UPDATE: The money has been posted back into my account and I’m trying the cashout process again. I guess I just had to wait for the right Linden to notice all my insistent support requests!
On March 13th, I converted my L$ balance to USD and attempted to process this credit to my PayPal account. (Note: I’m writing this on March 29th, so it’s been half a month since.) The following story is my experience attempting to follow my money and determine what exactly happened to it, since it never went to my PayPal account at all. If you’re looking for pretty fashion pictures, I’m really sorry to disappoint (but you can find every photo tagged with my brand on Flickr, here.)
I waited a week after attempting to process my credit before contacting Linden Lab’s support. The site says 0-5 business days. I waited 6 business days, and posted in Resident Answers as well as phoned the Billing Support line… something I’m grateful I kept my Premium account for, despite the little they could do.
My first call to Billing Support told me to call PayPal. I felt this was reasonable (after all, maybe the holdup is on their end, I’m not a primarily USD account and all) so I gave that a shot.
(An aside: If you need to call PayPal’s phone support, press 0, otherwise you’ll never get an option to speak to a human. The voice automated system is pretty frustrating.)
My PayPal support call was answered by a nice-sounding Hispanic girl, who put me on hold twice to consult other departments to track down this payment-gone-missing. It’s difficult to explain what Second Life is to someone who doesn’t know, so I settled for “it’s something like Etsy or eBay, but a video game, and I just wanted to move my USD balance from there to PayPal.” After exhausting all possibilities, she confirmed that there was no record anywhere of the transaction taking place at all. My account had no activity and hasn’t for months.
She says I should call Second Life to get it straightened out, the error’s likely on their end. I said I already phoned them, they said to call PayPal. She sympathetically responded “Yes, sometimes that happens, they’ll just try to get you to call back and forth… but the transaction is definitely not in our system, so there’s nothing we can do until they retry it.”
Okay. I’m not quite at square one, because I’ve at least narrowed down the point at which the money didn’t transfer: it’s on Linden Lab’s end, not PayPal’s.
So I double check everything. Did I accidentally put in the wrong PayPal email address? I reviewed my Process Credit History page on my secondlife.com account. The USD balance is definitely gone from my account. My PayPal email is definitely correct (they make you enter it twice anyway) and, weirdly, there’s no status at all for the credit transfer. It’s blank. All other information is there.
So I decide to create a support ticket. There’s a template for the problem I’m having. I fill everything out.
I get a response fairly quickly, but the support person is only asking for my PayPal email address to investigate this. This is actually a required field for the support ticket (they’ve already got it) so I just copy and paste it again. My ticket was posted on March 22nd, the assigned helper responded then, I replied to reiterate my PayPal email address.
I’ve heard nothing back since that day.
On Tuesday (March 27) I called Billing Support and this time talked to a guy who kept saying that my situation was “weird.” (Well, yes, I should hope this isn’t the norm.) He checked my support ticket and said it was odd no one’s responded, but the status is labeled “Work in Progress” so someone should be attending to it. He was nice, but my situation still wasn’t resolved.
Wednesday, March 28, my money’s still not in PayPal, nor posted back to my account, and there’s still no response to my support ticket. I’m starting to get quite worried, because I’ve gone through all the normal channels and no one can tell me what went wrong or where my money went.
I also got a cheery online survey asking me how I’d rate Linden Lab support.
Today I gave up and phoned Billing Support again… this time my helper told me there’s nothing she can do and I just have to wait for someone to respond to my support ticket. I replied that there’s been no response for a week. She sounded a bit defensive, claimed they work 24 hours resolving these and it’ll get attended to eventually. I asked if there was anyone else I could speak to, anyone higher up or that has enough access to tell me what’s going on. She says no. I’m more frustrated than ever.
If the last phone call left me upset and feeling largely ignored by Linden Lab’s support, it’s also shown me the powerlessness of the support personnel to actually look into serious payment issues. While a PayPal representative had the ability to trace every single transaction going through my account, Linden Lab’s phone support team has never been able to track my credit transfer attempt in any way. The nice, apologetic LL employee saying “oh that’s weird, I wouldn’t worry though” is just as useless as the abrupt lady telling me “just wait until you get a ticket response, okay? I’m not able to help you.”
Since it’s now been half a month since the original transfer attempt and I’ve exhausted all support channels open to me, I’m stuck doing exactly what they’ve asked me to do… sit and wait until someone notices the open support ticket. In the meantime, there’s an amount of very-real, very-much-converted-to-USD-not-ephemeral-L$ of mine that’s completely invisible in every system. It’s no longer in my USD balance on secondlife.com. It’s not in my PayPal. There’s not even a status in my process credit history to tell me what’s going on. And no one I’ve spoken to at Linden Lab is able to take responsibility for the missing funds.
What does this mean for me? I’m very much a small business in Second Life. I don’t make a lot of L$ or USD. I haven’t cashed out since 2008 until this attempt (and never had a problem before.) It’s taken months to collect enough L$ to justify converting to USD and sending it to myself… and I’m doing this because, like a lot of people in today’s economy, I’m not making enough money day-to-day to survive.
Does this sound melodramatic? Maybe a little. It shouldn’t matter why I attempted to cash out of Second Life, the important thing is how scary it can be when your money disappears and Billing Support can’t tell you why. However, I live in a very expensive city, my rent is high, I’m self-employed in real life and can only draw paycheques when my business can afford it. Had my L$ cashout been successful, I’d have enough for rent. Now I don’t, so I’m falling back on borrowing from others until my clients pay me (or I get my funds from Linden Lab). It’s good to note that people cash out of Second Life for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps to collect for a fundraiser for a real charity (and I’ve cashed out for that reason before.) Sometimes because they earn a regular income creating the virtual goods and services we enjoy. Maybe, like me, they sat on their balance until they needed to fall back on the money during a particularly tough month financially. Regardless of the amount (I’m not even trying to cash out thousands of USD!) or reason, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to give customers the runaround or ignore them when the transfer fails and the money appears to disappear into thin air.
I’m hopeful that my support ticket will be answered soon, that the money will show up, that everything will be resolved. If my nearly seven years in Second Life has taught me anything, it’s that Linden Lab and its employees do listen to the community and its needs (don’t laugh. They’ve made some unpopular decisions, but on the whole they’ve listened and made changes as necessary.) I’m reminded of one time I posted a critical analysis of the new Marketplace in the forums, and the head of the development team chased me down in-world and emailed me back and forth, asked me for details and further suggestions. I felt, in that instance, that I was listened to and had more input than I even deserved, as only one of thousands of Marketplace merchants.
The hope that some Lindens will read my story (and prod the support team to help me chase down my funds) is part of why I’m telling you this story. I also want to know if this is a remotely common occurrence. If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading! If you too have had issues cashing out from Second Life recently, please let me know in the comments.