Monday, January 05, 2009

This was sent to me Dec. 24, 2008, hours after it happened I understand.

Red tape is red tape. Most of us deal with it and fume in silence. Sometimes, though, it becomes outrageous. Like this instance told to me by my friend Noli Benavent who accompanied our PPP-Central member and a volunteer of OFCI/Anita's Kitchen Self-Help Feeding Project, Ma.Tina (last name withheld) to claim the $100 remittance of her friend as a Christmas gift to her and her kids.

The money would have been the family’s meager Noche Buena plus some gifts for the two (2) young kids which Ma. Tina went to get at eBiz Western Union Farmer's Cubao branch last Dec. 24, 2008.

Noli was with her and witnessed the Western Union lady teller claiming that her first names (Ma.Tina) did not match the first name in their system which is Matina even though her last name, claim number, and the name of the sender were correct.

Ma.Tina even presented to the teller her identification, an NBI Clearance, showing her name as Ma Tina (with a space and a missing dot) which can also be interpreted at first glance as one word, MaTina.

After pointing this seemingly minor error, the teller insisted that the name Matina was different from Ma.Tina as claimed by our PPP-Central member. Ma.Tina said that her friend has been sending her money before (not just once) and she had never experienced such refusal to pay her remittance.

Ma.Tina explained to the teller that her friend (who's an American serviceman) is not accustomed to writing initials such as Ma. which he often writes as Ma Tina and is often misinterpreted by encoders from the Western Union sending office commiting the error of typing her name Ma Tina (or Ma.Tina) as one word, Matina.

Nonetheless, the teller told Ma.Tina that the remittance cannot be released for another reason 'coz the address of the sender does not match what's in the system. Ma.Tina wrote the known address of her friend as an APO Box No. and since her friend (the American serviceman) at that time sent the remittance from Afghanistan (where he is currently stationed) and paid for by his credit card issued in the U.S. mainland, the address in the Western Union system may have registered the address of the sender either from credit card's origin (USA) or sending country (Afghanistan).

How would Ma.Tina know what's inputted in the system when the address she often writes in the claim form (which she doesn't had any problems before) is the APO Box Number of her friend.

Having explained this, the teller still refuses to release the funds and insisted that Ma.Tina contacted the sender and have him change the errors in the Western Union's sending country's system.
We went out of the branch so Ma.Tina could load up her mobile phone and send her friend three (3) SMS, each costing her P15, explaining to her friend what happened.

Her friend called Ma.Tina four (4) times (everytime cursing the incompetence of the receiving Western Union branch) to let her know that the Western Union sending office in his base camp in Afghanistan stated that the transaction is valid and can be withdrawn anywhere here in the Philippines.

When we got back to the eBiz Western Union branch to let the teller knows about this, the branch wouldn't accept customers coming in because it was already closing time.

Noli said “I would have shouted invectives to the branch and created a commotion but I hesitated in doing so 'coz it's Christmas.”

He went on: “I'm still fuming mad as I'm writing this now (even as I have cooled down after this incident happened earlier). I couldn't believe that a needy mother (who's a regular Western Union customer) would be refused payment of her remittance at a time like this when she needs to send the money for a decent Noche Buena in her home and gifts for her kids in Surigao City as she will be alone here in Manila away from them. What a bleak Christmas for Ma.Tina and her young kids.”

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