Western Union Makes Cash-Broke Ex Play The Waiting Game

Wiring money has gotten a lot more difficult since September 11th. This we know, and many of us are willing to put up with the more convoluted process. Still, when you’re caught in the looping bowels of that convoluted process during an emergency, and companies like Western Union treat you like a criminal as you try to get cash to a loved one, you start wondering if terrorists are the ones really being inconvenienced.

Read Cior wrote us in about just such an experience she had with Western Union when she tried to wire money to an ex-boyfriend who was in dire financial straits. After sending the money, Western Union found they could not “verify” any of her previous addresses, even though Cior has used any and all of them to conduct business with Western Union. Ultimately, her payment was caught up in transaction limbo, thanks to a terrible and opaque process that saw responsibility for the freezed payment toseed back and forth between Western Union and her bank like a frisbee. Her email, after the jump.

Broke up with my boyfriend, moved across the country. He goes on an international trip, returns, finds himself broke. Me, being the softy, agrees to help. Time is of the essence, bank wire transfers involve a delay. I’m willing to pay the fees, so I turn to Western Union.

I go online, place a request to Send Money Fast! and dump a not-insignificant number of hundreds into their hands. Instead of getting a confirmation, I get a notice informing me that I have to call them for additional verification before they can send the money.

So I call, and am asked for my name and address. I provide it. They say that their computer can’t verify my address. They ask for a previous address. I provide it. They say that their computer can’t verify my address. We go through this routine until I’m reaching for street and apartment numbers I used way back in 1995. None of them verify.

Let’s rewind for a moment. I’m a normal citizen, have owned homes, have had a checking account since childhood, pay my taxes and have used all of the addresses I provided to Western Union for official business. That they can’t verify any of them appalls me.

It’s around this point in the call where they start dealing with me as if I were a fraudster. Tone changes, everything gets cool and icy. They are unable to help and refuse to process my request to send funds. Fine, they’re allowed to be asshats.

Here’s where it gets good. I call my bank to relay my experience and see if it might’ve been something on their end that held up the process. They inform me that a pre-authorization hold was made against my account for the amount I tried to send, and that they approved it. Furthermore, they tell me that the pre-authorization will stay on my account for 3-5 business days.

Remember that part about not-insignificant amount of money I was trying to send? I still have to send it, my ex is still in trouble, and now I’m temporarily out for twice of what I intended to lend.

I call Western Union to request that they remove the pre-authorization, seeing as they declined to complete the transaction. They give me a story about how they take care of situations like these by sending a fax to my bank, and that my bank would be responsible for processing it in their own time. I go along with the process, give them my bank (BofA, as per Consumerist suggestion) and everything pauses. Apparently, BofA is “the only bank that will not accept Western Union faxes.” They then inform me that my bank can remove this hold, which I know to be a lie. Several phone calls later, a lot of pleading, a lot of disgruntledness, I am still beholden to Western Union for a lot of money for a period of 3-5 business days.

The pre-authorization hold dropped off my account in 5 business days exactly, during which period I fretted about money a great deal.

Western Union was never kind on the phone, treated me as if I were a fraud, held my money for 5 business days and lied to me about how I could’ve resolved the situation. When complaining, politely, I was treated with a lot of disrespect as well — cause, you know, I’m a fraud.

There’s that. Put that in your blog. I took great delight in informing Western Union that I’d publish an account of their poor service on the internet. You’ve received my first dispatch.