You can pay how you want with PayPal… but not if you drink Cuban coffee

Andy McSmith
coffee getty 300x225 You can pay how you want with PayPal... but not if you drink Cuban coffee

(Getty Images)

“When you shop with us, you can pay how you want, when you want, where you want,” says the PayPal website. Oh no you can’t – not if you are trying to buy coffee from the York Coffee Emporium, a small family business run by Laurence and Philippa Beardmore, in a village called Nether Poppleton, near York.

The Beardmores had their PayPal account shut down without warning. No money could be moved in or out, and their customers had a message telling them that the account was frozen, as if their business was in some way dodgy.

So, what were the Beardmore’s up to? Were they dealing in stolen coffee? Money laundering? Ripping off the customers?

No, they were selling a brand of called Cuban Serrano Superior. In October 1960, President John F Kennedy imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, so if the Beardmores had been selling this coffee to US customers, they would have been breaking US law. But they weren’t: they were selling it in the UK. The UK does not and never has operated an embargo on Cuban imports.

“They were very particularly heavy handed,” Philippa Beardmore said. “We arrived at work on Monday morning, and they had totally shut us down. They told us ‘this is a warning’. We have now been reinstated, but if you want to order Cuban coffee, you have to do it through Sage Pay: you can’t do it through PayPal.”

A company spokesman said: “PayPal makes every effort to comply with the laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate around the world. We have determined that as a US company, PayPal and all of its subsidiaries are obliged to comply with specific US government-imposed sanctions, even if these subsidiaries operate outside of the US.”

  • CreamOnTop


  • Spanner1960

    Paypal are scum. Just Google the horror stories about the number of people that have lost fortunes from them.

  • Charlie Wallace

    time to break up that fat monopoly

  • Colin Carr

    “We have now been reinstated, but if you want to order Cuban coffee,
    you have to do it through Sage Pay: you can’t do it through PayPal.”

    After being treated like that by the overreaching US economic Geheimstatspolizei, I’d not even WANT to do anything through Paypal, ever!

  • Chippychap

    Paypal are horrible bullies to deal with.

    Even worse should you wish to discus a problem with them.

    queries are dealt with by people who do not read your enquiry, just send you links to questions you did not ask.

  • CIBC

    I work for a company that sells books for people learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) after being with PayPal as a payment processor for over two and half years they suddenly froze our account and refused to activate it again unless we removed Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Myanmar (Burma), and Korea (North) from our list of destination countries, even though PayPal were not dealing with transactions for these countries. The email demanding the removal of these countries came from PayPal (Europe) S.à r.l. et Cie, S.C.A I was not aware that European companies came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Treasury OFAC.

    Should PayPal be dictating to us who we can and can’t do business with just because we use them as a payment processor for some transactions? As it is we sell text books for people learning English which I would have thought would be in the interests of US Foreign Policy in helping people in those countries understand US propaganda.

    Unfortunately integrating PayPal into our website was a considerable undertaking which also required considerable investment of time, effort and finance, which we do not want to waste. Complaints to PayPal have so far gone unanswered.

    Cambridge International Book Centre

  • Ian Watson

    I don’t agree that a company is applying US laws outside of the US, I had this argument with AOL who admitted to its users it was snooping around within the “my documents” folders of its subscribers which is not legal here or in Europe but was sanctioned by law in the US and AOL were unrepentant.

    After all how would the Americans react if we forced application of our laws over there, hell they can’t be bothered to pay the millions owed for parking fines and traffic violations

  • zali10

    Do they advertise in the UK with that statement? If they do, ASA should look into them, as it is not factually correct.

  • Peter Blake

    isn’t PayPal (Europe) another of these companies that registers in Luxembourg to avoid paying UK tax?

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