Tuesday, December 12, 2006

MoneyGram Madness

I hate the 11-8, 12-9 and 1-10 shifts with a deadly passion. The reason? There is never a "slow" time, like how the first two hours of the 7-4 shift are sometimes a little slow or the last hour of the 2-11 may sometimes be a little less frenetic. When you get in at 11, 12 or 1, it is "frying pan," "fire," then "hellfire."

The very first thing I got hit with Saturday during the noon-nine shift was a customer trying to do (and I stress the trying - this whole thing lasted some fivehours) a MoneyGram for $4,500. Yes, $4,500. Apparently, she'd bought a camper online and was trying to pay for it through some sort of eBay escrow service. Right when I walked in, my manager was like "Go help that woman. They're trying to send a couple thousand and want to do it right."

First of all, I have to hunt around for the Patriot Act book, because I have to do special paperwork, required by the government for any money transaction over $3000. It is some anti-money laundering thing. I tell the woman and her husband this and start leafing through the book to find the right form. Great. All out. So I just start writing on the back of one.

I get all this stuff done. One form in the book. Another set on the back of the MoneyGram form she's filled out. The line is like 15 people deep at this point, and the other girl is about to cry, because she just wants to get a Coke, a smoke and a pee and can't because I'm doing this MoneyGram.

So now we're getting down to brass tacks (the first time - well, really, the second time, because the couple wasted $147 sending the money Western Union yesterday, which wasn't what the escrow service uses.) I keep typing stuff in the computer and it asks me for information on the receiver. They're like "All we know is his name." No address. No phone number. No nothing.

I'm like "I can't send $4500 without that information." I told her "Even if I just make some stuff up, they're not going to let them get the money in New York with false information."

So instead of thinking maybe "It's not a good plan to send $4500 into thin air," the woman waves an e-mail in front of me and says "This e-mail says you can. And I don't believe that you can't do it. There's a phone number for MoneyGram on here. You better call that number and sort this out." Yeah. Telling me how to do my job really makes me want to help you.

So I call MoneyGram. MoneyGram hears how much I'm sending and goes "Let me talk to the sender." I can tell the woman is getting a lecture on fraud." I start talking to the husband along the lines of "You might want to think about how much money you're sending here and the fact that you don't really know where you're sending it to."

MoneyGram convinces them that they can't send it without the proper information and they leave. The husband is like "We're not going to do this. I don't trust this." Good plan.

Four hours later, they're back, with a wad of cash and the address of the guy who runs the escrow service. And now they're supposed to split the transaction into two $2250 transactions. They say that's what they escrow service told them to do. I don't really care.

They still have the paperwork from the first transaction. I fill it out in the computer. This is Version Three (once at Western Union, mark two at Wal-Mart) and go back to my register. I tell them I need the $2250 and another $80 for the fee. And it has to be cash or debit card.

And now we fail once again. They've got the 45 C-notes but not the fee. "We can't pay the fee with a credit card?" No. "Can we buy a gift card with a credit card and pay the fee with that?" No. "Can we write a check?" No. CASH or DEBIT. "We can't pay any other way?" What else is there? Casaba melons? And my requirements for the hairy checkbook are Jake Gyllenhaal or Jake Gyllenhaal. So effort number three down. What is it with trying to negotiate with MoneyGram fees?

An hour later, they're back. Mark IV, for those of you counting. With plenty of cash. So I send the first MoneyGram. And I send the second MoneyGram. I'm having them sign the papers, showing them the reference numbers and stapling all the papers together when the woman goes "Oh."

That's the last thing you want to hear when you've just taken $4660 of someone's money. "Oh." "What is it ma'am?" "I think I put the name on the form wrong." Sweet Shiva!

So now I get up on the phone to MoneyGram and have them amend the things to the correct name. I half expect them to ask "Why are you sending two transactions?" but they don't and I skate through. And the people leave.

And unbeknownst to me, they go up to my manager and say all sorts of wonderful things. The manager woman even comes up to me and says "A customer came up and complimented you today." I was like "Wow." And I was really thinking - "I really hope these people don't get ripped off!"


Alexander said...

If they were really buying a camper, why couldn't they just give the guy the cash when they picked it up? What's he going to do - mail it? Either they were sending money for something "else", or they are going to get ripped off.

Oh, love your blog.

Anonymous said...

What the hell happened to the money they'd sent the day before via Western Union?

Ebay's escrow services "holds" ones money while enabling the potential buyer the chance to look over the item in question.

Why anyone would "front" money for something they may NOT want is a mystery to me!

F'N fools!

Greg said...

It is possible to purchase a car on Ebay and not get ripped off. I work with a guy who bought a $30K sports car and had no problems. However, when this seller gives no address or other identifying info initially and then tells them to split up the transaction in order to avoid Patriot Act paperwork, they are clearly shady. These idiots had at least two neutral people warn them about fraud, had at least a day to reconsider, and at one point the husband was convinced it was a mistake. Yet they persevered and threw their money away. You'll see the poor saps on the news next month crying about how they were bilked out of their hard-earned money. I have little sympathy for such sob stories for just this reason.

Anonymous said...

man you had to jump through hoops lit blazing with wads of fire to get those money orders through I would have given up hope.

Calypso said...

Yup! Sounds like the proverbial Money Order eBay fraud thing!
Where were they sending this cash? Singapore? *LOL*
Why couldn't they pay the guy when they were going to pick up the camper?

It would be interesting to find out if these folks will come back and show you their new camper!

I love your blog too.
I was in retail most of my adult life, and your stories are hilarious.
Keep up the good job!!!

Anonymous said...

It's quite clear that you have the retail savy necessary to politely "get even" with problem customers who see you simply as a name badge behind a counter. I'm all for that and I find it commendable.

Just wanted to let you know, perhaps you're already aware of it, that it is illegal to inform a customer involved in a money transfer/transaction that you are suspicious of his/her intentions and are gong to report or note that suspicion in your transfer log. It's also illegal NOT to report your suspicion.

Just a heads up. Serious stuff.

Take the time to carefully read all the Federal regs in that form binder of yours. You may need the info some day.


Operator said...

Wow those federal regs are completely twisted and wrong...

I'd be more concerned about why a couple would go through all of this for a camper. They might be planning on living in it. Poverty sucks.

Anonymous said...

The camper buyers' were at the very least suspicious and at most conducted a transaction structured in a manner so as to evade reporting thresholds.

That said, the person behind the counter is reguired by law to fill out a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) without divulging the suspision to the camper buyers. To do otherwise is a Federal crime.

Again: serious stuff


Anonymous said...

Jess is absolutely right. By helping the customer avoid the reporting requirement, you can yourself can get in a heap o' trouble.

The Patriot Acts' requirements are pretty draconian, but it is the law of the land.

Anonymous said...

Jess et. al. - guys, that stuff is so scary we have a duty to disparage it. Surrendering with that "well it's the law of the land" idea screws everybody. As a consumer I expect better.

Anonymous said...

We have no duty to "disparage it."
We have a duty to report suspects. Plain and simple.

Who is to say that "camper" is not code for "Mass amounts of black tar heroin"?

Jess sayin'.

Anonymous said...

We have a duty to follow the law.

If you dont like it, and I don't personally or proffessionally, then vote in new representatives to change that law.

Anonymous said...

Note that you still have to report the two transactions. In addition to reporting any money transfer in excess of $3000, the PATRIOT Act requires that any transactions split up (intentional or otherwise) that amount to more than $3000 must still be reported to MoneyGram's Anti-Money Laundering officer.

Anonymous said...

We have no duty to "disparage it."Such an idea is contrary to the spirit of the law and it goes against one of the main points of the USA's Declaration of Independence. To paraphrase, it said this, if you have the ability to do something to help, YOU MUST HELP. A similarly applicable sentiment was recently published on the front of 2600 magazine -- "If you see something, say something."