[I’m reposting this from my “personal journal”:http://avdi.livejournal.com as it has development applicability – in so much as it is a tale about how NOT to design software.]

So I’ve been trying to wire money to Kenya. No, I haven’t been contacted by the wife of a former dictator who needs my urgent assistance in moving large sums of money. Just doing someone a favor.

I go to the website. I’ve used it before, so I figure I’ll log in to my account. Try to log in with my usual credentials. Uh oh.

W0500 Sorry you're having trouble. Please try again later.

This does not bode well. I’m having trouble? News to me. And if the trouble is on my end, what good will trying again later do? Are they suggesting that I am having brain issues which will resolve themselves in a few hours?

OK, assume this is just their eccentric way of saying “login failed”. I have a dim recollection of not being able to use one of my regular passwords because they don’t allow special characters in their passwords (why is it always institutions which handle large sums of money that have poor password policies?) Email customer service, and meanwhile, click the “retrieve password” link. Notice while emailing customer service the lengthy backlog of previous Western Union customer service mail from the last time I tried to wire money through them. Oh dear, I must have blocked those memories.

OK, well, chin up and keep trying. While waiting for customer service, hit the “forgot password” link. Go through the first step, email address, date of birth… that’s odd. This is probably the first site I’ve ever seen where the “Date of Birth” field is a password-style field. Presumably so no potential identity thieves peering over my shoulder witness that top-secret information, and I have to go through all the hassle of changing my birth date to something new.

Anyway, moving on, ah, the Security Question.  OK, what’s it going to be – good ole’ mother’s maiden name?  First pet?  Model of car in which I first got to third base? Nope, not good enough for Western Union security.  They’ve gone the extra mile and required me to guess the question before supplying the answer. Now that’s secure!

Email customer service again. Looks like there’s a response to my first query already.  They are prompt, I’ll give them that.  Let’s see…

We apologize for the inconvenience, due to security reasons the system blocks the access after 2 or more unsuccesfull attempts.

Reply to customer service informing them that that’s nice, but this happened the very first time I’d logged in in months.

Oh look, a reply to my second problem.  They sure are on the ball over there.

We apologize for any problems you experienced with our site. However, if you are not being able to sign in with your current e-mail address and password, we may offer to deactivate your account so you may register again. Please keep in mind that no one at Western Union knows or can retrieve your password for you. If you wish to have your account deactivated, please send your request in an email to messaging@westernunion.com from the email address you used when you registered, and include your registered name, address and telephone number. Please note that if you have another e-mail address, you may use it to create a new account.

Ah, form letters detailing how to work around the flaws in the system.  Always a promising sign.

OK, let’s try setting up a new account under a different email address.  Let’s see, click “Sign UP”, enter name, rank, and serial number.  Like nearly every user interaction page in this system, the page has a CAPTCHA at the bottom.  Except this CAPTCHA has a difference: there’s no CAPTCHA, just the alt text.

Click little “reload” icon, no good.  Click the “audible captcha” icon – leads to a blank page.  I think they’ve hit upon an unbeatable anti-spam strategy here – a CAPTCHA you have to interpret via mental telepathy.

Deep breath.  Let’s take a time out and check our email, shall we?

Unfortunately, your e-mail has arrived blank.  Please resubmit your question or comment and we will be happy to assist you. Also, please keep in mind that we are unable to view attachments, enclosures, or hyperlinks.

Looks like they left something out of that list of things they are unable to view – replies to their own useless boilerplate messages.  It appears that Western Union has adopted the time-tested “hear no evil, see no evil”  approach to technical support.  If the techs can’t view the problem, it doesn’t exist!

While we’re checking email, let’s email them about their amazing vanishing CAPTCHA.  Prompt reply, as usual.

Usually when this happens, it is because of problems with the server. You may wish to double-check your Internet settings, or try again later. Please note that our site works best with Internet Explorer version 6.0. We are currently not compatible with Mozilla, Firefox nor Safari.

Western Union, after doing a costly internal audit to discover where their inefficiencies lay, discovered that 99% of their problems with online transactions stemmed from those annoying customers.  Excluding 20-30% of the web browsing population by limiting the web site to IE6 compatibility neatly alleviated the problem, and the assistant vice-president who thought of the idea was immediately promoted.  He is now working on a grand enterprise-wide plan to enhance the customer experience by requiring all requests to be submitted on Sumerian cuneiform tablets.

So let’s review.  I can’t log in.  I can’t reset my password. And I can’t register a new account.  Well, we gave it our best shot. Time to fall back on ye olde reliable wireless telephone.

Call Western Union… you can probably guess by now where this is going.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play and sum up.  I called, I punched in my information. I was put on hold for 15 minutes while screechy distorted musaak drilled slowly into my ear canal.  Then they disconnected me.  I called back and discovered that while I was on hold they had helpfully cancelled my transaction.  I spoke to a manager, re-started the transaction.  Gave them all my information over again, then sat on hold for another ten minutes or so.  Finally, after a total of 50 minutes on the phone, they informed me that my transaction had been rejected by the ineffable machines which sometimes grant, and sometimes deny, and no one can say why… for security reasons.

EPIC FAIL.

Does anyone know of a method for transferring funds overseas that doesn’t leave one with an urge to bash one’s forhead repeatedly into a concrete post?

Published by Avdi Grimm

28 Comments

  1. Hard luck there, try paypal maybe?
    If not, could always mail them a check.

    Reply
  2. egg.com?

    Reply
  3. do not, I repeat, do not ever use WU website to send money. Especially over seas. Locate your closest WU office (you can usually find these in grocery stores) and do the transaction from there. Bring cash.

    Reply
  4. Why not just use your bank to do the transfer? Always works for me. Thats what banks are for 🙂

    Reply
  5. Western Union is old. You mistake was to assume that doesn’t matter. Lots of old companies have problems with anything even remotely modern. If you went to a physical Western Union location you’d probably have much better luck.

    BTW, when you said, “I go to the website”, you hadn’t yet mentioned what service you were trying to use. How is the reader supposed to know what “the website” is at this point?

    Reply
  6. FWIW, I’ve used WU to send money overseas about a dozen times without incident, but I’ve never forgotten my password. I’ll have to make sure I never do, I guess!

    @James, who said “How is the reader supposed to know what “the website” is at this point?”

    Who cares?

    Reply
  7. NOW you know why those poor fellows of former dictators et. al. need our help to transfer money outside. As you are not even suceeding in transfering money inside, how hard must it be to transfer money to the outside?

    Reply
  8. This is the easiest and cheapest way, I’ve done this going to Germany before:

    1. Set up a US Paypal account
    2. Set up a foreign Paypal account
    3. Join US and foreign Paypal account to local bank accounts
    4. Transfer money into US PP account via local bank
    5. Use US account to send money to foreign PP account
    6. Move money to foreign bank acct
    Reply
  9. I totally can appreciate your pain!!!!!!!!!!! been there – done that, etc., etc., etc., trying to send money to my in-laws in Uganda…UGH!!!!!! and it's been ever since I got the macbook with safari as the internet search engine it came with….

    Reply
  10. FUCK WESTERN UNION THEY ARE USELESS BUT THEY HAVE A MONOPOLY ON THE MARKET IF ANYONE WITH SOME CAPITOL INVESTORS WANTS TO START A COMPANY LIKE WESTERN UNION ONLY WE ACTAULLY HAVE A FUNCTIONING WEBSITE WHERE CUSTOMERS CAN ACTUALLY PAY YOU AND GET WHAT THEY PAY FOR THEN LET ME KNOW I HAVE THE PERFECT STRATEGY !!! FUCKING WORK !! HAVE A WEBSITE THAT ACTUALLY WORKS .. HOW MANY PEOPLE A DAY TRY TO SEND MONEY ONLINE AND WESTERN UNION LOOSES OUT ON ?? COULD BE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF POTENTIAL PROFIT .. BUT I GUESS THATS NOT WHAT BUSINESS ARE HERE FOR , THERE ARE HERE TO AGGRIVATE THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF PEOPLE LIKE ME AND YOU WHO ACTUALLY TOOK THE TIME TO POST THIS KNOWING THEY WOULD NEVER SEE IT ..

    FUCK YOU WESTERN UNION

    Reply
  11. I've been having login and other problems with fucking Western Union for many years and even decades! They never fixed those problems. I am surprised such company still exists today! How ignorant people can be to use their no-service again! I've ben using
    MoneyGram (which split off WU). They are much cheaper. You can send money from Walmart.

    Reply
  12. I wish to wish all pregnant women of good mood, easy pregnancy and natural sorts! Good luck also are happy! Give birth easily and independently! Let not doctors give birth for you, and you! Also adjust itself on chest feeding of the kid! Read the necessary information! Be, lovely pregnant mums and expecting posterities of the daddy, are healthy and wise!

    Reply
  13. This is simply GREAT! Your articles are more than awesome… Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article with us

    Reply
  14. I share your pain! There needs to be an easier way to wire money.

    Reply
  15. I have faced similar problem manya times and have now stopped using their website..

    Reply
  16. I have always used direct bank wires to overseas countries and it works great. I would suggest you contact the owner and get specific bank information from them including the SWIFT code and try that way.

    Reply
  17. That´s happens all the times! Especially with us that work in front of computer in the internet 12 hours per day. It´s not just their site, there too many others like this. But I have to admitt that their site is the worst!
    I understand your frustation.

    Great article.

    Reply
  18. thanks for sharing the informations. I am not sure what I should think about the post. I thought twice if I should writte my opionen. I choised to leave my opinion open. But INTERESTING post.

    Reply
  19. Informative .. though the article is very frustrating …

    Reply
  20. FKING WESTERN UNION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IM HAVING THE SAME DARN PROBLEM!! CAN'T LOG IN!!!

    Reply
  21. HEY HI, TALKING ABOUT WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
    AND QUICK COLLECT, THAT IS WHEN SENDING MONEY TO PAY
    YOUR MORTGAGE OR BILLS OR MAYBE TO A CORRECTIONAL…
    USE THIS PROMOTION CODE X0044, THIS WILL ZERO OUT
    FOR FEE, AND YOU WONT NEED TO PAY ANY MONEY FOR
    SENDING IT, HONESTLY I DONT KNOW IF IT WOULD WORK FOR
    P2P MONEY TRANSFERS, BUT YOU MIGHT TRY.
    REMEMBER X0044, X (CERO,CERO,FOUR,FOUR).
    TRUST ME, YOU CAN PASS THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS, BUT NO
    ANY WESTERN UNION PERSONNEL.

    Reply
  22. HEY HI, TALKING ABOUT WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
    AND QUICK COLLECT, THAT IS WHEN SENDING MONEY TO PAY
    YOUR MORTGAGE OR BILLS OR MAYBE TO A CORRECTIONAL…
    USE THIS PROMOTION CODE X0044, THIS WILL ZERO OUT
    FOR FEE, AND YOU WONT NEED TO PAY ANY MONEY FOR
    SENDING IT, HONESTLY I DONT KNOW IF IT WOULD WORK FOR
    P2P MONEY TRANSFERS, BUT YOU MIGHT TRY.
    REMEMBER X0044, X (CERO,CERO,FOUR,FOUR).
    TRUST ME, YOU CAN PASS THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS, BUT NO
    ANY WESTERN UNION PERSONNEL.

    Reply
  23. HEY HI, TALKING ABOUT WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
    AND QUICK COLLECT, THAT IS WHEN SENDING MONEY TO PAY
    YOUR MORTGAGE OR BILLS OR MAYBE TO A CORRECTIONAL…
    USE THIS PROMOTION CODE X0044, THIS WILL ZERO OUT
    FOR FEE, AND YOU WONT NEED TO PAY ANY MONEY FOR
    SENDING IT, HONESTLY I DONT KNOW IF IT WOULD WORK FOR
    P2P MONEY TRANSFERS, BUT YOU MIGHT TRY.
    REMEMBER X0044, X (CERO,CERO,FOUR,FOUR).
    TRUST ME, YOU CAN PASS THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS, BUT NO
    ANY WESTERN UNION PERSONNEL.

    Reply
  24. HEY HI, TALKING ABOUT WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
    AND QUICK COLLECT, THAT IS WHEN SENDING MONEY TO PAY
    YOUR MORTGAGE OR BILLS OR MAYBE TO A CORRECTIONAL…
    USE THIS PROMOTION CODE X0044, THIS WILL ZERO OUT
    FOR FEE, AND YOU WONT NEED TO PAY ANY MONEY FOR
    SENDING IT, HONESTLY I DONT KNOW IF IT WOULD WORK FOR
    P2P MONEY TRANSFERS, BUT YOU MIGHT TRY.
    REMEMBER X0044, X (CERO,CERO,FOUR,FOUR).
    TRUST ME, YOU CAN PASS THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS, BUT NO
    ANY WESTERN UNION PERSONNEL.

    Reply
  25. Western Union has a policy to not discuss reasons for fialure of any transaction to be processed. That means by phone or chat, your time will not be spent well. because the support representatives are not allowed to discuss reasons for a transaction to fail. End of story.

    Reply
  26. Superb website…

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]……

    Reply
  27. I’ve been trying to send money to a friend in uzbekistan. he is in a hospital, he already owes money and needs more treatment, but the western union keeps denying my transactions. I tried my credit card and my personal bank account. last time it got as far as taking the money out of my bank, but the transaction got cancelled. i feel horrible. i need to transfer some money asap. is there another way?? just thinking about western union makes me nauseous. how are they in business?? what am i doing wrong here?? this is my own money that i’m sending to a good friend in need.. i’m baffled and seriously fucking pissed

    Reply
  28. I can recommend WorldRemit.com. Less expensive, faster transfer, more options, and overall a modern quite hassle free online experience. Who could have thought it possibly in this time and age?

    Western Union are really bad. I once transferred an amount abroad to a friend in need. They were happy to deduct my money from my account. However they didn’t bother to inform up front that my friend would need to jump through magical hoops to get the money out on his end. Specifically they would only accept certain local bank cards as identification. My friend was a tourist and didn’t have that of course – and worse, couldn’t get an account as a tourist.. To this day Western Union still have my money, my friend didn’t get it, and any hope for any refund is very slim indeed.

    Reply

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