Wednesday, March 24, 2021


 FINALLY... GOOD NEWS for me about PayPal and Panama!

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS

After haranguing, cajoling, and, yes, shaming PayPal (in Panama and the US) about their horrid customer service and seemingly "screw the customer" attitude, I finally was able to get them to link my US bank into their system. It only took two weeks of constantly harassing them without mercy to make it happen.

Here's how that happened... and how it almost didn't.
For new readers, I recently semi-retired to Bocas Del Toro, Panama, on a laid-back Caribbean beach town with a Jamaican vibe. I came here for the Caribbean and for what is considered to be the best ex-pat retirement option in the world for ex-pats everywhere, the world-renowned Pensionado Visa. You can read about that here.
The paperwork for that VISA is enormous and if you decide to come here, you're advised to find a good Panamanian lawyer. If you get that far, I've got a great one I highly recommend.
I expected to go through a long and difficult process for my Pensionado Residency VISA. I did not expect the process to move my PayPal account from the U.S. to Panama to be that difficult.
I couldn't have been more wrong... or frustrated.
First, how difficult would it have been to have a PayPal guide on how to move your account to another country? No such luck. I only discovered I needed to do that when I closed my U.S.-based Phone cell phone service and phone number that I could no longer access my U.S. PayPal account and I could not add my new Panama phone number to my U.S. PayPal account.
The laws applicable to PayPal accounts differ by country, so you can't change your address to a country that is different from the country you used when you opened your account. If you're moving abroad, you'll need to close your existing account and open a new account. You'll also need a verifiable phone number that includes texting in the country where you're opening your new PayPal account, as that's how they verify your phone number when you log in. Others like Google, Amazon, and even my U.S. bank use text or email verification - some even go further than that - to make verification simple while maintaining good security. NOT PayPal... there's only the verified phone number for SMS and texting to get you into your account. This is where the difficulties with PayPal's customer service began and went horribly awry.

First, you cannot call customer service. You have to dive deep into their website to find a way to contact them at all
- their chat/message service is buried 3 links deep in small letters - and it becomes apparent very quickly that they don't really want to talk with you. Instead, their preferred method of helping you is to get you to sign up for their community forums to get the answer you're looking for, apparently from other PayPal customers who know as little as you do about what you're looking for. The chat/messaging is as cumbersome as possible: Small boxes that only display one line of copy at a time that are impossibly difficult to scroll up and down to edit or review. This cannot be by accident.

In addition, no one comes onto chat to say "how can I help you?" Instead, you get a series of programmed response that say things like "we cannot respond at this time," "check our community forums," and my favorite, "due to heavy traffic, we will get back to you soon as we can and we will notify you by message," which was sometimes hours or even days away, but I had to go online again to see if they had messaged me. One of the latter messages said, "we've sent you a code to activate your Bank link that must be activated in 10 minutes." How can PayPal possibly assume that's going to work? The longer this went on the more determined I became to break through this obfuscation.

I kept calling them out on the chat/message until after a week I finally caught up with the agent when we were finally on at the same and insisted that they send the code NOW, as I was online and could respond. I honestly don't know if they're doing this because they really don't want to talk to us or if they're just amazingly incompetent but the result is the same: One more pissed-off customer who will continue to look around until I can find an option other than PayPal.

Meanwhile, finally getting my U.S. Bank verified yesterday on Panama PayPal so that my clients can send me money is huge. Once again, I can now move those payments to my U.S. Bank where I can easily access it from my debit card. All is good in paradise. Now you may well ask, why don't you just open a bank account in Panama? Reportedly, it's much harder to do as a result of new Panama banking regulations put in place after the Panama Papers Scandal from a few years ago.

That's another story, maybe to be addressed in another blog when I eventually do try to open a Panamanian bank account. We only have one in Bocas town. (See 6 Alternatives to Paypal at the bottom)

No comments: