PayPal’s New President Faces the Music: “If We Suck … We Now Face It”

PayPal President David Marcus responded to mounting criticism from customers by promising that things are changing at the online payments company.

“There’s a massive culture change happening at PayPal right now,” Marcus said. “If we suck at something, we now face it, and we do something about it.”

Marcus’s response was prompted by a blog post written by a customer earlier in the week, who was outraged after funds were frozen in his account. The post was then listed on Y Combinator’s Hacker News site, where it attracted dozens more comments — mostly negative. The original post, written by Elliot Jay Stocks, a small business owner, was titled “Good riddance, PayPal.”

Just 24 hours after posting it, Stocks said the post found its way “to the powers-that-be at PayPal HQ” and he had received a phone call telling him that he could now now access all his funds. But it wasn’t enough. He still is switching his account over to a bank.

I’ve written previous stories raising the question of whether the PayPal brand has been irrevocably tarnished by a constant stream of negative media reports — even if those reports appear to be coming from a vocal minority. There’s some pressure on the eBay-owned company right now as PayPal tries to enter the offline payments world, where customers could conceivably use it to make everyday purchases, from gas to groceries to clothing.

A PayPal spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of Marcus’s statement on Hacker News, but would not disclose the company’s upcoming plans.

Here is Marcus’ response to the barrage of negative comments in response to Stocks’s blog post:

Hey, everyone — I’m David Marcus, and I’ve been running PayPal for the past 5 months. Hard for me not to comment on this thread. PayPal brought a lot of goodness to millions of merchants, and hundreds of millions of users around the world. But yes… as the company grew exponentially we were met with growing pains. And developers, merchants, and consumers sometimes had to pay the price for it. I still want to stress that when you manage money at such a scale, you always attract bad people with wrong intentions. Our intention has always been to protect our customers. Not to mess around with our merchants.
I want to share two things with all of you:
#1 — there’s a massive culture change happening at PayPal right now. If we suck at something, we now face it, and we do something about it.
#2 — you have my commitment to make this company GREAT again. We’re reinventing how we work, our products, our platforms, our APIs, and our policies. This WILL change, and we won’t rest until you all see it. The first installments are due very soon. So stay tuned…

Later in the thread, a commenter by the name of “propercoil” asked if Marcus knew that the company’s API, or the code that developers use to integrate PayPal into its services, was “by far the most hated one in the space.”

In response, Marcus didn’t blink at the harsh words.

“Trust me, I know about this. And this will change. What we have in store is really good, and I know it will take time to rebuild our cred with the dev community, but we’re committed, and again … you will like what you will soon see.”

Marcus has won over at least one fan, even if it happens to be an employee who is trying to convince people to work with him.

On his personal blog, Bill Scott, PayPal’s senior director of User Interface Engineering, said he believes PayPal is making a massive transformation. “Last year when I contemplated joining PayPal it was clear PayPal had long lost its luster as the darling innovator of Silicon Valley,” he said. Now, he says, PayPal has the “desire to innovate again.”

Of course, customers and merchants still haven’t seen any of the changes Marcus promises, so we’ll have to wait to see if they are as good as he says they will be.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik