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PayPal instructs buyer to destroy valuable violin

How a potential flaw in PayPal's claims process led to the destuction of a WWII-vintage $2,500 violin, among other valuable commodities.  


Lauren Rae Orsini


Posted on Jan 4, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 11:09 pm CDT

First PayPal denied children presents because they weren’t sick cats. Now the eBay subsidiary has instructed a customer to destroy a valuable violin, rather than returning the item to its “heartbroken” owner.

When Etsy spoof site Regretsy publicized its second PayPal fail in less than a month, many readers were already well acquainted with the payment service’s customer-damning loopholes. After PayPal confiscated Regretsy readers’ donations to needy children, an Internet-wide boycott convinced the service to return the money and offer a donation of its own.

However, PayPal’s goodwill has quickly run out in light of this new debacle. Erica, a Regretsy reader who sells violins over PayPal, wrote to Regretsy in hopes that author, Helen Killer aka April Winchell, would publish her plight. Winchell shared Erica’s unfortunate story late yesterday.

According to the post, Erica sold a violin, but the buyer disputed the label. Erica, who had the violin examined and authenticated by a luthier before the sale, could authoritatively speak on the instrument’s authenticity.

PayPal, however, decided the instrument was a counterfeit, even though Erica protested “there is no such thing in the violin world.”

In order to get a refund, PayPal’s terms of service required the buyer to destroy the violin and provide proof. Erica posted the following in response:

“I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.”

Regretsy commenter Mr Pete found the exact line in which PayPal asserts this requirement:

“For SNAD [Significantly Not As Described] Claims… PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction.”

It appears that PayPal delivers this instruction to dissatisfied buyers more often than is publicized. That same commenter, Mr Pete, found a forum thread about a distraught eBay seller whose $20,000 handbag was destroyed so the buyer could get a refund.

Could another boycott be in the works? Based on the 421 comments (and counting) on Regretsy’s post, it looks like this incident is warming up readers’ old outrage.

“As usual, PayPal once again super-fucks things up. Destroy an antique which they know NOTHING about? What an absolute waste. And how horrible,” commented hippiejo74.

Photo by Regretsy

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*First Published: Jan 4, 2012, 1:14 pm CST