July 17, 2013, 3:47 PM

A PayPal glitch tells one man he’s $92,233,720,368,547,800 in debt, briefly

Chris Reynolds panicked for only a split-second before realizing the number was implausible, he says.

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When Pennsylvanian Chris Reynolds opened his June statement from eBay Inc.’s PayPal payment processing service on Saturday, he saw a quadrillion-dollar number in the balance line— $92,233,720,368,547,800, to be precise. “It was preceded by a minus sign; that was a little concerning,” he tells Internet Retailer.

After checking his live PayPal balance on the web and verifying that he was not, in fact, the world’s most in-debt person, Reynolds chalked it up to a glitch and decided to share the story with his friends on Facebook. That gained him a bit of buzz, with a few friends proposing that the error may actually have been in the negative sign, which would slingshot Reynolds in the other direction and making him by far the world’s richest man. (Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates and Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim vie for first and second richest, with fortunes of $73.7 billion and $66.1 billion, respectively, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.)

Reynolds, who owns and operates public relations firm Reynolds Ink with his wife, never bothered to contact PayPal, assuming the number was so obviously an error it wouldn’t cause him trouble, he says. “I didn’t think I owed $92 quadrillion dollars,” he says.

Still, the payment processor contacted him this morning with an apology for any inconvenience, and offered to make what he calls a “modest” donation to a charity of his choice in response; he declines to reveal which charity or the exact amount. “That was a nice goodwill gesture,” he says. “They were very gracious.”

“This was obviously an error and we appreciate that Mr. Reynolds understands this was the case,” a PayPal spokesman says. Reynolds says PayPal told him the mistake was a one-off technical problem and he was the only customer affected.

“No harm, no foul,” he says of the event. “I’ve used PayPal for 13 years and they’ve been pretty accurate.” He says he sells vintage car parts online, accepting payment via PayPal, and he also pays for items he buys online with PayPal.

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