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