Bad News GuyI have to start this with a confession that I screwed up and lost my WePay account.

I lost my WePay account for something that was totally my mistake. I have no complaints about that, I screwed up and missed the clause in their ToS that says you can’t use it for digital goods. This needs to be stressed: this was no one’s fault but my own. You can think it’s a stupid clause as much as you want, but it’s theirs, and I agreed to it and broke it. On accident. But ignorance of the law is no excuse. I know this, I support this. I have no quarrel with this.

My issue is how I found out, and what WePay did about it when I had questions.

How did I find out I was in violation? I got this email:

It seems you’re using WePay for one or more of the activities prohibited by our Terms of Service. Unfortunately, you can’t use WePay to accept additional payments. Any pending payments will be canceled and you won’t be able to withdraw funds at this time.

More specifically:

We are unable to process payments for digital goods including ebooks.

Thank you for understanding and we apologize that we couldn’t offer a better solution.

It’s a nice email, all told, but it doesn’t explain things. Like … if pending payments are canceled, do they get refunded? What about completed payments? Do those get refunded or do I get my money? At first, I had about $70 stuck in some weird degree of transaction hell. Now it’s down to under $20 and I’m still struggling to get a good answer as to where that money goes. Will I get it back? Will my customer get it back?

I logged into WePay and everything looked … normal. I checked my payment pages, as myself, and they were active. Logically I thought they had disabled my payment API and would be refunding money, but I could find no information on that on my pages. Then my friend Kat pinged me to tell me my Donation Page for ebooks was down. THAT is how I found out my account was actually disabled.

I emailed them and right away and was direct that I knew, understood, and accepted, that I was at fault, but I asked if they meant by “Unfortunately, you can’t use WePay to accept additional payments.” Forever? Everything? It was over and done with? I felt that was pretty nice, all told. I understood that it was my bad, but I wasn’t clear on what they meant by the wording and asked for clarification.

They replied with that yes, this account was good and done and gone forever more. I could no longer use it though paradoxically when I was logged in, there was no obvious mention of this. The only way, logged in, to tell I was persona non grata was to try and withdraw my money. Then it said to contact customer service. But my support guy said all was not lost, I could make a new account, and as long as that didn’t break the rules, I would be allowed to stay, “Your current account though, can not be utilized unfortunately.”

It was a strange way to tell me “Your account has been suspended.”

Stack of Uruguay BillsBut okay, that’s fine. I accepted this and replied asking if my customers, the couple who were in some various state of pending (I think it was a total of $19.50) would get their money back. And this is where my tale went from ‘Stupid me’ and right into ‘What the hell is wrong with WePay?’

The initial email I got was at 4:12pm. I didn’t see it until nearly 8pm but I replied right away when I figured out what it meant. I did not know, at that time, that they only did support from 6am to 6pm Pacific, but since I got a reply within 30 minutes, I assumed, like you would, that they had 24/7 support. The second email, my question about the refunds, was sent at about 9pm, and there was no reply by 11pm. As anxious as I was, I went to bed.

In the morning, there was still no email, so I sent another asking for an update, and repeating the question, at about 6:30am. After two more hours, I thought something was up. Normally you get a reply telling you there’s a ticket. Instead I got asked to ‘rate’ my ticket; it had been closed. Instead of replying via email, I logged into their system and marked the ticket as unsatisfactory, with a now angry rant that I was trying to get an answer. Then I forcibly reopened the ticket and put in BOTH my emails asking for the same information.

All I wanted to know was if the people who paid me, and whose money WePay put a hold on the payments, get THEIR money back?

I know I screwed up. But that money, if it’s not mine, is theirs and not WePays.

It took six more hours for someone to reply to that question. I poked their Twitter account about it, and was told that my 11pm email was outside support hours. I asked (via Twitter) for someone to look at my ticket please, and got no more replies from them. At this point I put my effort into getting Stripe up and running, making my own donation page, and figuring out how PayPal handles invoices again.

At this point in the game, I was no longer annoyed and understanding, but pissed off and vocal.

I probably sound angry, and I am. I’m angry at myself for not reading the ToS. I’m angry that WePay actually has a ‘no digital goods’ rule for a online payment service in 2014. I’m angry that I didn’t get a warning and a chance to correct myself. I’m angry that their UI made it so I couldn’t see I was actually suspended. I’m angry that their support system which said ‘reply to this email to reopen the ticket’ decided to turf my mails instead, with no notice.

I’d been with WePay for over four years. I really liked them because they were everything PayPal was not! You can customize a donation page with a pretty URL, or send a custom invoice that looked personable. And back four years ago, I didn’t have to fight to get answers, I got a freakin’ phone call asking me if everything was okay. Yes, I remember that call and said “Well DAMN, this is great!” That was customer service worth lauding, and why for so long I’ve told people to use WePay.

This experience was not WePay. I told them “It’s like finding out your favorite actor is a racist.”

Customer service will make and break you. Customer perception is a huge part of that. WePay went from a service I adored to one that I outright dislike now. And no, I’m not mad at them about shutting my account, I’m mad at them for how they handled it. How they talked to me, how they dealt with my questions, and how I waited almost 6 hours for a reply during business hours, but got them quickly outside them. The money has being refunded to my customers, and I have personally apologized to them for my mistake. I’ll miss you WePay, and I wish you could be less stupid about digital goods. I hope you change your mind one day, but even then I won’t be back. My accounts are deleted, we are no more.

The coda to all this is that on January 16th, WePay announced they were shutting down everything except their API. No more buttons, no more donation pages, no more crowdfunding, no more store. Just an API, like Stripe, only you can’t sell electronic goods, making it officially the least useful of all the online API stores out there. Way to take a great product and kill it.

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