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Paypal Documentation is Terrible

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My first experience working with Paypal is horrendous.

Here are issues Paypal needs to address

Terrible Documentation
You know why w3schools is so awesome? It’s because they offer 5-7 page quick start tutorials on anything you want to learn. This is what paypal is sorely lacking. They make no attempt at writing concise and comprehensive tutorials. Instead, they compile incomplete 200 page manuals, scatter documentation across various websites, and omit references to REQUIRED parameters for their APIs.

It took me 3 days to understand the requirements behind a simple paypal checkout call. Then it took me another 2 days to successfully execute the SetExpressCheckout NVP call, the most basic of all calls.

I salute the technical support team at Paypal. They probably spend 80% of their time answering beginner’s questions that should be addressed in a 5-page quick start guide.

Non-descriptive Error Codes
I get an error “Security Header is Not Valid”. What does this mean?

a) Wrong Api_end_point because paypal made recent upgrades to their api
b) Your credentials are incorrect
c) Space aliens think you’re hot and they’re hitting on you
d) None of the above
e) Any or all of the above

If you chose e), you are correct. The error codes almost always tell you nothing. You copy the error code and error message into google, hit search, and you’ll get dozens of possible reasons that generate the error.

In my case, I mistakenly thought that my paypal credentials could be used in sandbox mode. And this reflects my poor understanding of the paypal basics. (And it relates to terrible documentation, which mentioned next to nothing on how to set up sandbox environment).

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to complain about at the end of this month, when paypal integration is complete.

Written by John Lai

January 16th, 2009 at 12:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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eCommerce: PayPal and Beanstream

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UPDATE: I wrote this a while back, so skip to the bottom for more up to date info

I recently made a comparison between Beanstream and PayPal. This is my report. I welcome any opinion.

I’ve done extensive research into both products and can conclude that both offer the same services, but at different prices. From my experience, there’s no real pro vs. con between Beanstream and PayPal. It’s a matter of selecting the best price plan for your business. A business’s monthly online sales volume will determine which price plan is right for you, and consequently, help you decide between Beanstream and Paypal.

When talking about costs, the price plans Beanstream and PayPal offers vary. But all plans consist of the following fees:

- Set up fee (between Free – $100)
- Monthly fee (between $20 – $70)
- Transaction fee (between $0.20 – $1.00 per transaction)
- Merchant account fee (between 2% – 4% per transaction)

Beanstream and PayPal collect the setup fee, monthly fee and transaction fee. The bank dealing with credit cards collects the merchant account fee (when you go to a store and pay by credit card swipe, there is a 2% to 4% charge to the store owner…the merchant account fee is this fee)

All other things compared: everything Beanstream does, PayPal does, and vice versa. They both provide easy to use API and documentation for programmers. They both have easy to understand CMS for managing finances.

So that’s the nutshell and everything in it.

UPDATE: December 13, 2010
Actually, the biggest difference between Beanstream and Paypal is support. Beanstream is much more timely in terms of support. Paypal support is terrible…you have to post in forums and wait hours for an OP to post short un-descriptive answers. Also, paypal documentation is terrible, which I’ve written about here:

Written by John Lai

November 27th, 2008 at 12:09 am

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