For one brief, sparkling moment, an eBay (EBAY) user was granted the nominal title of Earth's only quadrillionaire by the auction site's online payment service.
Chris Reynolds, 56, of Media, Pa., opened his monthly email statement from PayPal on Friday to find an ending balance of $92,233,720,368,547,800 -- more than 1.26 million times the fortune of the world's richest person, Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu (as estimated by Forbes).
"I'm just feeling like a million bucks," Reynolds told the Philadelphia Daily News on Monday. "At first I thought that I owed quadrillions. It was quite a big surprise."
But when Reynolds logged on to PayPal's site, he saw a less unexpected balance: zero. The error, evidently, had been corrected. His good feeling remained, however, leading him to donate $30 to the Democratic slate for Delaware County Council.
Reynolds, who owns a public relations firm with his wife, said he generally spends no more than $100 a month using PayPal, buying and selling vintage car parts on eBay. Had his bonanza been more than an e-mirage, Reynolds said he would have used it to pay down the national debt first, then to "buy the Phillies, if I could get a great price."
PayPal has been close-lipped about how such a gargantuan error occurred, citing its policy of not giving out information on customer accounts -- not even those filled with heaps of imaginary riches.
This post has been updated here to reflect that the enormous error was in fact a negative balance, not a credit, as Mr. Reynolds had initially said."
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