Dear Lifehacker, I’ll admit it: Like virtually everyone else, I don’t read those super long terms of service agreements when I sign up for accounts or install software. Recently, I accidentally violated a tiny little clause without realising and my PayPal account was shut down. Can I do something about it, or should I just give up?Thanks, Term Breaker
When you break an agreement with a big company like PayPal or Facebook, you find yourself in a sticky situation. If you’ve broken a major clause, you may have to cut your losses and move on (more on that below). But if it’s a minor infraction, it’s worth trying to resolve the situation.
Before you try anything else, contact customer support and explain your situation as nicely as possible. Tell them you didn’t mean to break the rules and did so accidentally. Let them know you understand you made the error, but you really love their service and want another chance. If you can’t do this without getting angry, ask a friend to call or write on your behalf.
Some companies have policies that allow their support team to reverse a “permanent” ban due to a violation and some don’t. You may also find that different tiers and types of the support team can help where others can’t.
In particular, email support may not get a lot of personal attention. Email teams generally focus on quantity and fast turn-around, and response times are unpredictable.
If you can make a phone call — and you can to PayPal and many other companies — the people on the phone don’t have the same approach. They may need to get through many calls per day, but even if their boss instructs them to get your issues resolved and move onto the next call as soon as possible you still get to talk to a human. You can make your case much more easily with someone real. If you sound sincere and kind, the person on the other line will feel more inclined to help you. If not, try to move your way up the food chain by asking for a supervisor without placing any blame on them.
Try The Wrong Department
When you can’t get help through the right department, consider calling (and even emailing) the wrong one. Why? Because you may get more sympathy from someone who doesn’t deal with people like you all day long. Someone who doesn’t know the policies and can hear your situation with a little less bias may find it easier to take your side.
Of course, even if they root for you they can’t actually undo your “permanent” ban themselves. That said, they can transfer you to the correct department for assistance and stay on the line with you to help explain the problem to their colleague. Sometimes they won’t stick around by default, as they have a job to do, so make sure you ask. If you approach this call like a kind person, but a naive one, you’ll seem like you really didn’t know you made a mistake by calling the wrong place (and getting banned, too) so you really do need their help. This may seem a little weird, but after a lot of effort put into the correct department I got myself un-banned using this method.
Make Some Noise
When you can’t get through via customer support, make some noise in public. You can start by complaining on Twitter by posting public tweets with the company name in it. Many companies now keep an eye on what people say when their name comes into play and may contact you. If not, try directing a few messages at their Twitter accounts.
If technology fails you, take the old-fashioned approach and write a complaint letter, print it out, and send it to the company. Most companies have a physical address for mail and people actually read these letters. While you may or may not succeed with a written complaint, it shows you’re serious about fixing the problem and it could help.
As well, try emailing the CEO. You can often guess their email by knowing their name or you might be able to find it online. CEOs sometimes respond to customer complaints. You hear about this on a variety of sites. While they don’t respond to everyone, or even most people, it only takes a minute to compose a short message.
Just Make A New Account
Figure out how much effort you want to put in before you begin. Sometimes a ban doesn’t really mean that much. You can almost always create a new account with a new email address, so why bother getting anything reversed? For users of Gmail and Outlook.com, you can create an alias for your “new” email address to utilise the same account. For example, if my email address were [email protected] I could use [email protected] as an alias without even setting anything up.
If you don’t lose much (or anything) by creating a new account, simply do that. Violating a terms of service agreement may seem like kind of a big deal, especially if it results in a permanent ban, but that’s because your business likely doesn’t make the company enough money to warrant spending any time listening to you. That’s the sad truth, and so it doesn’t make sense to waste too much of your time on trying to fix things if switching to a new account on the same service is just as easy.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].