Monday, March 28, 2011

Ebay and Paypal on Agnosticism and Plaigiarism

Heard in an interview on CNBC radio: "We are agnostic about how a customer funds a PayPal account." -CEO of Ebay/Paypal, John Donahoe.  That is quite a turn of phrase, using that word "agnostic" in a business sense. Quite literate, I would say. His point was that a customer could fund the PayPal account using credit cards, debit cards, banks, etc. Ebay didn't care which. Mr. Donahoe was explaining that Ebay has acquired some companies that will help them move more into brick and mortar payment transactions. The idea is security and PayPal wants to be the holder of your wallet, so no one will steal it.

First, the turn of phrase is so unique, is Mr. Donahoe that brilliant? Well, no. Just eleven days before in this article:  "The benefit to the services mentioned above [PayPal is one mentioned above] is that they are all account agnostic—it doesn't matter whether you have accounts with Visa, American Express, Bank of America, ING Direct, or any other financial institution. "   Quite a nice phrase that! Mr. Donahoe must have committed it to memory and then it just popped out of his mouth like it was his own, uncredited.

Secondly, agnosticism towards payment methods really doesn't mean PayPal would be favoring a type of payment as PayPal does when it nudges a customer to use bank accounts and presumably save PayPal a transaction fee with the credit card.

When trying to add funds on PayPal, this is what I get:

Agnosticism on a very limited scale. Nudge nudge, psst use your bank account, not your credit card. There is no option I can see for that.

When buying from a store, maybe you can use your credit card?

I have a $4 balance. It HAS to be used first. No exceptions to this. Ummm. What about my credit card? Only if the funds are not available in my bank account? That's not agnostic. Notice the small insignificant blue colored link "change" right by payment methods. It is not included as an option in the list of options (actually there is only one button signifying no choice, just move on), "Change" is disguised as a link. But here I could change my payment method THIS TRANSACTION ONLY to my credit card. There is no provision for making a credit card the primary source for the future. Your bank account must always be your primary source. I am forced to remember to click the little blue "change" each time. In the beginning you had to have a bank account to start a PayPal account. I think it might be different now. My advice, don't put a bank account on PayPal no matter how many times they nag you for it. The website is designed to nudge you in the right direction (bank account) and PayPal nudges like an enforcer for a protection racket. And, if you don't have a bank account listed they nag you like Lieutenant Columbo for you to add one. They used to be even slimier making the insinuation that you were not covered by PayPal's automatic transaction insurance if you didn't use a bank account. "Geez, it would be a shame if something were to happen to your fine establishment's brand new HD TV set."

Agnostic towards credit cards? I think it looks a little more like a modified atheistic approach towards certain types of payment methods. But that phrase John plagiarised sounded pretty darned good. In fact, I kind of wonder whether that article 11 days before started the whole acquistion cycle. Perhaps the whole business strategy is borrowed.