PayPal fails to show regret(sy)

If you’ve never seen a social media showdown, head over to

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, PayPal’s Facebook page was taken over by droves of angry Regretsy users. Best known for showcasing Etsy DIY gone wrong, the Regretsy community had been focusing on a Secret Santa drive when PayPal refused to accept it as a charitable measure.

Typical Regretsy fare

I won’t get into the nitty gritty here – it’s hard to tell right from wrong at this point – but you can see more on the story here, here  and here.

While thousands of people attack the PayPal Facebook page, what’s glaringly missing is a statement or even acknowledgement from PayPal. More than 12 hours after the first stone was cast, PayPal is still staying silent with nary a tweet or post.

What PayPal should have done:

It’s no secret that someone in the PayPal offices is getting thousands of notifications to their inbox right now as angry users flood their social networks.  12 hours is far too long to let this go on – there should have been a response, even something as simple as “we’re looking into this issue and we’ll get back to you soon” immediately. Social media never sleeps and your community managers shouldn’t either (OK, sleep…but scan when you wake up). At the very least, this should have been dealt with early this morning.

One of the many posts taken over by angry PayPal users

What PayPal needs to do now:

If PayPal is indeed wrong, they need to apologize – and fast. Be truthful, be thoughtful, be remorseful.

If they’re in the right, they need to explain why, apologize for the mixup and do their best to push the bad content down online.

What can we learn from this?

Dos and Don’ts of a social media crisis:

DON’T be hasty…or slow – It’s a delicate balance, but make sure you have enough information before you make a statement. At the same time, you need to quickly inform your community that you see the issue and are dealing with it.

DON’T delete messages – this angers people and only makes the firestorm worse.

DON’T respond individually – it’s impossible to respond to thousands comments individually. Picking and choosing which comments to respond to will only fuel the fire.

DO apologize – whether the company is right or wrong, they need to apologize for the inconvenience/mix-up and vow to make things clearer/smoother in the future.

DO continue to post relevant content – more than ever, a brand needs to keep up their social media presence in a crisis. The positive content on your feeds needs to outweigh the bad.

DO respond on all channels – It’s important to get your side of the story out. When you decide on a response, make sure it’s available on your website and on all social media channels. If you have a call centre, brief your employees on how to respond. Be consistent.

DO consider the effect this will have on your subsidiaries if you’re an international brand – even if the issue is involving, say, the United States branch of the company, you need to consider what will be done on the Canadian side to manage it.


What are your best tips for handling a social media crisis? What do you think PayPal should do now?



PayPal has issued a statement on their blog about the issue. They’ve returned the funds and will be making a donation. Do you think this was the right move?

  • As a CM I find the lack of response revolting. Steph, we do like to sleep sometimes but the first thing I do every morning is check our page to make sure nothing is wrong and if it is I have a standard holding statement that can help our fans feel like we’re at least looking into the problem. In fact in May of this year I needed to use that statement, it was a Sunday and despite that I had to contact my entire team and devise an answer first that would keep everyone at bay and second that clarified the situation for our fans.

    Being a CM is never an easy job but when you accept the position you have to understand that your life is no longer your own, you’ll need to put the needs of your community first on hangover Sundays and holidays alike. I do what we refer to as social media lite during these times, not actively posting but watching what is happening and providing response where needed.

    What kills me is this: paypal is a company that deals with money, which means that a crisis is almost inevitable, and they do not have a crisis management plan in place. There should be a chain of command – CM notices a problem -> CM notifies PR team -> CM posts a holding statement -> PR & CM work together to craft a social media response that provides a complete response to the problem at hand.

    It isn’t difficult to be a good community manager but it is incredibly difficult to be a great one – speed and clarity is number 1.

    • Anonymous

      Agree 100%, Shannon. What really threw me was that tons of PRs/CMs I know/follow were already discussing this on Twitter early this morning while PayPal continued to hold back a response. The never sleeping thing was a joke – but we both know the first thing any PR/CM does in the morning is scan and note any problems.

      If anything, this is a great way to show large corporations that you can’t do social media halfway. It’s not enough to post every once in awhile – you need to actively monitor, engage and respond.

  • Great discussion – reading PayPal’s FB page and it seems they have a lot of damage control required. Do you believe PayPal should be very forthcoming with a detailed justification why Regretsy isn’t considered “charitable”?

    • They have to, at this point they’ve waited too long to do anything else. But you should also remember that in social media we have no choice but to be honest. It is far too easy to find details elsewhere PayPal needs to be upfront and respond with a complete response that includes all the details and they need to do so in 140 characters for twitter and 400 for FB – not an easy task.

      If it was me I’d respond individually to every single person who has complained so that they receive a notification of our response.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Christine!

      PayPal has no choice but to provide an explanation for their actions. They waited so long that the story has gotten way out in front of them and they’re now forced to play catchup. Instead explaining, they’re going to have to defend themselves.

      Unfortunately, this seems like a business problem that became a PR issue. What was likely a response from one individual in a customer service department has come to reflect badly on an entire brand.

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