Friday, 9 December 2016

Goodbye, Western Union

Years ago, an unpleasant online banking experience got me looking for another means to transfer funds abroad. I started using Western Union just because it's well-known and what my family back in the Philippines is more familiar with. But I find that Western Union's service has become bad these recent years. The letter below is the latest, and hopefully the last, I wrote to them.

Dear Western Union,

I received a letter by post from you dated November 8 2016 regarding transaction with tracking no. _____. I sent £300 and the transfer fee was £9.90.

You wrote:

“Due to system issues, your money transfer may not have been available for pickup on the day it was expected. As a result, we are refunding the fee Western Union charged you to send the transfer with the Refund Tracking Number _____. You may pick up your refund at any Western Union agent location in your area.”

I checked the locations and I found Dees Newsagents in Yateley, Hampshire. I specifically checked the opening hours, after all it is a Sunday when most shops are closed. They are open from 7am to 12:30pm.

There was a man behind the counter when I came in. He looked at the Western Union letter and clearly he didn’t know what he was doing as he thought he would have to give me £300 and he didn’t “have that with him.” I told him, no it’s only £9.90, a refund for the transfer fee. He got hold of his laptop and suddenly changed his mind, “we’re closed today,” explaining something like, the store is open till 12.30 but Western Union isn’t and he “wouldn’t be able to access the website”???!. Trying to maintain my composure, I said could you just refund me now and just enter it in the system later. He said, “it doesn’t work that way, see we need your ID.” “I have my ID,” I told him. Still he refused and just tried every single way to say “no.”

Western Union, are these your agents, really?

There’s another agent that is three miles away. I didn’t bother anymore as I didn’t want any more disappointment on a lovely Sunday, not to mention a waste of petrol/gas money.

My take on this is if Western Union truly regretted the customer’s inconvenience (and if it really wanted to give a refund), it will do so in the manner that is most convenient – I’ve never been to an agent before, I always sent the funds through my bank online so I expected that the refund would also be through my bank online. To be honest, I didn’t even expect this refund and was prepared to let go of the incident. Receiving the letter meant I’d have to do another business with Western Union and I knew it wasn’t going to be straightforward and I’d just feel annoyed and frustrated.

If you can’t refund me through online banking, I have paypal, dear Western Union, and it’s ____. Otherwise, just forget it.

Thank you.

They replied and whilst I understand that I wanted to claim the refund nearly a month after it had been generated, still, the agent's excuse about not being able to access the website on a Sunday was poppycock. Also, they didn't address my request about refunding online in the letter below. To chase £9.90, capped with the headache it will bring, is not worth it, thank you.

Dear Ms. Catherine Walder,

Please note that we have concluded our investigation of your Complaint. Thank you for your patience while we carried out our investigation.

Our records indicate that on October 23, 2016, you sent a transaction to _____; however, the transaction was not made available on the expected date due to a system issue that has been identified and fixed. As a result, Western Union has refunded the fee that you were charged at the time of the send. The refund was issued under ____ in the amount of GBR 9.90. You may receive the funds at any Western Union location in the United Kingdom. Please also be advised that the refund was issued on November 08, 2016; therefore, the agent may need to contact Agent Support to renew the transaction.

Having considered the matters raised in your Complaint and the evidence available, Western Union acknowledges that you experienced poor customer service in this instance. We would like to apologize to you for not meeting the high level of service that we try to provide to our valued customers. In recognition of matters raised in your Complaint, Western Union has refunded the fee charged at the time of the send.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of our investigation, you may refer your Complaint to the Statutory Body with responsibility for investigating Complaints made against Financial Institutions;

The Financial Ombudsman Service,
Exchange Tower,
London E14 9SR
United Kingdom

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