There were two recent incidents in which a total of seven Western Union (WU) representatives did not serve me and, rather than give me a straight answer about the now-obvious fact that they had no intention of completing transactions for me and/or releasing any money I paid to WU agents, they gave me the run-around while also directing me to do more and more work to complete the transactions. My intended receiver and I wasted considerable amounts of time, energy and international calling costs because of these duplicitous actions.
A full summation of the most recent such incident, which occurred January 3-4, 2018, is as follows: 1. On January 3, I attempted an online transaction at WU.com. After completing the sign-up process, I entered all relevant information—including my credit card information—before getting an error message. 2.
I called WU, seeking clarification. I talked with two different representatives before being transferred to a third, who told me there was no problem with my account; she suggested that the problem was somehow related to the online system. Therefore, she advised me to go complete the transaction at an agent location. 3.
I completed the transaction for $45 USD at an agent location. I paid a transfer fee of $9.99 USD, as opposed to the online transfer fee of $5.00. 4. Afterwards, my receiver was denied access to the money at a Negril agent location.
The agent there insisted that the reference number was invalid. My intended receiver called me in order for me to give her the reference number, directly. Again, she reported that it was not a valid transaction number. 5.
I called WU to question this. After providing the tracking number, I was put on hold by someone who said she was going to call the Jamaican agent and instruct her to release the funds; afterwards, she said, she would explain the original hold-up to me. After I held the line for 15 or so minutes, another agent picked up my call and asked, again, for the tracking number. After I gave it to her and explained why I was on hold, she said the first agent was “only customer service" and that my transaction was not authorized, after all.
She wouldn't explain WU’s reasoning, saying there's a process I'd need to go through of filling out paperwork and submitting it for internal review. I told her I was furious about having my time wasted in this way and that I'd be writing a letter of complaint to WU’s CEO. 6. Soon thereafter, I received an email from WU that stated “after further review,” the funds were released for my receiver’s immediate retrieval.
This email came after business hours, so my receiver went the following morning, January 4, to the same Negril agent and, once again, was denied the funds. 7. Fed up with the utter lack of regard, sincerity, and accountability WU representatives had shown me and my intended recipient, I returned to the agent location for a refund of the $54.99 I’d paid to WU. I was further inconvenienced by the fact that the refund could not be put back on the credit card I'd used, originally.
On January 8, 2018, I emailed a detailed letter of complaint to Western Union CEO, Hikmet Ersek. After detailing the incidents, I charged: "This [the run-around I was given] is particularly egregious, when considering the sheer profit WU makes off such transactions. The exchange rate provided was a full five points lower than the official rate and the total transfer fee of $9.99 amounted to more than 20% of the $45 USD I was attempting to send. Moreover, I am certain that the disregard shown for both my own and my employee’s time is part of a larger, more pervasive pattern of enmity for, and exploitation of, the impoverished Black people that make up the vast majority of WU’s “customer” base—in Jamaica, but also throughout the Caribbean, Africa, as well as in the U.S." I ended the letter with "I will never again give my business to WU and I will encourage everyone I know to do the same." Later on that same date, I received a "form letter" like reply from Lisa Baker, Executive Resolution.
She summed up my complaint as: "You had problems with our customer service department and your receiver not being successful in picking up the funds to sent. [sic]." She assured me that she would investigate the issues I’d presented and asked for my transaction number and telephone number. I gave her the transaction number and my mailing address, saying that I’d prefer that all communication about this matter occur in writing—either by email or regular mail. Within hours I received yet another form letter from her, stating: “Western Union closely monitors its systems usage as part of its governance compliance program.
Please be aware that as part of our government compliance efforts, you are not currently permitted to send or receive funds via the Western Union Money Transfer service." After more legal mumbo jumbo about their right to refuse service to anyone, the letter states: "For this decision to be further reviewed, please complete the enclosed Consumer Questionnaire and provide the following information in writing which may or may not have been previously requested by our Compliance Department: • Validation of your source of income • Purpose of sending or receiving funds • Relationship to the counter parties" This stipulation, which implies that I am some kind of criminal, added insult to the original injury. It suggests that WU believes it is somehow doing me a favor by taking my money at a near 30% markup. It’s insulting, as well, because it disregards what I'd already stated in my original letter of complaint. In it, I'd already provided the latter two pieces of information requested here, having stated that I own property in Jamaica and sometimes must wire money to its caretakers.
As well, I stated that I had no intention of ever doing business with them again. More important, it willfully ignores that my original complaint was about not being told directly that the company had blocked my account and, instead, being given the run around by one customer service rep after another.
In retrospect, this unfortunate series of events suggests to me that the company is so mismanaged and operates with so little regard for its customers that it leaves its customer service reps without the information they need to be anything but duplicitous with its customers. That a verification of my source of income and purposes in paying for their services was their final response to my complaints about their horrendous customer service is the ultimate example of just how horrendous it is--from the CEO on down.
Product or Service Mentioned: Western Union Money Transfer.
Reason of review: Poor customer service.
Preferred solution: Let the company propose a solution.
I didn't like: Racist practices.