An apology, an explanation and a bunch of thank yous

I hate non-apology “apologies,” so let me make this simple: I’m sorry.

I especially apologize again to Ms. Smedley. The reality is that a lot of things went wrong that week. If one email, one phone call, one meeting had gone differently I wouldn’t have done what I did. It was the Perfect Storm of events.

I joined PayPal because I thought it was in a good position to change the future of commerce. I joined because I truly believed in David Marcus, Stan Chudnovsky and Hill Ferguson.

I still believe in them. They’re exceptionally smart and thoughtful people. They understand the business, they’re innovative and they understand the competitive field like no one else. These were the people I interviewed with. They’re why I joined.

But the reality was that although they are exceptional in most settings, they were incredibly exceptional at PayPal. I was shocked when David would send an email to someone asking them to work with me on a project and we wouldn’t get a response back. To me, that’s an immediate firing offense. Even if you disagree with the request, you owe a response. I know David will have great success at Facebook, because he is amazing and Facebook is a company that is full of talented engineers and product people who really do want to change the world instead of just talking. Facebook has, on average, A players.

Enough about PayPal. Let’s get back to what happened.

If you’ve known me at all, you know I’m a highly analytical person.  I break apart every aspect of everything. This time was no different. I spent the last six months with a therapist helping to pick apart everything that happened so that 1) I could understand 2) I could improve. I always say you learn the most from your mistakes and from people who disagree with you. If you’re always perfect and everyone always sucks up agrees with you, you’re not going to improve. And I had plenty of mistakes to try to recover from.

Six months later, I’m pretty close to the person you’ve known: analytical, caring, thoughtful and generous. Also, short and overweight. (But that part didn’t change much over the last few months.) There’s still a bit of work to be done, but I can say that I’m feeling great.

I’m excited about what we’re working on. Even though I’m not getting paid, I love what I do. At PayPal, I was making more than $500,000 a year. But I wasn’t happy about going into work. Steve Jobs said at a fantastic commencement speech at Stanford:

I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

That’s how I felt about PayPal barely six weeks in. I went in thinking I could have fun and make a difference. Instead, I had people complaining to my bosses about the formatting of my (unnecessary in an innovative company, but bureaucratically necessary in a company that has lost its way) documents for which I wasn’t even provided a template.

I know I hurt a lot of people and damaged personal and professional relationships. I’ve spent much of the last six months mending those.

I’m thankful for friends. Close friends, personal acquaintances and people who reached out just from knowing me through Twitter.

I’m thankful for people who have been in similar situations (though not as publicly) who reached out to offer support.

I’m thankful for friends in media who knew this was an aberration and didn’t print the lies from PayPal.

For the ones who did: Checking facts is Journalism 101. In journalism school, my news writing teacher had a saying, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Unfortunately that kind of research is abandoned in the damaging quest for a lot of page views.

That’s the reason PayPal put out the lie. They knew a lot of “reporters” wouldn’t check the facts and print the message they wanted out would get out. If anyone bothered to look at the timestamp of my resignation and compared it with the timestamp of the first tweet, they would know it was clear that I quit. Under U.S. libel law, that’s considered “per se libel”. If I were working in PR, that’s something I’d quit over. As I always say, the best PR people never ever lie.

I’m thankful for a great therapist who has helped me figured out what happened.

I’m thankful for angel investors who wanted to invest in redesign mobile, just based on knowing who I really am.

I’m thankful for VCs. Despite venture capitalists’ reputation for being uncaring people (who just focus on money), at least five VCs helped me during these tough times. One, who I don’t know very well, reached out to me through Twitter when I was in New York and asked that I have coffee with him. He gave me great advice. Another has become a good friend over the last year and helped out. Another offered advice on what to do right then and told me I could come back and people will forget if I do great work. Another helped me figure out a plan. And one had  lunch with me when I returned to San Francisco a couple of weeks later. I explained that I was really sorry about what I did and how it had affected people’s meetings with me. His response: “I’m here.”

You can guess who will be getting first crack when I am out raising money for redesign mobile.

I’m thankful for my team, who decided to join me despite what I did. They’re an eclectic and amazing group of people. I think we’ll do great things together.

I’m thankful for people who read this far. I know this is long by Web standards.

Thank you. And I’m sorry.

In case you’re a skeptic (like me), this message was not part of a settlement with PayPal. I wrote this entirely on my own, because I thought it needed to be said. I would have published it privately on Facebook, but the Post feature on FB seems to have disappeared. If you want to talk about what I did (including chewing me out), please reach out.

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Bought a smart watch in the past 90 days on an AmEx or Discover? Don’t want it? Get your money back

If for some reason you’re no longer happy with that smart watch you bought within the last 90 days and you want to get your money back, there’s a way. If you bought it on select credit cards.

Many cards come with a product called “Return Protection,” which lets you return items that you can’t return to the retailer. (Generally because they have a 14- or 30-day return policy.) You submit a claim, send the product to the credit card company’s return handler and get either a check or statement credit. 

AmEx, Citi, Chase and Discover offer some form of this. They aren’t universal across each issuer; some products have them, some don’t.

With AmEx, products that include return protection are Platinum, Mercedes Benz Platinum, Business Platinum, Costco Business Card, Starwood Business Card, Blue, Starwood and Blue Cash Preferred. AmEx has a limit of a $300 refund. You can start the claim process online. (That link also allows you to check if your card is eligible; my list may not be comprehensive.) 

Discover offers a $500 cap and the same 90 day period.

Citi’s Prestige card also offers a $500 cap.

 

Posted in payments

The death of nuance: Komen, ALS and Uber

It seems to me there’s been a death of nuanced thought. Or at least a death of nuance in public discourse. You’re either with us or against us. Some things are purely good and some things are purely evil. But nothing is really that way. Most things have complexity and nuance to them.

Komen

I had a great conversation with a friend last week about charity. One of the things we talked about was the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, one of the most prominent charities fighting against breast cancer. He had some big problems with the organization — the biggest being that it encourages over treatment. Treatment itself has risks; anything that involves anesthesia has risks. By encouraging aggressive treatment, he argued, Komen was putting women at risk. But there’s no way he’d ever discuss that in public.

I posted this on Facebook. I got this response from another friend:

Komen funds some good research, but I’m not a fan of “how” they do it (though they re-wrote fundraising through their pink parade of rah-rah community — they understand there are people who want to do something — take some action — and they’ve turned that into a marketing juggernaut more powerful than almost any commercial brand other than Apple). And just in case you thought only men can’t say that, I can’t say it either, even though I’m female, and my partner has had breast cancer twice.

 

Don’t question the unquestionable.

ALS

I have some problems with the current hoopla around the Ice Bucket Challenge. Yes, it’s fun and viral. But according to the ALS Association, they have raised more than 30x what they normally do in the same period. It’s a massive windfall. Historically, people and organizations that receive a massive windfall have a hard time dealing with it. They generally can’t grow fast enough to take advantage of it. This time could be different, but that’s unlikely. (I’ll be doing my own variant of the challenge, with the money going toward a charity that funds research on NMO, a rare disease that affects a friend.)

It’s also a broader problem around how (at least) Americans give to charity. Many contributions happen in response to specific events. It’s usually a major disaster like Hurricane Katrina. We contribute en masse when there is something visible versus supporting charities on a steady, ongoing basis. Massive contributions also create the opportunity for scandal.

Uber

I’ve been pretty vocal about how Uber and Lyft have been trying to free ride on the auto insurance system; they’ve tried to push the costs and risks of their business on to the rest of the car-driving public. As many companies do, they’re trying to internalize profits while externalizing risk.

That’s been interpreted by some as me hating innovation and these companies. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I use Uber and Lyft all the time; I’m annoyed when I have to use a taxi instead. (Especially in Las Vegas, where the corrupt taxi industry has managed to keep Uber out.)

The insurance aspect is a nuance to what I consider companies that on the whole could be really good for society. They help to break up a system that was designed decades ago when gas prices were cheap, people traveled less, there was no concept of climate change and technology like GPS and smartphones didn’t exist. That created local fiefdoms; people in charge of those fiefdoms rarely want to let them go. (See my LinkedIn post on the taxi industry for more on that topic.)

The “with us or against us” attitude that a lot of people have hampers quality discussion and the type of discourse that can really help us move society forward. Instead we get shouting matches on TV where each side speaks their talking points. No one listens to what people on the other side are saying. Everyone talks their book.

Short attention spans and brevity in communications is part of the problem. (If you’ve gotten this far in the post, thank you!) You’re generally not going to have a lot of great discussion in 140 character doses or 2-minute TV segments. As someone who has done a lot of both, I know that those media are as much (or more) about entertainment as they are about elucidation.

The permanence of those communications is also a problem. It’s easy for someone to take a comment out of context and brand you as someone who hates women.

It would be great if we had a forum for nuanced dialogue. Know of any?

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PR tip: Don’t use a celebrity’s death to pitch your company

This must be a bad week for PR. In the payments industry, Square put out a stupid blog post listing all the reasons why someone might want to worry about the company.

That was topped by the pitch below. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t use a celebrity’s death to pitch a book. But apparently not.

Robin Williams’ tragic death leaves consumers at high risk of identity theft. The 1.2 billion people already endangered from the massive Russian hacking just got more vulnerable as identity thieves lure curious citizens with links promising details about Robin Williams.

Cyber security expert Steve Weisman, founder of www.scamicide.com, author ofIdentity Theft Alert & seasoned media interview can talk about:

  • Celebrity tragedies and how they endanger consumers – Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and now Robin Williams
  • How to spot tainted emails, texts and Facebook links to ‘unreleased police photos’
  • The urgency of cyber security in light of the recent Russian breach 
  • Likelihood of spear phishing and increased cybercrime following the Russian breach
  • Tips for consumers to protect themselves

Would you like to set up an interview with Steve Weisman?

Contact Sarah Gadway at sarah@wilkspr.com, [redacted] for interview requests or for a review copy of Identity Theft Alert.

Thanks for your time,
Sarah

About Steve Weisman
Steve Weisman, BA, JD, is one of the country’s leading experts on scams and identity theft and has been featured on CBS News, ABC, Fox, NPR, PBS, CNN, CNBC, and the Dr. Phil Show and quoted in numerous publications including The Boston Globe, Barron’s, The New York Times, Money Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He founded the blog www.scamicide.com, where he provides the latest information about scams and identity theft. Weisman is a weekly commentator on scams and identity theft on WGGB-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts and the nationally syndicated radio and television Big Biz Show, is a frequent contributor to New England Cable News (NECN) and hosts the Boston area radio show A Touch of Grey, syndicated to 50+ stations nationwide. Aside from his scam and identity theft work, Weisman is a lawyer and member of the Massachusetts Bar and Federal Bar. He has been a faculty member at Bentley University since 1998, and currently serves as a senior lecturer of law, taxation and financial planning. Weisman has authored eight books, including The Truth About Avoiding Scams (2008) and 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit(2005).

 

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You have a friend who is depressed? Here’s what to do

A friend posted this on Facebook:

My suggestion for how to honor Robin William’s passing: Skip watching his movie clips and reach out to a friend or family member who may be in a bad place/suffering from depression.

As someone who has had a lot of friends with depression, here are some tips I’ve come up with:

  1. Don’t confront someone about their depression unless it’s obvious or they are in imminent danger of hurting themselves.
  2. Don’t tell them “things will get better,” “just buck up,” etc. These are just platitudes. They imply that it’s the person’s fault.
  3. Pick up the damn phone. Calling will tell you a lot more than exchanging SMSes or Facebook wall posts. This is probably a good idea regardless, just to keep up with friends. I’d rather have three close friends call me on my birthday than 150 Facebook wall posts.
  4. Make time for them. Depression sometimes has to do with loneliness. Ask them for drinks, go see a movie, a hike. Whatever. This is also a good opportunity to get a better feel of where they’re at.
  5. Don’t make empty promises. If you say you want to help, actually mean it. Offering help when you don’t actually mean it will make the person more depressed. It sound like just being a good human, but too many people want the credit for “being good” without actually following through.
  6. Don’t lawyer conversations.
  7. Recognize when you’re out of your depth. Depression is a disease. It’s likely going to be too big a burden on you to try to help your friend on an ongoing basis. Help them find the appropriate resources.

Over on LinkedIn, I wrote a post on what Google, Twitter and Facebook should do to help address depression and suicide.

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The smartest question I was asked by an entrepreneur and team member

I’ve been quite active behind the scenes with some angel investments and building up the team for redesignmobile.

A big part of that has been having deep conversations where I ask questions about what they want to do and they ask me questions. I evaluate people as much as by what they ask me as how they respond to the questions I ask.

The smartest question I was asked recently was “What happens if you lose all of your investment doing this?”

It shows me that the person I’m working with is not immoral or amoral. They care about a partnership, not maximizing their personal gain.

My answer: Although I will take big risks, they are always calculated risks. And I don’t take risks that I can’t afford to take.

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Why I retweet racist assholes

You’ll often see me retweet the racism that is directed my way.

Why do I bother? Because I think it’s important to be reminded that racism still exists, even though SCOTUS and Fox News like to pretend that we’re in a post-race world.

The racists comments roll off my back because I just don’t care. Most racists I’ve encountered are just looking to blame others for their own lack of success. (People like Sterling being an exception, of course.)

I’ve dealt with racism my whole life. In elementary school, I had people call me “Gandhi”. Well, if you consider that an insult, you are the ignorant one. I’d be thrilled to be compared with Gandhi. (Though I in no way consider myself worthy of that comparison.)

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