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Who’s To Blame…eBay, PayPal, or Hyatt?

Overture

This Who’s to Blame mini-series will serve as a useful illustration of the consumer arbitration process. I will be documenting the steps taken on behalf of my client in order to bring about a suitable resolution.

Act I: The Gift Card Order

Who does not love Hyatt gift cards? Portals often sell Hyatt Gift Cards for less than face value resulting in great deals for the savvy traveler. Indeed, many bloggers write posts highlighting when Hyatt Gift Cards go on sale or are stackable with other promotions. For these reasons, it should come as no surprise that one of our points brethren purchased Hyatt Gift Cards from the auction house eBay at a decent discount. The order was for two cards: one had a face value of $400 and was sold for $320. The other had a face value of $500 and was sold for $425. The cards came to the purchaser and he verified that the credit was on them before giving the seller positive feedback. With no imminent plans to go on a trip, the points traveler did not make immediate use of the cards. This proved to be a costly mistake.

Act II: The Zero Balance

When it came time to redeem the gift cards, the points traveler encountered error after error. After calling Hyatt Gold Passport, the traveler was informed that his gift cards had a zero balance. Frantic and confused, the traveler sprung into action. First, he contacted the eBay seller. Then he filed a claim with PayPal. Finally, he did his best to find a live human at eBay to assist him, a thankless task.

Because it had been months since the original transaction, PayPal claimed that nothing could be done. The points traveler was at the mercy of the seller who brashly sent him a message mocking him for not being more aware of scams on eBay. For its part, eBay did nothing but point him back to the FAQ section. As for Hyatt, it washed its hands clean of the incident by curtly saying that they were not responsible.

ACT III: Legal Recourse 

If one were to Google ‘lawsuit eBay’ or ‘sue PayPal’, the list of complaints would go on and on. Search ‘Hyatt Gift Card Scam’ and the list of victims is endless. In response to these situations, travel forums have the standard recommendations for what can be done: “Take the seller to court!”, “File a class action against Hyatt!”, “Tweet at all of them!”. An understandable visceral reaction to being swindled is to go after everyone. Given the frequency of the problem, it does not seem far-fetched when forum commentators cry conspiracy. It also does not seem unreasonable when they call for those injured to file a class action to address this pervasive problem.

In order to solve this problem, it must be determined who is to blame for what has transpired.  For ethical and legal reasons, one cannot randomly file a claim against all the parties involved in the hopes of finding relief. The complications of moving forward are exponentially greater if the aggrieved party is seeking justice through a class action lawsuit. In this case, the hurdles that must be overcome in order to prevail in a class action are beyond that scope of what the points traveler is seeking– his money back.

Enter Stage Right: The Consumer Attorney

Overwhelmed, the traveler, a reader of The Fine Print, contacted me to see what could be done. Fresh on the case, the first step I will take is to examine the dispute resolution agreements for all potential respondents. Here, eBay and PayPal have mandatory arbitration agreements in the event there is a dispute. I still have to determine Hyatt’s policy for dispute resolution. After that, I will compose a list of questions in order to ascertain who is ultimately responsible.

Intermission

As the case moves forward, I will post the details of what I am doing to best solve this puzzle. If I choose to file an arbitration claim, the timeline from the initial filing through the actual hearing, should the case not settle, is roughly three months.

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