Paypal has been terribly broken for 10 days and no one's talking about it.

Everyone's heard Paypal horror stories, but those are typically related to individual accounts, e.g. fraud, random holds on money, terrible customer service, etc. From over 6 years of both personal use, and professional use on Clicky, I've only had positive experiences, so I've stuck with them because of how easy it is to implement on any site.

But now, for the past 10 days, Paypal has had a MAJOR bug affecting ALL ACCOUNTS, and I can't find any major stories about it. Well, this story needs to be told, so here we are. We have already lost thousands of dollars already and we are NOT HAPPY.

So what is this horrible bug? New Paypal customers cannot pay another person or company through Paypal unless they are both located in the same country. This started on May 15 and is still not fixed. Being that 2/3 of our users and money comes from overseas, this is a serious problem. Paypal did not even acknowledge it until May 22, seven days after the issue started. Of course, that acknowledgement isn't on Paypal's actual web site, but just their developer site that probably 0.01% of their customers go to on a regular basis. Helpful!

The problem is a simple drop down box. When a customer enters their billing information into Paypal to pay someone else, the first thing they do is select their country from the drop down. But, the problem is that no matter what country they choose, the page will refresh and automatically switch back to the country of the merchant, which in our case would be "United States". As previously mentioned, a majority of our customers live outside the US, and a lot of them are signing up for a new Paypal account just to pay for Clicky. This happens for both subscription signups and invoices, which means we currently have NO WAY to directly bill any of our customers who don't already use Paypal.

As a web developer, I know how easy this problem is to fix. It's a drop down box. This problem could be fixed in a matter of minutes, so why has it taken them 10+ days? How many millions of dollars has this bug cost all of Paypal's customers? I would be so ashamed of myself if I was the one responsible for this bug, that I would quit immediately and go apply for a job flipping burgers, because that would be more my skill level.

It's absolutely unbelievable for a company of this size, that so many internet businesses rely on to collect money from their customers, has had a problem of this magnitude for 10 days and counting.

Un. Flipping. Believable.

Update

So happy this is getting some attention! I submitted it to a number of sites, and both Center Networks and TechCrunch decided it was newsworthy. Valleywag also responded and said they would be writing about it. Hopefully this will prioritize the bug at Paypal. Day 11 now. Unbelievable.

Update 2

A genius user over in the tech crunch comments has posted a workaround for this issue. What it boils down to is using a geolocation product (such as the one we use from maxmind.com) to look up the user's country before sending them to paypal. Then you include "&country=XX" on the end of the paypal URL, where XX is the 2 letter country code (US, DE, FR, ES, etc). Then when the customer goes to pay, the country you sent in will be the default country! Of course, there's no way to 100% guarantee that the country lookup is correct, but most geolocation products are over 99% accurate on the country level, and I'd wager that a 99% chance of selecting the right country is much higher than the chance of both you and your customer living in the same country (which would be ~33% probability for us).

Of course, I'm still EXTREMELY mad at Paypal over all this BS, and we will be dropping them the first chance we get.

Update 3

Day 12 and still no fix. The posted workaround above is working well for us, thankfully, we have successfully taken in money from quite a few overseas accounts now. Thanks, random TC commenter! I owe you a beer.

This has now made it to the front pages of news.ycombinator and reddit. Thanks to everyonw who has been submitting this around the web. I was never expecting this much attention.

Also seeing lots of comments on other sites about how I'm stupid because I don't know what it's like to work on a project as big as Paypal. It is true I have not worked on any projects as big as Paypal that have long deployment times, but that doesn't make this an acceptable excuse. Any company that has long deployment times also needs to have emergency rollout provisions. What if they made an update that brought down the ENTIRE Paypal payment system, for every type of payment, for ALL users. Suddenly ALL eBay users can't pay for their auctions. You're telling me that it would be perfectly fine and dandy for it to be on day 12 now without a fix, and oh they just have lots of servers and it takes a while to change stuff, so hey whats the big deal? Yeah. Ok. Sure thing guys.

Update 4

Thanks to Clicky being so awesome, at least I know people from eBay have been watching. Check out this screenshot of all the visitors to our blog today who are from the eBay IP pool. I assume Paypal is probably part of that, not sure if they share offices or not...

By the way, the problem is still not fixed. And over 25,000 people have read this article now over the past 2 days.

Update 5

Day 13 and still broken.

Update 6

Day 14, issue seems to be resolved now, I am able to choose a country when I pretend like I'm creating a new account.

Two weeks to fix this.
64 comments |   May 25 2008 1:29pm





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