“Today, Imagine you work in a place where you manage lost or forgotten items. What might you find in the pile? For those participating in our serial challenge reflect on the theme of “lost and found,” too.
What I Lost
I lost my decision-making power on May 13, 2014, when Western Union denied me the right to use the services they offer.
On May 19 , 2014, I received this letter from Western Union.
“This will confirm Western Union’s business decision to cancel the above-referenced Money Transfer and to refund to you the principal amount and service charges. Enclosed you will find a copy of our Consumer Fraud Brochure to assist you in recognizing some of the typical consumer fraud schemes so that you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of consumer fraud. We strongly recommend that you use Western Union system only to send money to people you know. Please remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”
Why I Needed Western Union
A close family member, living in another state, reached out for help. She needed to take care of an emergency, within 24-hours, and asked if I could loan her $1500.00.
“Of course,” I said , “Let me check to see how we can make this happen.”
First, I contacted my bank about a money transfer directly into her bank account. The bank said, “No, because we banked at two different institutions.”
When it didn’t work out at the bank, I telephoned Western Union. They were even able to handle the money transfer over the telephone with a credit card. After completing the transaction, I called the family member and said, “Money is on the way. You can pick it up at your Western Union office.”
Several hours later, Western Union called to say they couldn’t authorize the money transfer. Frustrated, I asked to speak with a supervisor. When connected, he asked:
- How old are you? I am 71-years-old.
- Why are you sending this person money? She is facing an emergency and needs the funds within 24 hours.
- How long have you known this person? She is 60+ years, my cousin, and I have known her since she was a baby.
- Has she ever borrowed money from you in the past? No.
- When did you last see this person? Two years ago at our family reunion. Also, we stay in contact on a regular basis through the telephone, e-mails and Facebook.
- Are you sure you were speaking with your relative? Yes.
After, I answered his questions, he read several section of their Consumer Protection Policy; and, ended by saying, “The only way we can process this transaction is for you to go to a local Western Union office.”
I Googled, “where is the closest Western Union Office to …” Fortunately it was only five minutes away.
Credit card and driver’s license in-hand, off I went to the Western Union Office. Transaction completed, I telephoned the family member and said, “Money is on the way.”
Forty-five minutes later, I received a call from Western Union. The representative said, “We cannot approve your money transfer. You will have to return to your local office and they will issue a refund.“
What the H…. is the Matter with Western Union?
As directed, I returned to the Western Union office. But this is what angered me most. Rather than crediting my Visa Card for the $1600.00, they issued issued a cash refund. Why didn’t they tell me this over the phone? Certainly, had I known, I would have asked Hubby to come with me.
While the agent was counting the money, I wondered, “How am I going to fit all of this money into my tiny wallet?”
Luckily, the Western Union Office is located within a grocery story. So, I went over and asked one of the baggers for a plastic grocery bag.
I left the Western Union Office alone with $1600.00 in cash, which I carried in a plastic grocery bag.
For the first time, throughout this entire experience, I needed protection. In their attempt to protect me from consumer fraud, Western Union put me at a higher risk to be mugged or robbed.
What I Found – This Didn’t Have to Happen
Had Western Union bothered to ask whether this money transfer related to any of the “fraud scamming scenarios” listed in their Consumer Protection Brochure; I would have answered:
- I was sending “money to a family member.”
- It was for an “emergency situation.”
- It wasn’t an “internet purchase.”
- It wasn’t for an “employment opportunity.”
- It wasn’t to “claim lottery or prize winnings.”
- It wasn’t for a “rental property.”
- It wasn’t for a “credit card or loan fee.”
- It wasn’t from a “check deposited in my account.”
From this experience, I found, within, strength to protest a possible discriminatory practice that took away my decision making right, as a 71-year-old, based on “elderly profiling.”
What do you think?