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PayPal Blocks Hurricane Relief Funds

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It's no secret that the widespread destruction of Hurricane Katrina was exacerbated by delayed relief efforts, but the latest victims of bureaucracy are those individuals simply trying to help out. Humor site Something Awful raised almost $28,000 in less than 9 hours - right up until PayPal froze the funds.

Something Awful's dedicated community may call themselves "goons," but they have historically been quick to respond when needed. The site previously raised $22,000 to fund armor plating for soldiers in Iraq. And the disaster unfolding in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf coast was no exception.

With its main Web servers located in downtown New Orleans and offline due to flooding, Something Awful founder Rich Kyanka asked visitors to donate to the Red Cross from a temporary page explaining the situation.

"Some people are emailing me, asking if they can donate to SA to help with our server move and downtime and temporary hosting and stuff. Don't worry about us, we'll be fine," Kyanka wrote. "If you really want to make a difference, donate to the SA Red Cross Relief Fund link above. They need it more than we do."

Unable to take credit card payments directly due to his site being down, Kyanka set up a PayPal account specifically to handle the effort. Donations poured in at a rate of almost $3,900 per hour - an astounding number from any perspective.

That is, until PayPal shut down Something Awful's donation account late Saturday evening. Because PayPal's customer support was closed for the night, Kyanka was unable to discover why $27,695.41 in Red Cross relief funds were locked. PayPal's automated system explained that it had received "more than one report of suspicious behavior from your buyers."

In the interim, Something Awful directed visitors to donate directly to the Red Cross. Kyanka said he originally setup Something Awful's own fund so he could send free merchandise such as hats and t-shirts to those who donated.

Explaining the situation on Something Awful's temporary Web site, Kyanka exploded: "It's not me you're hurting; it's the thousands of goddamn people with no homes, no money, and no hope fleeing a burning, flooded wasteland they used to call "home." I wasn't going to take a single cent of the donations, unlike PayPal, who decides that when people send money to help victims survive a national disaster, their company should still make over 2.35% of everything sent in."

Kyanka reached a PayPal customer support agent Sunday morning and was asked to fax in a driver's license, bank records, credit card records, and a written request to unlock the account. He was told it generally takes 3 to 5 business days to process the documents.

Another PayPal representative called Kyanka Sunday afternoon, offering to help resolve the problem. However, she also delivered some bad news: PayPal was unable to directly donate to the Red Cross. Due to prior agreements, the United Way is PayPal's relief organization of choice.

After initially agreeing to the charity swap, members of the Something Awful community questioned the United Way's record. And with no word of when the donations would be freed, Kyanka contacted PayPal and "asked them to refund everybody's money."

"All I tried to do was raise money and personally reward people for donating in a time of need, and it turned into a smoldering, twisted, burning car wreck along the highway. I'm beyond apologetic this did not work out the way I planned, but the pure hassle PayPal has given me trying to raise money just isn't worth it, especially when it could take over a week for the money to be unfrozen," Kyanka wrote in a final update.

"Please donate using the Red Cross link up top. I can't send you guys any free stuff, but I promise I'll sit here in my basement with the lights off, drinking a beer by myself and thinking of you."


This type of bullshit just makes me sick. :angry: I understand there are procedures etc to follow, but surely we should be able to cut the red tape for certain circumstances <_<

Edited by Kitty

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hmm, i had a quick read through the page on www.somethingawful.com, and i have to say i am really disgusted at paypal's behaviour. If you can't be professional, don't play in the big leagues

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i better get my money back from those paypal fags :/

Well to do that you need to file a claim against www.somethingawful.com ......so therefore you'de be putting them in even deeper sheet.

The best thing about PayPal is their customer protection but this time they kind of red-taped it to death.They look like idiots now :rolleyes:

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i shouldnt have to file a claim against sa, lowtax already told paypal to return all the money that was deposited in that account, it all depends on whether anyone at gaypal actually does anything other than take peoples money.

in general somethingawful hates dealing with paypal, precisely because of this type of bullshit. registering on their site costs $10, and they have their own credit card processing system for that. the only reason that they ended up using paypal for the donations is because at the moment their servers are underwater in new orleans, and because they wanted to give sa merchandise to people who donated, so they'd need a shipping address.

so lowtax registers a paypal account, clearly marked 'donations' (and gaypal specifically has an option to create an account for donations), and tells the goons that anyone who donates more than $10 will receive some free merchandise at his own cost (this is in addition to the $3000 that he personally donated).

now its common knowledge that there are lots of people on the net who dont care much for sa. so some of these homos sent in complaints to gaypal about the donation account, and of course as soon as they receive a few complaints, their system automatically locks the account, instead of emailing someone to take a look at it.

so anyways, the account gets locked out automatically, but getting it unlocked is an exercise in frustration. and eventually, lowtax says 'man just take the money and transfer it to the red cross yourself' and paypal says 'we cant do that we can only send donations to united way' so he tells them to go ahead and send it there instead, because he just wants to get the money to the relief workers.

until some people pointed out that united gay isnt exactly the best people to give money to. so he called gaypal again and told them to just return everyone's money to them.

so hopefully i get mine back. this should be interesting... south african accounts cannot hold a balance, and cannot receive funds ordinarily, so they'd have to deposit it directly back into my credit card. altho, from the sounds of it, its gonna take them 6 months to get off their bloated asses and actually do some work.

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