How Western Union ruined my day...and left my friend stranded in eastern Europe!
CALIFORNIA -- My mission for the month of October is to make sure that every person I come into contact with knows that Western Union is the worst company I've done business within the last year. They have won my personal Total Lack of Customer Service Award for September 2002.
Two days ago, I returned from a three week vacation in Europe. I was extremely tired, especially after going to work the morning after my 9:45pm flight came in.
This morning I was awoken by a close friend who is trying to get back to the U.S. from eastern Europe. His request was simple - a short term loan that would enable him to fly back here, where he would be receiving money and would be able to pay me back.
The dilemma: time. He had about 90 minutes until the travel agency was supposed to close. No problem! I'm all about last minute. I've tackled much more complex problems - especially while in Europe. So I tried the Western Union website (http://www.westernunion.com/), which seemed easy enough. Well, the webpage wouldn't even load. I knew it was their issue because my DSL was working on many other pages and this was the first problem I've had in days. After several attempts, I turned to Yahoo! Yellow Pages to find Western Union locations. I found a few in my county, but only one in my city. I called it only to find that although they're open, they don't begin any WU transactions until after 10am. So I decided to give the website another shot.
I mistakenly thought that just because I could talk to a tech support person "live" online, that their servers were working again. Boy was I wrong. Their chat support person even admitted that the site was just not working well, stating that "not all of our servers are down". (Yeah, just MOST of them!)
At last it began to work, so I feverishly entered my information and got all ready to send the money. After another waste of time - this time about 10 minutes - I found that my transaction, including all of my sensitive personal and financial info, was stuck. The next page would not load. I waited for about 15 minutes, during which time I talked to a tech support person "online" again. They were courteous, but also used a lot of sentences which sounded completely generic and prewritten. This particular support person told me that they were surprised I hadn't gotten an error message yet, implying that all of the other customers she had dealt with were experiencing error messages.
In the end (about 20 more wasted minutes later) there was nothing they would offer me to encourage me to use their services. I even spoke with a customer care rep and a SUPERVISOR, who both told me that there was nothing they could do. I proposed a discount in the astronomical amount they were going to charge me to send the $500. They did not comply, insisting that there was no way for them to process such a request.
In the end, a northern California bank won - Bank of the West. I had to drive down there, but they completed a transfer of funds to my friend's Bank of the West account in less than 5 minutes. They were courteous and efficient, and a major contrast to the nightmare I had been through the previous two hours with Western Union. However, my friend had to POSTPONE HIS RETURN by ONE FULL DAY because it had taken so long to get this all figured out. So, thanks to Western Union, he's stuck in Europe for another full day. How much money is an entire day worth to you?
A complete and total lack of concern, no sense of urgency, and a virtually worthless website (which I had previously heard from friends has been riddled with issues) are what was offered me this morning. But no offer of solution or campaign for my business was put forth by Western Union. I guess they figure that they're big enough and they charge enough money for every transaction they perform that they can afford to lose a few people like me. Well, if I have my way, they'll be losing multitudes of potential future customers. I will be encouraging PayPal or CitiBank's money transfer system, and completely slam on Western Union. People deserve to hear horror stories like mine so that they can realize what some companies and corporations actually put the average consumer through. It should be noted that after this 2.5 hour international incident, I was not even able to go back to bed before having to get ready for work. Luckily, the Bank of the West branch was close to my home. However, time is - and always will be - MONEY. And they wasted my precious reserves of both this morning when they managed to convince me that I'd sooner stick money in the pouch of a carrier pigeon than send money to the next town using Western Union services.
I hope that you will consider my terrible experience and also consider NOT giving them your business. Find another way. They will waste your time and not offer you anything for it. Besides, they charge fees which should be classified as extortion. Hell, my credit card company charges less for a $500 cash advance than WU charges to send $500 to a regular person. So what exactly can YOU afford when it comes time to send money to a friend or loved one who's in a pinch?