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Beware of Stripe

I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple of days. To say it’s not with a heavy heart… is an overstatement. It’s about a company, and it’s acting as such, so that’s the kind of treatment it’ll get.

(Haven’t heard of Stripe? It’s a payment provider, often favored by developers thanks to great tools and integrations, that helps anything from a small online store, to large e-commerce giants, charge for goods and services. They take credit cards, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and just about any Pay there is out there. Numerous startups use them, it’s easy to get set up, and I had nothing but good things to say about Stripe. Well, until now, obviously.)

Some disclosure, before I get to the point.

First, I use Stripe, as the only option, for Switch to iPad through Substack. I’ve used Stripe in the past. As a developer, it’s by far the best payment option I’ve ever come across. That only makes this worse.

Second, I can’t name the damaged party of what I’m about to share. I’m sure we’d all like me to do that, but it’s not my call. I have obtained permission to mention this at all, with the party being anonymous. Furthermore, I will say this, however: It’s a non-profit with all necessary regulations and whatnot, operating from Sweden, protecting people in a hot-bed country, where people need help from the oppressors.

Right. So, beware of Stripe why, then?

I’ve worked with a non-profit in Sweden for some time. They’re the real deal, doing real work, operating schools where there otherwise might not be any, and helping people get by under the thumb of recently re-instated oppressors. Some, recently a lot, I’d wager, without disclosing anything, of their funding is through donations. These donations are usually (but not solely) from Swedish citizens, and one by either Swish (a local way to “swish” money from your bank account, to a receiving number tied to a person’s phone, or, in this case an organizaition), by invoice or bank transfer, or by online payment.

Yes, through Stripe. I know, I was there deciding on the platform, and Divide & Conquer built it.

As I’ve said, I’ve used Stripe in the past, and recommended it countless times. We’ve got plenty of clients relying on it, all without a hitch, until now.

You see, Stripe decided to freeze the non-profit’s account. Weeks later, here’s still something north of €25,000 sitting there, donations given in good faith to help people in need. Can’t get it, the support is pleasant but not interested in solving the situation, and the frustration is, unsurprisingly, high. I know for a fact that this is money required in a region with dire needs. The lack of funds will impact people lives for the worse. Not that Stripe seems to give a damn.

Why would they do this, Stripe? What’s their angle? First, I’d like to clarify that the non-profit is above-board, well-established, with what’s known as a 90-account here in Sweden. That’s a way for Swedish citizens to know that the account you’re sending money to, is tied to a vetted organization. These accounts are very hard to come by. The non-profit is, clearly, not the issue.

The country they want to support, however, could be. Problem is, it’s not listed as such on Stripe’s website. Money has been flowing for months, and we’re talking serious amounts here. Stripe surely had no concerns getting their fee from, well, I can’t tell you, but it’s substantial. The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me. Too bad some of these donations are stuck in Stripe limbo.

The only reasonable explanation is that the region this non-profit wants to help, well, it’s a hotbed. It’s bad, an understatement in its own right, but that’s what I’ve got. It’s bad, they need the help, and people know it, and thus there are donations coming in. Maybe Stripe is afraid the money goes to the regime? I wouldn’t know, it’s not that there’s been any reasonable explanation given. I just know that donations are frozen, money can’t be withdrawn, and this is 90s PayPal all over again.

Which brings me full circle. As a developer, I’ve recommended Stripe for years. No more. They’re clearly not reliable, and should be avoided at all cost. Now, I wouldn’t write this, well, perhaps I would because it pisses me off, but I wouldn’t write this like this, if it wasn’t for all the potential goodwill in the world now. While I won’t name the region where the non-profit is operating, I will say that what’s to stop Stripe from freezing money to other regions of unrest? What if you take donations for Ukrainian war victims, will they let those go through? They bloody well should, but, to me, and hopefully to you, their credibility is shot.

It’s not about the donations, it’s about what they could do. The result of withholding money to people in need, I just don’t want to think about that. Neither does Stripe, it seems, so do yourself, and the thousands of people that would’ve benefited from the frozen (perhaps lost) money, a favor: Pick another provider than Stripe.

Beware, I say. Beware of Stripe.

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