Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Open Letter to PayPal

Dear PayPal,

I am a longtime user of your service. In fact, I've been a PayPal user for over a decade. You've grown into quite a business! For that matter, you pretty much have the market cornered when it comes to the service you provide. So if you, PayPal, decide to dictate what a business does, dangling the continued use of your services over their heads unless they do your bidding, you pretty much have that business's balls in a vise.

In addition to being a PayPal user, I am also a writer and consumer of erotic fiction, something you've been cracking down on recently.

Now, you are a business. No business should be required to buy or sell products/services that they find objectionable. That said, you're not in the business of selling erotic fiction. You are in the business of processing financial transactions between people who sell products/services and those who consume them. So long as those products and services are legal, it's really none of your damned business what I'm buying, why I'm buying it, or if it might offend someone who is not directly involved in the transaction.

According to your website:
PayPal acts like a digital wallet where you can securely store all your payment options, such as your bank account and credit card. When you want to make a payment, you don't have to pull out your credit card or type your billing info every time.
Nowhere on your site could I find any reason to believe you should have any say over what I buy. You are a financial go-between, not the morality police.

And yet, here you are, attempting to dictate what businesses can and cannot sell, what consumers can and cannot buy, using what can only be described as a monopoly to force businesses to comply or else lose the ability to use PayPal.

"Well," I can hear you saying, "they don't have to use PayPal."

Yes. Yes, they do. Because consumers want to use PayPal, and being able to use PayPal to buy from a company can mean the difference between a customer purchasing a product or choosing not to. In this day and age, being unable to offer PayPal can be a serious detriment to a business's bottom line.

PayPal, as a longtime user of your services, I am not interested in your moral views, your decisions about what is and is not objectionable or obscene content. All I want from you is the ability to securely use my credit card online to purchase products and services without having to enter my credit card information over and over. That is the service you agreed to provide, and it is the only service I want from you.

Now, do I want to read books containing bestiality, barely-legal individuals, incest/pseudo-incest, or rape for titillation? Good heavens, no. But I don't need my bank telling me that. I can choose -- or not choose -- a book without someone looking over my shoulder to tell me it contains content they find obscene. That, and where does it stop? What's next? Consensual BDSM? LGBT erotica? Fiction containing sex in public, adultery, menage/group sex? All of those things have been considered "obscene" by different people throughout recent history, so where do you, PayPal, draw the line?

Further, where is your anti-graphic violence task force? If you're going to censor sex as "obscene," then what about material containing bloody violence? Or will there come a time when PayPal decides I can't purchase a book containing rough sex, but I'm more than welcome to pick up a box set of Saw or whatever other torture porn is available these days?

In order to purchase erotic fiction, I must be 18. Or 21, depending on the site. That makes me a legal adult, and thus of an age that I am legally assumed to be mature enough to take responsibility for what I choose to consume. I don't need Bank of America to cause my debit card to decline when someone within the bank decides I'm buying an objectionable product, and I don't need PayPal to keep me from purchasing something its powers that be find obscene or offensive. All I need Bank of America to do is process the transaction. All I need you to do is process the transaction.

You are neither the angel nor the devil on my shoulder. You are not my babysitter. You are not the moral police or the thought police.

You are my digital wallet. Stay out of the rest of my business.


L. Witt
Longtime PayPal User
Consumer & Author of Erotic Fiction


  1. My sentiments exactly.

    What about violent video games? They're still sold by the bucketload, to under 18s as well.


  2. My understanding is more from a business perspective: porn, gambling, and other adult industries are perceived as high-risk industries for credit card processors because they have higher than average amounts of chargebacks and fraudulent activities. If PayPal's business model and insurance doesn't cover this higher risk, then it makes sense for them to avoid these industries. There are credit card processors that specifically cater to adult industries (and charge through the nose to cover the higher risk).

  3. I can understand the greater risk as it pertains to porn and the chargebacks/fraud, but if that were the case here, wouldn't PayPal refuse to cover *anything* erotic? The latest crackdown was specific to certain subgenres, while not (yet?) taking issue with other erotic material. If adult material is a liability, I would think it would be *all* adult material.

    1. What does chargeback mean? (Sorry, non native English speaker...)

    2. Chargeback = refund of a credit card charge

      Lori, yeah, I'm not sure where the "line" is or should be. There was some stuff on ARe that clearly crossed it, but other material? Hard to say, and I don't have any answers.

  4. I agree with you and applaud your standing up to such BS. I will do my best to let Pay Pal know there are many of us who disagree with their stance. Looks to me like another business opportunity is out there. As we all know a monopoly is a bad thing.Some competition might keep these situations from occurring.

  5. I think this is a situation where you might want to contact paypal and ask them directly why they are doing this. It's possible that they are trying to avoid legal hassles with the state you now live in or some other state with laws restricting the sale of erotica. In other words, the state is saying you can buy adult material, but not this, that, and the other subgenre.

    If it is the case of state law, then you have a violation of the first amendment similar to Larry Flynt back in the 80's. And that needs to be taken up by the ACLU or similar organization to fight against the state(s) in question.

    Investigate why paypal is doing this so you know who needs to have their attitude adjusted. Go get 'em!

    1. Contacting PP directly is NOT helping. eXessica Publishing did so and they informed them that consensual BDSM violated PP's nanny state policies and for them to remove books containing it or else.

      I turned down the opportunity to get a signed book from JR Ward bc the site they had set up used PP. Paypal is not only hitting Bookstrand, but All Romance E reads among others.

  6. I'm playing a bit of catch-up, so only just now saw this. Brava!

    If you wouldn't mind, I think this letter would make an excellent petition at a site such as I know I'd sign it, and I suspect many, many others would as well. And I know several petitions on have generated enough signatures to cause those in the wrong to back down and/or change their positions. Perhaps PayPal might be more responsive if we handed them a petition like this letter with thousands (or hundreds of thousands?) of signatures.

  7. Ask and ye shall receive:

  8. Fascinating. Of course, about 6 or 7 years ago when PayPal pulled this nonsense, there was no consistency. Some publishers got closed down, while Ellora's Cave, the BIGGEST erotica website with the smuttiest book covers, got left alone. PayPal turned a bling eye to them. Totally, almost as if there was some conspiracy afoot. I have a sneaking suspicion the same thing is happening all over again AND for the very same reasons!