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Archive for September 29th, 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.