EBay/Skype doesn’t want Chinese Business…

A few months back, I purchased an iPhone. No, not the cool new Apple iPhone but a Cisco/Linksys iPhone so make Skype calls without a computer. Living in China, I use Skype frequently and appreciate the convenience of being able to talk without being tethered to my computer. I’ll probably buy a second iPhone shortly and use it at my office.

Unfortunately, the iPhone interferes with all of your text messages on Skype. Skype does not deal gracefully with one user being logged in at multiple computers, and it deals especially badly with this situation when one of those computers is a Skype phone. So, for the last 2 months I’ve only been able to receive a small fraction of the Skype text messages (not SMS) that have been sent to me.

To work around this problem, I came up with what I thought to be a simple solution. Just setup another Skype account and use it exclusively with your Skype iPhone(s). Due to EBay/Skype’s business rules, this is much more difficult than I could have ever expected.

The first time I tried to place an order, I used the Visa that I use to pay for my primary Skype account. Skype rejected that order. Skype has a business rule that a Credit Card may only be used to fund a single Skype account, though multiple credit cards may be used to fund the same Skype account. You just can’t then reused that Credit Card to open an additional Skype account. OK, not exactly reasonable, but what choice do I have?

The second time I tried to place an order, I though to myself, why not just use my PayPal account as it will draft directly from my bank account and hopefully bypass this credit card restriction? Problem, even though Skype promotes PayPal payments on their website, they do not allow an order to be submitted via PayPal’s default “bank draft” method, and even though both of these are EBay companies, the two don’t bother to work together to make it possible to pay for Skype via the default PayPal payment method.

The third time I tried, I finally caved in and decided to use another credit card. Unfortunately, it was rejected because that payment method wasn’t available “available in your country“. I tried a 4th time, a 5th time…. 10 more times I tried and the payment method failed because it wasn’t available in my country.

As somebody who’s run a large E-Commence business (Oakley Direct), I zeroed in on what was happening – risk management. Skype must get a lot of fraudulent payments with stolen credit cards placed by people in Mainland China, so rather than trying to figure out a way to cash in on a growing market and an ever appreciating currency (rather than the ever deflating dollar), they’ve decided to prevent all credit card payments coming from China, at least if there is an address verification. This sort of idea is like a Car Alarm. It might make some of the criminals look for the next easier target, but I doubt it. The same way that I’m basically stuck with Skype because it’s the only product that meets my international telephony needs, I assume that all of the hl33t hax0r’s running around in China are as well. And in a nation with 5 times the population of the USA, a chronic 10%+ unemployment rate, and 50%+ of the population under-employed, plus a shortage of girls (and therefore girlfriends), China is bound to stay the haxor breeding ground that it is, at least for the near term.

On the other hand, let’s see what happens if Allibaba or Tencent (QQ) decides to compete with Skype for the domestic market. Skype will probably find themselves in the position that EBay already experiences in China. Low ROI. Low market penetration.

To bypass EBay/Skype’s questionable “business logic”, I simply used a “proxy server” in the United States and placed the order with one of my (previously rejected) Credit Cards. The order was instantly approved. All information was the same. Only my IP address changed, even though it didn’t really. It’s just that Skype accepted the Proxy’s IP as my own.

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