All not so quiet on the Western front!

An example of what we’re up against. This one happened a while ago with Western Union. It was a very simple thing – just send some money, which is the business Western Union is in – isn’t it?


The proceedings went something like this:

Western Union, Part 1 (the telephone call):

HER @ WU: “Hello,”

ME: “Hello, I’d like to send some money to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.”  (I was in the UK at the time)

HER @ WU: “How much would you like to send?”

ME: “I need to send £12,000.”

HER @ WU: “Oh, that’s quite a lot of cash to carry around.”

ME: “Yes, it is. I can get a cashier’s check from the bank, that’s as good as cash.” (silly me!)

HER @ WU: “No we have to have cash.”

ME: I thought, ‘Then why make the pointless point in the first place’, but I said, “OK, I’ll bring the cash. Is there anything else you need?”

HER @ WU: “We would need some form of photographic ID, a passport or driver’s license.”

ME: “OK, anything else?”

HER @ WU: “A phone or electricity bill with your name and address on it.”

ME: “OK, I can do that too. Is that it?”

HER @ WU: “Something showing who the money is going to.”

ME: “OK, is that it this time?”

And that was it.

I went to my bank, withdrew the cash, checked the exchange rate it was 1.53, so the £12,000 was more than enough for the $17,500 and the Western Union fee.

All was ready to go.

Or so I thought.

Western Union, Part 2 (the office):

ME: “Hello, I need to transfer £12,000 to Las Vegas etc., etc.”

HER: “Oh yes, you phoned us about that.”

ME: “Yes, that’s right. Now I’ve brought the money and I’m ready to send it.”

HER: “You have to fill in this form.”

So I filled in the form.

ME: “How much will the transfer cost?”

HER: She looked at her computer screen, “The transfer will cost £465 = US$711.45.”

ME: “OK. Just confirm with me that we are sending US$17,500?”

HER: “I’ll have to phone headquarters to find out.”

ME: “But this is a bureau de change, that’s what you do here, you must know the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar?”

HER: “I have to phone Western Union to get their rate.”

ME: “But it won’t be that much different.” (I was so innocent in those days)

So she phoned Western Union headquarters and their rate was 1.43, not 1.53 that the rest of the world uses.

Western Union were screwing me out of another US$1153.50. But I was in a hurry to get the money transferred so I said that was ok too.

HER: “Do you have some ID.”

So I handed over my passport

HER: “Have you a utility bill with your name and address?”

And they got that

HER: “When this amount of money is involved we need a document confirming the destination and the person who should receive the money.”

So I showed them the letter the recipient had faxed to me

HER: “Yes that is ok, but it is supposed to be faxed to head office.”

ME: “But you are Western Union’s representative and you have the document.”

HER: “You have to fax it to headquarters for verification.”

ME: “OK, so your company doesn’t trust you. There’s a fax machine on the desk beside you let’s fax it to them now.”

No that was no good. Far, far too easy!

HER: “You have to fax it.”

ME: “Well let me use your fax machine and I will fax it now.”

HER: “No you have to fax it yourself,  to our head office.”

ME: “What difference does it make where it is faxed from as long as they get it…….OK, OK, I will fax them the document when I get back to the office. Meantime if I leave the money with you will you make sure it is transferred as soon as your headquarters gets the fax.”

HER: “They will have to verify the fax.”

ME: “And how are they going to do that?”

HER: “They will have to send it to London.”

I started to ask why we were faxing it to the wrong place to begin with and why not fax it to London straightaway, but I just said,

ME: “How long is that going to take?”

HER: “They will get it tomorrow.”

ME: “And how long after they get the fax until the money can be sent?”

She obviously didn’t know.

ME: “And the money won’t be transferred until then?”

HER: “No.”

ME: “But the whole point of using Western Union, paying your extortionate charges and exchange rate profiteering, is so that the money arrives today. We have people waiting there for. We promised to have it there today and you led me to believe that the whole process would take less than half an hour?”

HER: “Well there are money laundering regulations and we have to…..blah blah blah.”

ME: “So the money will go tomorrow, after I send a fax detailing the recipient is and what the money is for, to the wrong place, and they then resend it to the right place? Is that definite?”

HER: “Well yes, providing everything is all right.”

ME: “Ok, so you will send the money?”

HER: “Yes, if you get a statement from your bank showing when you withdrew the money.”

ME: “WHAT! You never mentioned that before. Why did you wait until 10 minutes after the banks have closed before you threw that one at us? What happens if I got some of it out of the bank and a couple if hundred pounds out of my wallet?”

HER: “Well, we need a statement from the bank showing the withdrawal.”

ME; “So you won’t send the money until you get that as well and you won’t get that until the banks open in the morning. What you are telling me is you aren’t going to send this money, is that right?”

HER: “We need to have all this documentation because of money laundering…..more blah blah blah.”

I left. It was either that or commit a heinous crime of brutality, that would have done her no good at all and would probably have landed me in jail. I’d been there an hour and a half and the place was closing.

The SABs had triumphed again!

Up to a point. Western Union didn’t get the business. I never went back.

Have you had similar experiences? Send them along. Let the world know what is happening before it is too late.

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