One of my hobbies is historical recreation via the SCA, a group that focuses on the Middle Ages and Renaissance. My SCA persona is a medieval muslim. I also collect antique weapons, and one of my prized pieces is a small Persian knife made of damascus steel. It's just about the right size to use as an eating knife in the SCA and would be well suited to my persona, but since it is an antique I have been reluctant to risk losing or damaging it.
Some months back, I noticed on EBay a number of sellers in India offering replicas of damascus steel knives. They were not very expensive so I ordered one to see what it was like and found it to be of surprisingly high quality. After corresponding with the maker by email, I asked if he would be willing to make a copy of my antique. He was, so I sent him detailed photos and got back a lovely little damascus steel kard very nearly identical to the one I already had, aside from using silver instead of gold for the ornamental koftgari work and camel bone instead of (I think) ivory for the handle. This year at Pennsic, a two week long SCA camping event, I wore it.
I liked it enough so that I decided to order some more as gifts for friends. I had made my previous payments by Paypal, so attempted to do the same again—only to get back a message from Paypal saying that my payment had been reversed. The message had a link for more information, but it turned out to be broken, to lead to a page that started with "Sorry—your last action could not be completed."
I called Paypal and eventually got to a human being who told me that my payment had been reversed not by Paypal but by a third party. On further inquiry, I was told that the third party was the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and given their phone number. I called them this morning and was told that they had nothing to do with reversing Paypal payments—they apparently exist to deal with complaints about problems with financial services.
So I called Paypal again and this time got through not only to a human being but a competent one. She investigated the matter, and found the explanation.
My Paypal payment included a note intended as information for my records and the recipient. It mentioned "Damascus steel." Damascus is in Syria, Syria and the U.S. do not get along very well at the moment, so the inclusion of the word "Damascus" resulted in Paypal's software flagging the transaction as a suspicious one. That resulted not in an inquiry to me or, I presume, a human being reading the note, but instead in the payment being reversed. I have now resent the payment, this time without any mention of Damascus steel.
Which, in case any of my readers are curious, is the label for two old technologies which produce similar effects, knife and sword blades that show an elaborate and attractive pattern rather like a topographic map.
The top photo shows the replica, the bottom the antique.