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Archive for September 2007

Western Union: The fastest way to send money — NOT!

September 29, 2007 @ 11:21 By: gordon Category: General

This morning, I attempted to send some money via Western Union to a company in China producing some lapel pins I’ve designed. For those who haven’t heard of Western Union, they have been in business for about 150 years and could probably have been considered the de facto standard in sending money from Point A to Point B. The idea is that you give Western Union the name and location of the person you want to send money to (along with the money, of course) and they contact the recipient, verify their identity and give them the money. Naturally, they charge a small fee for this service.

I registered with their website and filled out the online form to complete the transaction and clicked the submit button. It assigned me a transaction tracking number and said that I needed to call them because there was a problem with the transaction. When I called their 800-number, I ended up talking to an agent who put me on hold more than he actually talked to me while he “confirmed some information”. In the end, he was not able to tell me why the transaction failed, just that it had failed and that I wouldn’t be able to re-submit the transfer request for 24 hours. My only option is to go to a local Western Union agent and deal with them in person.

It’s been years since I last used Western Union and that’s because their service was terrible. At the time they were billing themselves as “the fastest way to send money”. I was out of town and wanted to send a small amount of money to someone in Ottawa. So, I found a Western Union office, filled out the form in great detail and paid the agent. I gave the recipient the tracking code and the verification question and answer to they could identify themselves to an agent in Ottawa and pick up the money.

For reasons that escape me entirely, I was able to drive back to Ottawa from PEI and give the money to the recipient in person before Western Union was able to complete the transaction a couple of days later. After a fairly heated conversation with the customer service reps on their tollfree number, I was able to get all my money back, including the service fee and I swore at the time that I would never use Western Union again.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the company in China does not appear to accept Paypal, I wouldn’t be dealing with Western Union now. A straight-forward transaction that should be painless is turning out to be neither straight-forward nor painless. At least the receipient’s name isn’t Mohammed.

Well, that’s it for the summer

September 23, 2007 @ 05:51 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

It’s the Autumnal Equinox. At 05:51 this morning summer ended.

Looking back at the Summer of 2007, I have to say it was a pretty good summer. I did some geocaching, played some golf and generally enjoyed the summer. Though I wasn’t able to steer for the Singapore Slings at the Ottawa Dragonboat Festival, I was able to steer for them at the Fall 400 in Carleton Place earlier this month.

Here’s hoping for an autumn with nice weather that extends well into February or March!

Phone scam

September 15, 2007 @ 11:16 By: gordon Category: General

During the last little while, I’ve had a number of phone calls to my Bell phone number from numbers outside the 613 areacode or who have blocked their number. Until today, there hasn’t been anyone on the line when I answered. This morning, I had a call from a blocked number, but there was an autodialer, which are illegal for most purposes in Canada, claiming to be from “cardmember services” offering me a chance to lower the interest rate on my credit card. If I was interested, I was to press 1, and if I didn’t want any more notifications I was to press 3. I opted to press neither and simply hang up.

In the past, there have been warnings at work about scams where if you press whatever they’re asking to you to, you are actually agreeing to accept a third-party charge on your phone bill. I’m not sure exactly how this works, but it’s probably best to hang up on most autodialers.

Fall 400 Dragon Boat Races

September 09, 2007 @ 12:24 By: gordon Category: General

Congratulations to the organizers of the Fall 400 in Carleton Place!

For the second year in a row, I steered for the Singapore Slings at the dragonboat races yesterday in Carleton Place. The weather this year was better than last year and we had three good races. Our times were:

  • First race: 01:55.19
  • Second race: 02:00.35
  • Third race: 01:56.73
  • Best two combined: 03:51.92

The Fall 400 is a much more relaxed festival than the big festival held in Ottawa every June. Being a smaller festival, there aren’t as many teams racing, meaning everyone gets at least three races. The team area is much less structured than Ottawa’s and you aren’t shoehorned into a tiny little space. Everyone claims an area and spreads out. It’s not as revenue-oriented as Ottawa, with only a couple of food vendors and a small booth where you can buy show memorabilia. It’s held on the Mississippi River, which is much narrower than the Rideau River. Spectators can line up along the whole length of the course and at some points they’re only a few metres from the boats racing downstream.

From a steering perspective, it’s a little more challenging than Ottawa. The race is 400m, compared to 500m in Ottawa. Because of the shape of the river, it can feel like there’s a bit of a bend in the lanes, even though they are straight. The current plays much more of a role and I heard a lot of people say that boats in the third and fourth lanes tended to win heats more often than not. These are the lanes in the centre of the river where the current seems a little faster.

Overall, it was a good festival and I’m already looking forward to next year. I’ve been practicing with the team every Tuesday since the spring, so I’m going to have to find something to fill the void on Tuesday evenings.