We helper types are seeing this question appear more and more on the Second Life forums. So in today's post, I'll talk about the most common reasons for this. There are three of them.
If you are buying $L for the first time, you have to first register a "payment method" with Linden Lab. LL will accept most major credit cards, or a "verified" PayPal or Skrill account. They will NOT accept prepaid credit cards, debit cards, or gift cards.
"Verified" means that your PayPal or Skrill account has been backed up by linking it to either a major credit card or a Real Life bank account. The procedures for doing this can be found on the PayPal or Skrill web sites. The process will take a few business days.
There's one point to keep in mind here. If you use a bank account, you must be careful to keep enough money actually in the PayPal or Skrill account to pay your Second Life bills. Linden Lab won't wait several days for money to be transferred from your bank account, to PayPal, to them. They insist on instant payment, and if they don't get it, the transaction will simply fail.
When you set up a payment method for the first time, LL will make a $1.00 test transaction. This test transaction will be quickly reversed, but if you are quick to check your balance, you'll see it. Don't be alarmed, it's not a real charge to your account.
So...the first reason that people claim they bought $L but didn't get them is because they used a payment method that isn't accepted by LL, or there wasn't enough money in the account, or there is some other problem like your credit card being past its expiration date.
The second trap that people fall into is the "limit buy". You buy and sell Linden Dollars on the Linden Dollar Exchange, or LindeX. This is a market of buyers and sellers, just like a stock market or a Real Life currency exchange. The price of the $L fluctuates a little bit over the course of a day, just as the price of a stock goes up and down in response to the market pressures of supply and demand. Linden Lab, acting through its own account, serves to stabilize the market, preventing large swings in the price.
When you open the "Buy $L" page on the Second Life website, you will see two windows. On the left is a window where you can place an "instant buy"...a purchase at the current market price. If you use this window to buy your $L, you'll get them immediately.
But to the right is another window, and it says "Best Rate". This tempts a lot of people, because who doesn't want to get the best rate, after all! However, if you use this window, you are making a "limit buy." Here, you specify not only the amount of $L you want, but the exchange rate that you are willing to pay. If the current price of the $L is $L265 per $1 USD, and you offer to buy at $L270 per $1 USD, your order won't be filled right away, since no one is willing to sell at $L270 when they can get the better price of $L265 (it's a better price because the seller has to give up fewer $L in exchange for a dollar.) So, your order will just sit there in the queue until the price of the $L gets to $L270:1. Depending on the market, and how greedy you are, that could take hours, days, weeks...or never.
Besides market movement, another factor that can affect how long it takes is how many other people are ahead of you in line. Limit orders are filled on a first come, first served basis, so if there are many millions of outstanding $L orders, it can take longer for yours to be filled. You can use the Market Data provided by LL to see what might be a reasonable asking price to buy or sell.
Using the limit buy option can often get you a better deal, if you are patient and not too greedy. But people who don't understand about limit buys use this window, and then wonder why they have never gotten the $L they paid for.
NOTE: When you make a limit buy, the money is taken from your payment method (or your $USD balance, if there's money in there) immediately. It's held "in escrow" by LL until the order is either filled, or canceled by you. If you cancel the order, the money does not go back to your credit card or PayPal, it goes into the $USD balance of your Second Life account.
The third reason that people sometimes don't get the $L they tried to buy is, of course, the one that people always think is the cause: Linden Lab messed up. Sometimes, the payment system is down for maintenance, either planned or unplanned. In this case, your purchase might actually fail halfway...you're charged, but don't get your $L. It's much less common than people think, but it does happen on rare occasions. If it does, you can call LL Billing. Here are the phone numbers:
Long distance ( not free, but you can use Skype to save some cost ) : 703-286-6277
**Note: Support is offered only in English