Andy McSmith's Diary: Café incurs PayPal’s wrath for trading with the enemy


"When you shop with us, you can pay how you want, when you want, where you want," says the PayPal website. Oh no you can't - not if you are trying to buy coffee from the York Coffee Emporium, a small family business run by Laurence and Philippa Beardmore, in a village called Nether Poppleton, near York.

The Beardmores had their PayPal account shut down without warning. No money could be moved in or out, and customers had a message telling them that the account was frozen, as if their business was in some way dodgy.

So, what were the Beardmore's up to? Were they running up bad debts? Dealing in stolen coffee? Money laundering?

No, they were selling a brand of coffee called Cuban Serrano Superior. In October 1960, President John F Kennedy imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, so if they had been selling this coffee to US customers, they would have been breaking US law. But they weren't: they were selling it in the UK, which is not against any law.

"They were very particularly heavy handed," Philippa Beardmore said. "We arrived at work on Monday morning, and they had totally shut us down. They told us 'this is a warning'. We have now been reinstated, but if you want to order Cuban coffee, you have to do it through Sage Pay: you can't do it through PayPal."

A company spokesman said: "PayPal makes every effort to comply with the laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate around the world. We have determined that as a US company, PayPal and all of its subsidiaries are obliged to comply with specific US government-imposed sanctions, even if these subsidiaries operate outside of the US."


Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told a committee of MPs yesterday: "I personally don't intend to go on Twitter", which makes her the most senior member of the government to resist the lure of the social media. For the record, 13 Cabinet ministers are on Twitter, nine are not. The Welsh Secretary, David Jones has put out more than 13,000 tweets, compared with just 20 from George Osborne. David Cameron has the biggest following, as you would expect, with more than 286,000 followers - more than 200 times as many as the Energy Secretary, Edward Davey.


Nadine Dorries, the former Tory MP who fell out of favour with the whips over her appearance on I'm a Celebrity…  has added an ambitious local Tory to her list of enemies. Cllr Mark Anthony Gaius Versallion is businessman, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy reserve, a former parliamentary candidate and a councillor in Ms Dorries's Mid-Bedforshire constituency. Annoyed by something she had said at a public meeting, he sent an email to fellow councillors accusing her of showing the "'worst examples of a lack of discipline and loyalty."

Her reaction, speaking to the Luton News, was in character - "I am furious that a Conservative councillor is so stupid and so naive that he thinks an MP is only there to assist people who vote conservative….Because I'm female, they think they can get away with it. He needed slapping down big time."

When she first lost the Whip, Ms Dorries seemed confident that the Tories would have to invite her back. Something tells me it will never happen. 


Once, taking on the role of middle aged know-it-all, I challenged my teenage daughter to name a modern lyricist who could write like Bob Dylan, quoting a verse from 'To Ramona' - "From fixtures and forces and friends your sorrow does stem.." - to make my point. She came back with lines from 'Friday' by Rebecca Black: "Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday, Today is Friday…Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards." It was a wind up, of course.

Still, it is with great personal pleasure that I can report that 'Friday' was the clear winner in a survey by the website, NetVoucherCodes, to discover the "most annoying song of the 21st century." If you don't know it, don't do the research: trust me - it's dire.