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Paypal Apologizes for Shutting Down Campaign for Needy Kids

Earlier today, Herman Cain taught us a lesson about using words carefully. Now Paypal is teaching us to use our rules carefully.

Regretsy.com, a site that pokes fun at ridiculous things they find on Etsy, decided to be nice and try to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for needy kids. We don’t fully understand what happened — it looks like they broke a rule about using something reserved for nonprofits — but Paypal tried to shut down the effort.

Rule number one for avoiding bad press and being a good citizen of the world: Do not interfere negatively with any effort to help needy children.

According to the Regretsy post on the incident, a customer service rep was unbending in his/her interpretation of the nonprofit rules when Regretsy’s April Winchell called to try and sort out the problem.

Yes companies. Customers understand that there are rules. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that many customers try their darnedest to adhere to them. Because who wants trouble? But every once in a while something happens that requires a human touch and a little understanding. Citi’s SVP of social Frank Eliason addressed this very thing at the Brands Conference last month.

“Businesses want to turn everything into a process, but that’s not how customers think. They just want their problems to be solved,” he said.

Many times when you hear tales like this (here’s another example , but there are many) a customer service rep who is just trying to do their job is the cause of the trouble. Companies need to do a better job of letting their workers know, particularly those who have direct contact with the public, that they should use their good judgment and common sense when an issue like this comes up.

Winchell writes a snarky blog and came to Paypal with an issue about an account that, during the holidays, is helping the poor. Who wouldn’t want to painlessly solve this issue? Someone who’s been told that they could lose their job if they don’t enforce the rules. Then what? The issue gets picked up by the media, onlookers are giving Paypal hell across the Internet, and then Paypal, via director of comms Anuj Nayar, has to issue an apology and make a donation to reaffirm the company’s interest in helping people.

Nayar says there are laws that have to be followed. OK, but surely, there was a better way to handle this. Let your reps know what that is.

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