority. PayPal Buyer Protection is offered as a way to make our online trading community even safer and more secure.

With PayPal Buyer Protection, qualified purchases are eligible for up to $1,000.00 USD coverage at no additional cost. Additional coverage may apply for purchases made with PayPal Buyer Credit.
When a buyer files a claim through PayPal Buyer Protection, PayPal works with both the buyer and the seller to gather the details of the transaction. We investigate the facts of the case and make every effort to come to a fair conclusion.

Buyers

* Items Covered by PayPal Buyer Protection
* PayPal Buyer Protection Rules

Sellers

* PayPal Buyer Protection Eligibility
* eBay Listing Requirements
* Tips on Protecting Yourself from Buyer Claims

Buyers

PayPal helps you buy with confidence on eBay. Before filing a claim, we encourage you to work with your seller since most issues can be resolved through direct communication. If you find it necessary to file a claim, your transaction may be covered by either PayPal Buyer Protection or the Buyer Complaint Process.

Transactions Covered by PayPal Buyer Protection

If you paid for an item and never received it or received an item that was significantly not as described, your transaction must meet each of the following requirements to be eligible for PayPal Buyer Protection:

* The PayPal Buyer Protection icon must be displayed in the Seller Information box on eBay
* Your purchase must be a physical item — services and intangible items are not covered
* You must use PayPal to pay for the item and must use the seller’s email address associated with the listing. To make sure of this, use the grey Pay Now button you’ll see when the listing closes on eBay.

PayPal Buyer Protection Rules

* You may only file one claim per PayPal payment
* Claims must be filed within 45 days of the PayPal payment
* You may not file a claim if you are simply disappointed with the item you have received. Items must be significantly not as described or never received.
* You are limited to three PayPal Buyer Protection refunds per calendar year.
o Refunds issued on PayPal Buyer Credit transactions may apply towards this limit. Learn more by reviewing the PayPal Buyer Credit Policy.
* You must be willing to provide information during the investigation process. If we are unable to obtain the necessary information, your case may be cancelled without a refund.

For specific terms and conditions please review the PayPal Buyer Protection Policy in our User Agreement.

Here is the listing on eBay (it should be available for a little while yet). To my mind it meets the requirements outlined above.

Given the amount of money involved I don’t know how far I’ll pursue this – I suspect the PayPal folks rather count on this – but I am certain that I will not be using PayPal for transactions in the future.

I am posting this as a warning to anybody who would think to trust PayPal for any substantial transactions in the future. And if you are interested in the opinions of other disgruntled folks, check out the PayPalSucks.com website. for more stories and problems. They seem like they are a little over the top but they do represent the dark side of what had at one time promised to be a safe way to purchase on eBay.

Oh, and of course you may wish to be cautious of the seller too (madmonkeytech@cox.net). I don’t know who is really at fault here but I do believe you will wish to be cautious dealing with all parties involved.

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on April 30, 2005 at 12:36 am

Podcast – IT Conversations

is a wonderful collection of interviews, conference keynote speeches and various series all under one roof. When you go to subscribe you have the choice of limiting yourself to particular series, conferences or topics of interest.

I have elected to receive "Everything!" in AAC format. My plan was to simply discard anything that was of poor quality or wasn’t of interest to me. I have to say that in the past couple of months of listening, there have only been a tiny handful that just didn’t happen to interest me (usually gaming specific or Mac specific).

The production quality of these podcasts is excellent and members can (and do) vote to indicate which they found most interesting and/or worthwhile. Everything is tied together by Doug Kaye who presents a weekly synopsis of all the most recent additions along with member ratings to help you decide which may be the most worth your valuable investment in podcast-listening time!

As someone who genuinely enjoys attending cons and listening to the keynote and topic presentations I *really* appreciate the offerings at IT Conversations. So much so that I have actually donated to the tip jar that they make available on the web site to hopefully help them continue to provide their offerings with a minimum amount of advertising going forward.

Well worth checking out.

Posted under Podcasting

This post was written by Marc
on April 24, 2005 at 2:25 pm

agp440.sys and dead XP system

I recently had my system apparently die on me and wanted to share the symptoms and the apparent cause in case anybody else comes across this issue.

Symptoms:

  • Tried to reboot my computer (first a warm reboot – restart, then a cold reboot – shutdown, wait, power up again) saw the POST (power on self Test) then saw the initial Windows logo with the little animated “runner marquee” at the bottom. Then this cleared and… nothing. What should have happened next was that my blue XP “Click your username to login” screen should have appeared. I needed to kill power to my PC in order to do anything in both cases.
  • Then resorted to starting up in Safe mode – in XP you don’t even need to fiddle with the F8 key, you are presented with this option if the system detects a failed startup attempt – simplifies things. When starting in safe mode you get to see all of the drivers being listed as they are loaded. And each time I attempted this (I tried a couple of times) the last driver loaded was agp440.sys.

System:
So you know the environment that I am using to know if the solution below is relevant to you:

  • Powerspec 8922 – from Microcenter
  • 2.6 GHz Pentium 4 processor (with HT technology)
  • 1 Gbyte of RAM (upgraded from default 512 Mbytes)
  • 120 Gbyte 7200 rpm ATA/133 Hard Drive
  • ATI (VisionTek) XTASY 9600 graphics card (to drive dual monitor configuration)
  • Belkin USB 2.0 hub
  • Windows XP Home edition – with SP2 applied
  • SanDisk Cruzer Mini USB 1 Gbyte Thumb drive

That’s everything that’s relevant to this issue – of course there is the usually panoply of routers, monitors and other USB devices.

Solution:
I grabbed my wife’s laptop and did some Google searches on agp440.sys and found that this appears to be a red herring. I believe it just happens to be the last of the drivers loaded before services start being initiated.
Several folks did some experiments where they renamed or otherwise disabled the agp440.sys driver and found that the failure then occurred on the next previous driver.

Someone then mentioned that they disconnected their USB mouse and things seemed to work after that for them. Others mentioned that they had to perform chkdsks which found and corrected bad sector info on their hard drives.

Anyway, I had plugged my thumb drive into the computer to check some stuff a while ago and hadn’t bothered to remove it.
I had just shut down the computer and then turned off the power to my USB hub, routers and modem as I wanted to reset them. I did this by powering off my UPS. I suspect this was a harsh shutdown for the thumb drive, even though it was not talking to the computer anymore.
With my computer in safe mode just sitting at the agp440.sys I reached over and just yanked out the thumb drive. *Presto* the computer then continued to boot up in safe mode.

Apparently there was some issue initializing the thumb drive and as long as it was plugged into my usb hub I wasn’t going to be using my computer any time soon.

In safe mode I instructed the system to do a chkdsk /R on my only drive (C:) and then restarted. Cannot get a lock on the primary partition’s NTFS formatted disk after the OS has been set up.

WOW! It takes a long time to chkdsk a 120 MByte drive when about 70 Gbytes are in use… expect this to take a couple of hours at least.

Anyway I let that run overnight and in the morning everything was right as rain.

Later I inspected my thumb drive – hmmm… no problems here. Even did a chkdsk on it (not sure how relevant that is…). But I can only surmise that there was some inconsistency caused by the harsh shut down of the thumb drive.

Hopefully this information can be useful to other people who encounter this issue.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on April 24, 2005 at 10:44 am

Rant – Traffic Lights in Atlanta, GA

OK I have to ask this. Does anybody out there think that their traffic signaling system is actually worse than that which we have here in Atlanta, Georgia?
I cannot believe that there has been any thought at all given to the timing of these lights unless they are to specifically favor the direction of travel of some city council member.

I recognize that there can only ever be a single direction of signal optimization in any area. But I have not been able to discern any pattern beyond “random” around my area. It is the nature of people to find patterns in even the most chaotic systems (hence the popularity of Numerology and other silly past times) but here we have a system so chaotic, so random that I have never met a soul who claims to discern method in this arena.

I visited San Francisco back in 2000 and it was immediately apparent that somebody had put a lot of thought into the traffic signalling system there. Even if the lights were not optimized in the direction that I was going, it was OK with me as I understood that the traffic was as good as it was going to get. Optimizing the busiest direction will naturally decongest every other direction of traffic anyway by preventing gridlock.

Every time any of our traffic signals are altered here in North Atlanta, it is inevitably to make the phases longer (greater duration) in every direction. And this isn’t just my subjective feeling either. Faced with an incredible number of mis-programmed signals on my daily commute I have plenty of time to take out a stopwatch that I now keep in my car for exactly that purpose, and I time the lights to see how long they actually do take. And, after adjustments, I can tell you that they are always set to greater durations than they were before.

I’m not sure who the wa-hoo is who’s driving this philosophy, but when folks sit around wondering why Atlanta drivers are so discourteous, and why they run the red lights so often here, I can give you a partial answer right now. BECAUSE THERE IS NO REWARD FOR OBEYING THE LIGHTS. If you actually do obey the yellow signal – at the risk of being rear-ended – your reward for this is a very long red light and that’s it. There is no knowledge that you’re participating in an organized traffic system, no assurance that you will now be able to proceed unhindered in a well thought out traffic flow. Only the knowledge that you’ve stopped at one randomly set traffic signal and that, at the next signal you will face yet another random chance at stop or go.

If any planners are listening and you actually do put some thought into how these signals are timed and synchronized, I know that I for one would like to know your rationale (assuming there is one) and I’m sure that communicating it to the general public will make great strides toward making drivers feel like they are participating in an organized system rather than the carelessly evolved mess that it appears to be.

This may seem like a trivial concern with so much of import happening around the globe. But I put it to you that it is truly the littlest things that have the greatest impact on us. Who here has not had a great day at work, maybe even garnered an award or some recognition and then hit EVERY-RED-LIGHT-ON-THE-WAY-HOME? Tell me that this seemingly trivial occurrence did not suck the joy out of an otherwise great day and leave you feeling annoyed and disconcerted.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on April 23, 2005 at 3:57 pm

User Names and passwords

This from King:

Are you aware of a program that will handle the following:
I would like a program that will maintain the ‘frequently entered things’
on my PC. Examples, email addresses (since for different reasons, I use
MR/2 for some mail, Evite, Hotmail, Yahoo mail), Idents and passwords to various web sites, and perhaps even favorite web addresses. I would like to be able to invoke this program easily, select the info I want to have entered and have the program past it into where my cursor is sitting.

I would also like to have this program small, and not require ‘installing’, so that it could be put on a floppy disk, or memory card and used at any PC, and when I’m finished with it, be able to shut it down, and remove the media it is stored on, and thus, not have the passwords on the machine at all.

Encryption for the data would be ‘nice’ but for my use, not a requirement.

In response:

For frequently used items I use a little software product called Clipomatic. It does require installation so it may not be what you are looking for. But it provides two facets I find useful – one is a definable buffer for the last x number of entries that you’ve had in your clipboard. The other is a permanent buffer of frequently used items. I keep my email address and my physical address as well as a couple of other things that I’m typing all the time in there.
It’s a little buggy in that once the clipboard buffer fills I find I need to purge it in order to have it continue to store new clipboard items, but if I’m planning to do some complex cutting and pasting, I just purge the cache (easy to do) and I’m off.

There are a couple of products I have seen that will securely store and enter frequently needed stuff for you. If you use IE, Symantec has a PC vault program (included as part of systemworks) that did a passable job. Of course the now famous Gator program used to do that (and steal your info as well!).

Mozilla’s FireFox browser, which I use primarily, has a very good userid/password system that remembers the vast majority of them for me. But I do lock my PC account so that’s what keeps it secure for me.

Finally, I use ewallet software (by Ilium) which encrypts my financial account #’s and web userids and passwords and allows me to access them from my iPaq. It has a desktop companion with which it synchs that is pretty intelligent. You still have to do a copy and paste but you hover over the thing you want to copy and it’s context sensitive (i.e. “copy credit card number”, “copy password”).

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on April 17, 2005 at 10:57 am

Career Opportunities Podcast

Career Opportunities by Douglas E Welch is a 5 minute podcast that offers career advice targeted at folks in the high-tech contracting field. But the topics he covers are easily transportable to anybody in any field. Topics such as procrastination, making mistakes and even firing your client can help you to step back from your own career and maybe regard it with a fresh perspective.

I’ve been listening to Douglas’ podcasts for over 4 months now and always look forward to the bits of advice offered in his verbal column format.

This podcast comes out a couple of times a week, usually one new column and one gleaned from his extensive archive which is available for searching on his website. Or, better yet, if you enjoy his columns, pick up his book "The High-Tech Career Handbook".

Posted under Podcasting

This post was written by Marc
on April 10, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Google Maps and Satellite images

Google has gone and done it again. Check out Google Maps and put in your address and find your home. Now click the "Satellite" link in the upper right-hand corner. My jaw dropped when I zoomed in and could clearly see my house in living color!

And for you Canucks out there, it works for you too. I just tried my old address back in Georgetown, Ontario which was just as clear. Interestingly, my Etobicoke address was modestly visible (read "blurry") at the default zoom so I couldn’t zoom on that. I guess we know where Toronto rates on the ol’ satellite image priority list! 🙂

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on April 5, 2005 at 5:04 pm