In case, you aren't already aware, Safaricom, PayPal, and TransferTo entered into a partnership a few weeks ago to provide a PayPal to Mpesa money transfer service. In essence, you can now withdraw funds from PayPal and load your Mpesa account via TransferTo. This, as expected, was received positively by the millions of Kenyans who work online.
So, I quickly set up an account on the TransferTo website and did my first transaction for $136.73 on 17th April. It went smoothly. TransferTo's onscreen message advised that I was to receive the funds within three hours and, I did! I was elated! In fact, as soon as you click "Submit" on the TransferTo site, Safaricom also sends you a message letting you know how long to wait for your money and the amount to expect.
A few days later on 27the April, 1st May and again on 4th May, I did three more transactions, all without a glitch.
The Unthinkable...And then, on May 8th, the unthinkable happened. Having gotten accustomed (somewhat) to the process, I withdrew $181.09 and got the usual onscreen message from TransferTo and a text message from Safaricom, both advising me that I would receive the money within two hours. Safaricom's message read, "Your withdrawal of USD 181.09 from your PayPal is being processed. You should receive 17, 616 in your M-PESA in 2 hours." For those familiar with TransferTo, you are also aware that their onscreen message usually provides a specific ETA. In my case, it said, "within two hours".
Identifying the ProblemI withdrew the funds around 5:20 pm on 8th May 2018 and was, therefore, expecting the funds to hit my M-pesa latest 7:30pm that evening. At around 8pm, I retrieved my phone from the charger and was surprised to find my M-Pesa uncredited. Curious, I fired up my computer and logged into PayPal to check if the transaction had failed (or something). The transaction record didn't show anything amiss. See the screen capture below. The transaction cleared smoothly from PayPal to TransferTo.
Having established there was nothing wrong with PayPal's end, I took to Twitter and asked @Safaricom_care. I have embedded the tweets below.
@Safaricom_Care @TransferTo @AskPayPal I withdrew some funds from Paypal over three hours ago to my Mpesa number. I was supposed to get it within two hours. What's happening? Transfer To transaction ID: 116967 Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org— Kihara Kimachia (@KiharaKimachia) May 8, 2018
Apologies Kihara, what was the indicated duration for the transfer to be effected?^WO— Safaricom Care (@Safaricom_Care) May 8, 2018
Two hours. That was at 5:20pm this evening. It is now 8:50pm.— Kihara Kimachia (@KiharaKimachia) May 8, 2018
Kindly be patient. You'll get a confirmation message once the transaction is complete.^NK— Safaricom Care (@Safaricom_Care) May 8, 2018
Flaccid SupportNote the last tweet. After I tell them the expected wait time, they ask me to be patient and to expect a confirmation message without offering, at the very least, an indication of how long that will take. So, I ask...
What does that mean? Why would you send me a message stating, "WITHIN TWO HOURS" if that isn't the case? How long should I be patient? You can't just leave it open-ended like that! Patience is finite!— Kihara Kimachia (@KiharaKimachia) May 8, 2018
And, they respond...
Hi, we may not be definite. Please contact Paypal using the handle to complete the transaction. ^IZ— Safaricom Care (@Safaricom_Care) May 8, 2018
Essentially, they wash their hands of the matter and direct me to PayPal. I fire off one more comment but they refuse (run away) to respond, so I take the fight to PayPal and TransferTo via Twitter. I also log into TransferTo and send them a support request via their site and a message on Facebook Messenger. Screenshots follow:
@AskPayPal I withdrew some funds from Paypal over four hours ago to my Mpesa number. I was supposed to get it within two hours. What's happening? Transfer To transaction ID: 116967 Paypal: email@example.com Safaricom blames you https://t.co/Ahk5egW4XI— Kihara Kimachia (@KiharaKimachia) May 8, 2018
@TransferTo A recent transaction failed to go through to Mpesa. You had indicated 2 hours and it is well over four hours now. My PayPal records show the transaction to you was completed. What's the hold-up? Where is my money? This is extremely irritatiting. Transaction ID: 116967— Kihara Kimachia (@KiharaKimachia) May 8, 2018
PayPal and TransferTo totally failed to respond despite several additional tweets and emails until 9th May at around 4am. I woke up and found a response to my Tweet and FB from TransferTo.
Hi, thank you for contacting us. Please can you send a DM with your transaction ID so we can look into the matter. Thank you.— TransferTo (@TransferTo) May 10, 2018
PayPal also requested further information via DM.
Hi, thanks for reaching out! Can you DM us with details about what's happening? :) Thanks! ^EHMB— PayPal Support (@AskPayPal) May 9, 2018
So, I did exactly that. I provided PayPal with more information and waited for further communication from TransferTo.
It Gets Interesting...The answers I received left me in total shock. See below.
First, TransferTo came back and blamed Safaricom.
And, just I was reading this message from TransferTo, blaming Safaricom for a technical issue, my phone buzzed and I saw a DM from PayPal stating as follows:
Utter Confusion!So, what is the true position? Is Safaricom the problem or did PayPal's internal security system place a hold on my money? I'm I unreasonable to expect a unified position given that these three firms are partners in this PayPal to Mpesa thing!
To make matter worse, a few minutes later on 9th May 2018 at 10:30 am, Safaricom sent me a text message advising me that the transaction could not be completed and advised me to contact paypal-mobilemoney.com (TransferTo)...further confusion. My money was effectively in no man's land!
The TakeawayThe events described above have taught me three hard lessons about the PayPal to Mpesa service by these three firms:
- Safaricom is clueless - They will give you canned responses and avoid giving you any straight answers. When you push them, they run for the hills and refer you back to PayPal.
- Support from all three is Flaccid - Flaccid means weak, ineffective. When you use this service and have a problem, you should expect nothing more than weak and ineffective support.
- Deceptive and unprofessional communication - don't believe the onscreen message from TransferTo giving you a timeline (in my case 2 hours). From my experience, that message simply isn't true. They will refer to you to their fine print which says three days when you complain.
Viable AlternativesStick to Equity Bank. I have used them in the past without incident. They take three days but the fee is only 1.5% compared to Safaricom's 3%. There are also individuals and small companies such as ExchangePesa by Martin Karugu that offer an instant service and have proven reliable.
Have you encountered something similar? Please share in the comments section.
Update: The money was eventually refunded and I withdrew it instantly via ExchangePesa.