PayPal Error Stymies One Laptop Per Child Shipments

Tired of repeatedly hearing that his One Laptop Per Child was on the way, PC World’s Harry McCracken called OLPC and was surprised to discover that the charity didn’t have his mailing address on file. Apparently, PayPal passed McCracken’s payment to OLPC without providing his address.

On January 17th, my colleague Matthew Newton poked his head into my office. He’d also donated, and was also impatiently waiting for his XO. He told me that he’d just spent an hour on the phone with OLPC customer service, and had been told that they didn’t have his shipping address, as a result of some glitch relating to the fact he’d paid via PayPal.

I too had paid with PayPal…but I didn’t have an hour to spare. So I checked the “Track Your Order” link and entered my e-mail address and tracking number. That sent me to a page saying I’d probably received my XO, with…confusingly…a link to a page that it said would let me track my order. I clicked on that link, and got a page not found error.

Today, I happened to be in the office early, so I called OLPC support and turned on my speakerphone. Thirty-five minutes later, the call rang through to a rep. Who told me that they didn’t have a mailing address for me. (Like Matthew, I paid via PayPal.)

I gave him the address and asked when I might expect the laptop. He told me that OLPC doesn’t tell them when machines are going out…but that I might have good news in February. I’ll believe it when I see it.

This snafu has two parents. PayPal’s mistake is surprising since they proudly boast of their ability to confirm an address for most credit card payments. Still, where was OLPC’s customer support? Why would OLPC send out emails reassuring donors that their little bundles of charity were on the way, instead of contacting Give One Get One participants who didn’t have a listed mailing address? Maybe they’ll get around to that in February.

Where the Heck is my OLPC XO Laptop? [PC World]
(Photo: fumi)


Edit Your Comment

  1. nequam says:

    The program required you to pay with PayPal so, unfortunately, we donators/buyers all were at their mercy. I was a first day participant (and, in fact, placed my order within minutes of the 6 AM start time). Nevertheless, my laptop didn’t arrive until Christmas Eve, while I read online that other (later) purchasers had received theirs at least a week earlier. (We had been assured by OLPC that we had top priority for our first-day purchases.) I’m not sure what the problem was that slowed my shipment, but I wonder if the address problem is related mostly to people who had to sign up for PayPal (because they did not already have an account) in order to place their orders.

  2. zimzombie says:

    Are you serious? His name is Harry McCracken?

  3. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    After reading the comments in the story, it seems to be a problem with logistics. I guess the OLPC folks didn’t plan out the ordering/fulfillment process to well. It might have made more sense to partner up with a major online retailer like Amazon to handle that stuff, and let the OLPC folks handle customer service exclusively. Well, let’s hope they figure things out soon.

  4. girly says:

    So what was preventing OLPC from contacting paypal for the information when they saw they were receiving orders with no address?

  5. Eilonwynn says:

    Paypal regularly “neglects” to tell us via email of payments and addresses. It’s annoying, complaints have done nothing but “we’ll send a note down to that department”, and our customers threaten to stop buying if we stop using paypal. This is far from unusual (though it is frustrating), and I’m at a loss at this point other than to say PHONE paypal – you can sometimes get a better response that way.

  6. scoobydoo says:

    OLPC should have never relied on Paypal to handle the entire order process. People should have given OLPC the shipping address and just let Paypal handle the payment portion only.

  7. nardo218 says:

    What the hell are the green antenna things sticking up off the top of the screen?

  8. GearheadGeek says:

    @nardo218: ummm… antennas!

  9. jefino says:

    I ordered a OLPC laptop and received it about a week after christmas. I paid with paypal and had no issues. When i ordered my dell laptop several years ago, it took them about 3 months to get my laptop to me, OLPC did it in about 1 month so i think there were doing well.

  10. misslisa says:

    Is Harry McCracken kin to Phil McCracken & his lovely sister Pat McCrotch?

  11. facework says:

    Could that picture be any cuter?? {{{{kitten hugs}}}}

    Having used PP with great success for years, I had no idea businesses sometimes had trouble with their service. I’ve even used PP for random reasons, like donating money to friends for marathons or other causes.

  12. 8abhive says:

    Oh my god, PayPal. (*Shivers*)

    Now with free PTSD!

  13. leftystrat says:

    I read last week that first-day orders, among others, were lost in some black hole and OLPC had to wait til the purchasers contacted them. I wonder if they’re blaming Paypal or this is something different.

  14. joemono says:

    Kinda looks like that guy is yanking on the cat’s whisker.

  15. phil28 says:

    I tried checking my order placed in early December and you cannot get through to their website. If you put in your order number it comes back with a link and when you click on it a message says page not found.

    For those asking about Harry McCracken, he’s one of the best PC iournalists in the business. He submitted his resignation last year when he was asked by a new boss to go gentle on a review from an advertiser. It caused an outcry from the subscribers, his boss was fired and Harry came back. PC World is one of the best magazines of its kind, thanks to Harry’s leadership and high journalistic ethics.

  16. burgundyyears says:

    Wow and I thought my kitchen floor needed mopping.

  17. drewsumer says:

    OLPC sent me an automated email back in December saying there was a problem with my address. Turns out that if you ordered with a two line delivery address (name of a business, address), that they only imported one of those lines.

    So I called and told them my complete address and was told I was “all set.”

    So a month later and no XO, I call again. They again said they had a problem with my address. I asked what they had and they repeated exactly what I gave them back in December. I asked about what happened to being “all set” and they mumbled. So I gave them my address again and was told I was, you guessed it, “all set.”

    So then I get another automated email saying that there is, still, a problem with my address. I email back and wait for a reply. And I wait. And I’m still waiting. I read on sites like OLPCNews that even if they magically reply and grok my address that has never had a problem being shipped to before, I’ll still be waiting until the end of March.

    My next call will be to my credit card company about being scammed. I hope to get my money back, give half of it to a better organized charity, and use the other half to help fund an Eee PC.

    Then I’ll be “all set.”

  18. galatae says:

    This is about the 3rd or 4th blog note I’ve seen about Paypal not providing addresses. Some of the comic community seem to be having the same issues.

    I think perhaps Paypal needs to reexamine their systems before mainstream media picks up on it.

  19. cerbie says:

    CUDDLY KITTY! What was this all about, again?

    oh, yeah, Paypal, and the OLPC…looks like fun. You’d think with all the people and tech at their disposal, you’d all just magically find a box at your doorstep with a XO in it–no fuss.

  20. joannabaloo says:

    I bought mine over the phone, and never got a receipt or a laptop! That’s right, no Paypal issues. I spoke to a human being and they still managed to charge me without providing a receipt or a laptop!!!!!

  21. ilovesquares says:

    For what it’s worth, it sounds like OLPC may not have set up the PayPal checkout properly. As a merchant, you can choose whether or not to require an address with payment, so it sounds like they may have overlooked this option.