2012 off to a smashing start for PayPal: company orders destruction of antique violin

Since last year’s PR fiasco wasn’t enough, PayPal decided to start 2012 off with a bang.

Once again sticking valiantly to their policies, PayPayl has purportedly ordered the destruction of an antique violin valued at $2,500 after the buyer decided it was fake upon receiving it. While PayPal policies do state that they may ask that items are destroyed (with photographic proof, of course), there are also provisions to ship the offending item back to the seller.

Obviously PayPal went with the more divisive option. While it’s obvious that these measures are in place to prevent the sale and distribution of counterfeit items, I can’t imagine a situation where it’s appropriate to destroy an instrument – with or without appraisal.

Unsurprisingly, the company’s Facebook page has blown up with angry comments from musicians, historians and PayPal users alike. Surprisingly, PayPal has yet to respond more than 6 hours after the comments began.

With users still seething from the Regretsy incident, it’s hard to fathom why PayPal hasn’t learned from their mistakes and addressed this immediately. Unlike the Regretsy incident, this one is more black and white: PayPal could have simply asked that the violin be returned to the seller for a full refund. Instead, they ordered its destruction. This decision is becoming more and more questionable as reports surface that the instrument had been appraised and authenticated prior to sale.

This is quickly shifting from a one-off incident to a pattern of terrible customer service and a lack of appropriate crisis communications advice. Those of us in public relations and community management roles are once again at the edge of our seats to see how PayPal will explain this one.

PayPal, if you’re reading, I’m always available for hire. Until then – check out the Do’s & Don’ts of a social media crisis.

Check back after the PayPal response for an analysis of what they did and what could have been done better (…again).