I Exploited a PayPal Loophole To Feed My Shopping Addiction - And Ended Up Eating My Lipstick

I hoarded so much lipstick I ended up too broke to buy pizza - and I blame PayPal. (Well, sort of.)
Publish date:
May 14, 2015
addiction, shopping, YSL, OCD, Pepsi

Last week I was forced to trade a limited edition YSL eyeshadow palette for a cheese pizza and a Pepsi.

It had been two days since I'd eaten more than the scraps I found around my house - a half-bag of stale tamarind almonds, which I hate, a few spoons of almond butter on a sad, bruised apple. My last real meal involved violently shoveling cold canapés in my mouth between polite nodding-and-smiling at a co-worker's going-away do.

I don't have food, but I have makeup. A lot of makeup. Every surface in my bedroom is crammed with voluptuous perfume bottles, glittering limited edition palettes from far away fashion houses, and gloriously designed lipstick bullets lined up in rows like totems to beautiful deities. Every drawer teems with drugstore finds that topple over each other every time I yank it open, searching for some mascara or other.

What doesn't fit in drawers, is stored in neatly labelled boxes: BODY LOTIONS. SHOWER GELS. SERUMS. FALSE EYELASHES. MISCELLANEOUS. There's so much, I forget what I own, and sometimes end up with three of each.

Even with the discounts and freebies I receive working in my industry, over the past decade I've still spent so much of my wage on cosmetics that I could have instead bought a damn car.

I'm a makeup hoarder, and I blame PayPal.

Let me explain.

My make up addiction took root years ago, but it wasn't until I discovered a loophole in PayPal's system, which allowed me to spend money I don't have, that my habit got substantially worse. And now, I've either got to start eating lipstick, or get a second job.

It all started when a whopping chunk of my bank balance vanished one day, leaving my account overdrawn, thanks to an onslaught of mystery PayPal transactions. After assuming my card number had been stolen and making frantic calls to both my bank and PayPal I realized the transactions were mine - PayPal had just taken an insanely long 9 days to process them from my bank account.

I quickly learned that when I made a purchase using PayPal, they weren't taking the money from my bank account for 2-5 days on average. I cussed out two phone reps, one manager and their poor Facebook admin - I mean, what kind of business takes a week to charge you for an item that you might already have in your possession before the payment is even made? It was an outrage!

And that's when it occurred to me. I could spend PayPal's money when I didn't have it.

Because of my terrible shopping habits, I don't have credit cards. But suddenly, I had "PayPal credit."

I could order stuff without a penny in the bank, overdraw the account, and when pay day came round, it would just top back up, right? Sure, there was a $10 overdraw fee each time I did it, but hey, let's call it interest! A Google search revealed others were having the same issue, but no one appeared to be exploiting this glaring fault in the system.

It started innocently enough. I ordered Chinese one night when my bank account was empty and I had a $20 bill to last the weekend. The nerves hit as the little wheel spun, processing my payment.

Then, BAM! It worked. I'd bought food - with zero dollars! An hour later, I was feasting like it was payday. Two days later, my pay came in, covered the deficit, and it was like nothing happened.

A landslide followed. As soon as my bank account was empty, I started ordering anything that took my fancy. Mexican on Monday night, Japanese on Tuesday. NYX lip macarons overnighted on Thursday. Same-day delivered sunnies and Too Faced palettes on Friday. Lime Crime's Venus Palette sold out - I just bought one for $150 on eBay. I took Uber cars everywhere. If I could PayPal it, it was mine. It was so much easier to spend the money when it wasn't really there.

After three months, I began pulling my money out of the bank on purpose so that I could overdraw the account and still have cash on hand. But as the sums I was spending got exponentially bigger, each monthly pay cycle I was starting behind - first $500 behind, then $700, then $900. Soon I was starting with so little pay each month that I was forced to do the whole process over and over, just to be able to eat. I stopped ordering make up, and just ordered food with PayPal to get buy.

And then I hit bottom.

I was running up bills so far away from payday that the bank finally began cutting me off and shutting down my overdraft. My PayPal was suddenly getting refused. The little “order now” wheel would still spin, but instead of stomach-flipping excitement, my growling stomach rumbled with fear as "Your payment failed to process" would appear on my screen.

And so, last week I found myself, five days from payday, with all the lipstick in the world, and no food. It was time to sell my make up. Through friends I found a Facebook group where I could offload my prized cosmetics to other equally obsessed beauty hoarders.

Now, here I am, hawking my shiny palettes to strangers so I can PayPal a pizza. I guess I really am eating my lipstick. And I’ve learned my lesson.

I know what you're going to say - I'm irresponsible, I’m a hoarder, I'm a spoiled brat. And those things are true - it doesn't escape my realm of self-awareness that, as a diagnosed sufferer of OCD, hoarding and compulsive behaviors are manifestations of my messy mind. And yes, I know there are people who can't afford to eat and don't have fancy-pants palettes to trade for their supper.

What I do know is what I told PayPal in the first place - fix your dang system. It shouldn't take five days for a damn payment to go through. Even if it's for emergency pizza.