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A word about FastSpring, Apple Pay, and PayPal

As I reported on our blog on August 25, some customers are experiencing a problem with Apple Pay, and as I further reported on September 1, FastSpring has told us that the earliest this problem might be fixed (but no guarantees) is late September. We have now also had a few reports of various difficulties with PayPal, though those do not appear to be as widespread.

Briefly, what some people are finding is that when they place an order that involves a discount of any kind, they see the correct amount in their cart and click Check Out. Then they click Apple Pay, and the Apple Pay display shows the undiscounted amount! So, it appears as though Apple Pay is going to charge you much more than you should be paying.

UPDATE (September 22, 2023) FastSpring claims to have fixed this problem, and there’s evidence to suggest that’s true. I’m hesitant to declare complete victory just yet, but the problem looks like it’s probably mostly solved. What follows is what I originally wrote about the problem on September 8.

Here’s what you should know about this problem:

  • Multiple customers have confirmed that, if they go through with the Apple Pay purchase even though the incorrect price is shown, the amount they’re actually charged (as evidenced by both their receipt from FastSpring and their bank statements) is the correct price. In other words, this seems to be a display bug, not a payment bug. If you encounter this situation, complete the payment, and find that Apple Pay did in fact overcharge you, all you need to do is send me a note and I’ll sort it out for you.

  • I have not only reported this issue, in detail, to FastSpring, but I’ve also followed up numerous times, including escalating the issue to a support manager. I have stressed, repeatedly and firmly, that this situation is entirely unacceptable and that it deserves much faster attention. FastSpring has replied, repeatedly, that they understand and that it’s on their list, but they still can’t give me a timeline for a resolution.

  • In a few cases, customers who experienced this problem went on to select PayPal as a payment method, only to find that their browser froze or gave them an error message and did not complete the transaction. I have reported this, too, to FastSpring. UPDATE (September 18, 2023): Further investigation indicates that this PayPal problem occurs only when someone first tries Apple Pay, then backs out and tries PayPal. Otherwise, people who choose PayPal are able to check out just fine.

  • We have had no reports of payment problems with credit or debit cards or Amazon Pay. If you’re able to use one of those payment methods, it will almost certainly go through without any issues!

  • As soon as you click Check Out, FastSpring takes over the entire process of collecting your payment (and any applicable taxes). It’s a black box to us. We only know that it has succeeded when their server sends our server a message to let us know. Nearly always, it succeeds! But when it doesn’t, we have no way to determine what went wrong. We can’t see or affect anything that happens during the period that they’re handling the transaction.

  • We have been talking for a long time about switching to a different payment processor, for reasons that have nothing to do with these recent bugs. If that were a simple matter of clicking a few buttons, we would have done it long ago. Unfortunately, it’s a long and complex process that involves a lot of programming, testing, and troubleshooting. Although it has been on my to-do list for a while, that list also includes writing, updating, editing, and/or publishing dozens of books, among many other tasks. I see no way we can accomplish that this month, and even getting it done by the end of the year is more than I can promise. UPDATE (September 18, 2023): The situation has become severe enough that I dropped nearly everything to work on a new system. This blog post has the details.

I am very, very sorry about this situation. However unhappy you may be about it, I assure you that I’m even more unhappy. I’ve lost quite a bit of sleep over this issue. If it were in my power to do more than I’m already doing, I would. All I can ask is that you bear with us until either FastSpring fixes the problem or I can find the time to switch to a different company.