Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2008 Issue

Caught in the Fun House: Paying by PayPal

Old telephone books are required reading.


By Bruce McKinney

About a month ago I bid for and won a 1913 Middletown, New York phone book. As I have learned, this being the third early Hudson Valley phone book I've bought in eBay auctions, such directories tell an interesting story about the development of an area. Politics, geography and money are all on display. The footprint of history is often in sand. Phone books provide a permanent record of the transitory nature of change and development. On eBay they typically cost less than $75 and often much less.

In any event I was happy to acquire the item and immediately made payment via PayPal. A week or so later I heard from the sellers, Warren and Marilyn, that they had not received payment. I then checked my PayPal account and saw the ominous note PENDING. I didn't immediately understand why it was pending but later noticed in a further email from W & M that their email address was different by ONE letter from the email address specified in their eBay auction. Warren and Marilyn then asked that I cancel the payment and I did. I then incorrectly assumed that during the next three days the seller's email would be corrected or at least the record altered so payment could go through on the next try. Again the payment went to PENDING.

I then contacted PayPal using their dispute resolution software. I could not however find any category of problem that seemed to fit my situation. I could dispute and complain but I didn't see anything that looked helpful such as "Provide help completing Payment to a defective email address." In time I found a way to register a claim and get a one hour telephone opportunity to call PayPal customer service. I did.

The PayPal rep was very helpful especially after I explained, "I'm trying to pay a seller." This is apparently not what they deal with most of the time. The representative looked at my account and saw the second PENDING payment. I had already tried to cancel it and the rep explained I couldn't until my commitment to pay the seller expired. And how long will that take? "About a month." "But will the payment to the defective address ultimately go away?" "Yes." Then, I said, "let's make a direct transfer to them at their correct email address." Then, while I was on the phone, the representative told me what to do. I typed in their correct address and the correct amount and then innocently marked "payment for eBay item." I then submitted and confirmed. Done! As a last step I sent an email to Marilyn to confirm payment.

Three days later I heard from Marilyn that they did not receive payment after all. Well, I knew the email address and amount were correct and so tried to reach eBay customer service again. My access code, issued 4 days earlier, was for one hour and it's 96 hours later. "Houston, you have a problem." Rather than try to remember how I was able to get an PayPal phone access this time I simply Googled PayPal customer service. This brought up an extensive selection of numbers, some provided by unhappy eBayers. Previously I was provided a 408 number. Now I have an 800. This is progress.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions