A few months ago I finally implemented Stripe as donation platform for WDRL with the help of my friend Tobias Tom. This is a short story on how it turned out to be an awful experience.

I already started an attempt to implement Stripe when they released their cool checkout.js product. What I didn’t realize back then, and only found out by accident, is that while it’s super easy to implement the JavaScript for it, you still need to make the charge on your server by accessing their API. This is well hidden in the documentation. It needs you to know a server side language and you should really understand what you’re doing here as you are dealing with payments now. Even worse, this little fact puts you in charge if anything goes wrong with a payment.

However, this summer my friend Tobias helped me implement it on the wdrl.info site. It turned out that not too much people are confident using Stripe and most people still donate via PayPal. That’s why I was surprised today to see a couple of donations, like five in a couple of minutes, incoming via Stripe. I was a bit suspicious and logged in to the dashboard.

First thing I noticed were a lot of declined payments and then seeing that the suspicious transfers all have weird payment details (a gmail address with a name and a random number, not all passed CVC check, and various countries, missing bank details).

Digging into the help docs of Stripe you suddenly find out that they set you in charge for chargebacks, fraud and similar things. If a chargeback happens, you are at least charged a fee of EUR 15, probably more by other parties involved. They also state that if you refund a lot of payments this can affect your account negatively (understandably) but when you report a payment as fraud this is a legal case of which you can be held responsible if it turns out it isn’t fraudulent.

At that point I disabled the Stripe form on the website immediately. Actually, it seems you can’t even disable or delete your Stripe account without contacting them personally via email (no option in the dashboard, no article in docs/help).

My take-aways:

That’s it. No more Stripe for me, PayPal will be again the only donation platform for WDRL again.

A Call with a Stripe Person

Only a few days after I published this note, I received an email by a Stripe employee here in Germany, asking politely if we could have a talk to sort out my problems and discuss my experience. I agreed because it was great to see that they care about me as a very small customer and I also wanted to let them know where I struggled and if I could resolve some of my issues. It was indeed an interesting call. Here are some notes from it in short form:

In summary, it came out that for me it’s not worth it to build such a complex system. The reason is mainly that in the six months of providing Stripe donations, I received roughly about 50EUR in summary. And building such a review and queue system would cost me at least some hours, not including the running review effort. I conclude that Stripe is still a great way to accept money but you should know what you’re doing and it’s not thought for very small projects.