Watchdog: Sept. 23, 2012

Trying to talk to a human being at a major consumer company is often a daunting task. Take PayPal for example.

Ellen of Hamden has a small business that relies on PayPal for customers to make their payments and to pay her bills. The PayPal account is linked to her bank account.

However, she got stuck and nothing seemed to be working.

"My withdrawal limit is $500. I am attempting to withdraw only $200 to my linked bank account. I get an error message that says "You cannot withdraw an amount greater than your limit," she wrote CtWatchdog.

"Paypal won't let me have my money and I cannot find a way to correct the situation. ARE THERE ANY REAL PEOPLE AT PAYPAL?"

I have used PayPal for years, both in my business and for personal purchases, especially on eBay, but I had never had to call the company for help.

The first thing I did was try to Google PayPal public relations to see if I could talk to a real human being who could help Ellen. But PayPal's PR department makes journalists jump through the hoops by requiring that we fill out questionnaires before they will communicate with us.

But in the process I found another link that took me back to PayPal where it gives customers a phone number to call for help.

I provided the link to Ellen, who said she had seen it but no one answered the call. So she tried again.

"Thank you, George. I had tried that number before and could not go beyond the automated contact. This time I WAS transferred to a person who resolved the problem for me. Thank you!," she wrote back.

Now a tip about where to get help on finding thousands of hidden corporate consumer numbers:

This is what Time Magazine had to say about it last year:

"Some of the biggest companies in the U.S. are in hiding - or at least, you might think so when you want to talk to a real person at one of them. Phone numbers are often tough to find, and if you do uncover one, it could lead to a voice-menu system that tries to placate you with recorded messages. That's why GetHuman is so essential. It provides numbers for thousands of companies, from AT&T to Zynga, plus information on which buttons to press to reach a human and how long you're likely to wait on hold. Users can also vent by writing customer-service reviews; they're pockmarked with phrases like "What a nightmare!"

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