Comforting or Condescending? PayPal’s letter to customers

I previously wrote about how well Starbucks’ letter to customers exemplified the right way to communicate. Since then I’ve reviewed many more messages that range from uplifting to vague and inconsequential. Enter PayPal’s memo today which really caught my attention (pasted in entirety at the end of this article).

Keep in mind that PayPal is a huge player in digital payments. They stand to make a ton of money as sales are driven online.

Problem 1: Length

When you open a note ad see a tiny scroll bar slider on the right, what do you think? Ugh. It’s going to be a long read. On my phone, where the majority of people read email, this thing is huge.

I always counsel my clients: Shorter is better when you want people to stay tuned in. Attention spans are short.

Problem 2: No Plan

I was curious about what they would say. You can’t sanitize digital payments can you?

After a warm opening and then reference to the fact we are part of a community, we read:

We’re calling on companies across the financial ecosystem, to come together to help the most vulnerable during this crisis.

Great! How? No answer. It reminds me of when countries condemn the actions of other countries. Yes, something needs to be said, but I want to know what you will DO. PayPal could be a leader in this space. Lost opportunity.

Problem 3: Restating existing services

What really gets me is the quick transition to ‘how we can help’ that includes nothing new. People are truly suffering. Businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy and a multi-billion dollar company can only offer you a menu of the services it currently provides (purchase protection, secure transactions, vehicle for donations).

What they could have done:

  1. Reduced transaction fees for the next 3 months.
  2. Match charitable donations running through their platform.
  3. Waive fees for small business for next 30 days.

These actions would have a HUGE impact and drive more business to their doors.

By comparison, check out what Dan Wiebe, a friend of mind who runs a number of dealerships (where sales are likely falling off a cliff) had to say: He offered this superb, practical, and generous outline of what they are doing to express care for employees and health care workers.

Critical Communications

These are sensitive times. When emotions run strong people stand on a hair trigger of reactions to every message. This one is a strikeout and likely to leave a lasting negative impression with customers. This is publicity you don’t want.

Thoughtfully yours,




This is an unprecedented time in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on the health of our loved ones, the businesses we rely upon, the health of the global economy, and the way we live our daily lives. As we all continue to navigate through these unique and evolving challenges, we want you to know that PayPal is here for you.

Coming together as a Community

In our more than 20 years of business, we’ve weathered with you the storms that have touched all parts of the world— and throughout this shared journey we have worked to support and sustain our employees, our customers and our partners. As we address a pandemic that will no doubt become a chapter in the history books, our commitment to you will not waver.

Many businesses today are stepping up to help, because no one business can do it alone. We’re calling on companies across the financial ecosystem, to come together to help the most vulnerable during this crisis. We all need to support our employees and look for ways to help our customers navigate these waters. In the last few months, we’ve seen generosity and kindness, intergenerational support and solidarity, and remarkable fortitude. It is during times like these that courage and generosity and resilience make a difference.

We are here to help our customers

If you are a PayPal customer and need assistance on how best to send money safely and affordably to friends and family, we want to help. You can find immediate answers to your questions on the PayPal Help Centre, or by clicking “Help” located on any PayPal page or email.

We stand ready to help you with safe, secure and affordable digital payment services as you navigate these uncertain financial times:

  • Person-to-person (P2P) payments are a quick, safe and easy way to send and receive money with PayPal.
  • Xoom allows you to send money quickly, securely and safely to support your loved ones who live in other countries.
  • With PayPal you can donate online or on your phone to the charities helping fight the cause.
  • Look for Purchase Protection and Return Shipping on Us where available when buying and paying online. PayPal will never ask you for any of your personal information on an approved merchants’ site.
  • If you are looking for other local product offerings that can help you, please go to your local PayPal or Xoom site, or PayPal and Xoom apps, to learn more.

Supporting the small business community, the backbone of our economy

Digital payments have become a lifeline for businesses of every size as more and more businesses and their customers adopt new mobile and in-store technology. As businesses venture into new ways of selling, they are finding that digital payments are proving to be a trusted way to accept payments safely and securely. We are continuously exploring ways to help our small business merchants navigate these times with adjustments to existing products based on business conditions and customer needs. During this period of uncertainty, PayPal is able to provide access to 305 million active customer accounts around the world and ensure that you can transact safely and confidently, and with the highest conversion rates in the payments industry. We have been with you at every step along the way to provide the reliability, security and service you need, and we will stay at your side now.

If you are a PayPal business and are feeling unusual pressure on your cash flow, our PayPal business financing solutions may be able to help. We have customer service experts that can help guide you, give recommendations and share advice. Go to the PayPal website to learn more.

I hope all of you will join PayPal in supporting the community of merchants who are selling online, or are working hard to adjust their business models to support you.

Taking care of our employees, who serve you every day

Supporting our PayPal employees during this crisis period is critical to providing you with the services you need and expect. We have taken action as COVID-19 has spread, to protect the physical well-being and financial security of our employees so that they are in a position to care for their health while also supporting our customers. Many employees are now working remotely, and we will also be transitioning several of our customer service centers to this remote working structure. As these employees make the transition, we might see an impact on wait times for our phone or email service. During this time, you can find immediate answers to your questions on the PayPal Help Centre. We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this together. The commitments we have made to support and care for our employees will ensure that we are ready and equipped to also support our customers during these uncertain times.

How else can we help?

We know consumers and businesses of all sizes are under stress and that some of you are facing significant hardship. We are working to find new ways to meet your needs and will draw on our technology and resources to make a difference for you. Please visit the PayPal Newsroom Hub to find helpful resources to help you navigate our products and tools during this unprecedented time.

Thank you for being a PayPal customer – and for the trust you place in us every day.


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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.