I needed to wire some money today and used Western Union. What a rip off! Wow!

First, there is a $20 fee for doing it online, but if you go in to a Western Union, they only charge $15 (backwards!).

Then, as you are ready to send the money, you are asked for a message to be read out loud to the person receiving the money and also their phone number so they can call them when the money is ready.

When I got to the final page, I found I was being charged $4 for the message and $3 for the phone call! There is a 'remove these charges' in small print which I did, but I almost missed these extra fees.

I also took that opportunity to Google 'Western Union Coupon' and found a fantastic site that has always been a big help called retailmenot.com. They had a Western Union Coupon of 'D0066' which saved me $10. I highly recommend RetailMeNot.com!

Back to my experience with Western Union - On the final form, you have to check a box to prevent them from passing your personal information on to third parties. I checked that box.

When I hit submit, it then told me I needed to call and verify my information! OK, so I called and gave them all the information once again. The Western Union Representative said everything is a go and that my recipient may pick up the money.

I called the person I sent the money to and gave them the good news. I received a call shortly after that they were at Western Union and that there is a 774 hour hold on it!

OK - I called the main office (the people who said everything was ok) and explained the situation. They told me to tell my recipient to tell the clerk that they need to shut down their screen and restart the transaction. Apparently there is a bug in the system...

They restarted the transaction and the person I sent the money to was a happy camper. I figure everything is all set now, right? Nope...

In my Western Union email confirmation, I notice at the bottom a statement that they will sell my personal information to third parties unless I call them! I guess the online check box means nothing...

When I called the number, they had no idea what I was talking about and I was transferred to the validation department. The validation department was just as dumb founded and transferred me to Joe in the technical department.

Joe didn't know at first, but did some checking and found the form. Joe said that there is an 'opt in / opt out' form which is in electronic format and needed to be filled out. He asked me three questions and then I repeated all my information again and was told I have been opted out.

Thinking about using Western Union to send money? Think again - unless you are a sucker for punishment, you're better off doing it another way.

By the way, here is the confirmation email with the (we will assume that you agree that your information may be sold to third parties) statement.

Dear MR. MAURER,

Thank you for using the Western Union Money Transfer® - Money in Minutes service

Your money transfer has been authorized and is now available for pick up by the receiver.

Transfers to certain destinations may be subject to further delay or additional restrictions.

TRANSACTION DETAILS:

Your Money Transfer Control Number [MTCN] is : [snip]

Please use this number for any inquiries.

Date of Order: 03/08/2009
Amount Sent: [snip] Money Transfer Fee: [snip] Total Amount: [snip]

*Currency Exchange: Payments will generally be in local currency (except that in certain countries payment may be in U.S. dollars or other alternate currency at participating locations). In addition to the transfer fees applicable to this transaction, a currency exchange rate will be applied. United States currency is converted to foreign currency at an exchange rate set by Western Union. Any difference between the rate given to Customers and the rate received by Western Union will be kept by Western Union (and its Agents in some cases) in addition to the transfer fees. Please ask a customer service representative for information concerning the currency exchange rate applicable to your transaction. You may also find out the current foreign exchange rate provided by Western Union to its customers by calling toll-free to 1-800-325-6000.

The transfer fees and the money Western Union (or its Agents) makes when it changes your dollars into foreign currency may vary based upon the payout currency that you select. Some Western Union Agents may offer receivers the choice to receive funds in a currency different from the one you selected. In such instances, Western Union (or its Agents) may make additional money when it changes your funds into the Receiver selected currency.

The total amount will appear on your credit or debit card statement.

Selected Additional Service (s):
No Additional Services selected.

Sender:
JIM MAURER
[snip]

FOR A COMPLETE COPY OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS GOVERNING THIS TRANSACTION AND THE SERVICES YOU HAVE SELECTED PLEASE REVIEW AND PRINT THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

REFUNDS. PRINCIPAL REFUNDS and cancellation of the money transfer will be made if payment to the Receiver has not been made when Western Union processes Customer's written request. TRANSFER FEE REFUNDS are generally made if funds are not available to the Receiver within Western Union's specified timeframes. Qualifying refunds will be made within 45 days of receipt of Customer's valid written request.

LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY. IN NO EVENT SHALL WESTERN UNION BE LIABLE FOR DAMAGES FOR DELAY, NONDELIVERY, NONPAYMENT OR UNDERPAYMENT OF ANY SERVICES TRANSACTION, WHETHER CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF ITS EMPLOYEES, SUPPLIERS OR AGENTS OR OTHERWISE, BEYOND THE SUM OF $500 (in addition to refunding the principal amount and the transfer fees), UNLESS THE SENDER HAS OBTAINED A HIGHER LIABILITY LIMIT BY CALLING THE TELEPHONE NUMBER SET FORTH BELOW AND PAYING AN ADDITIONAL CHARGE THEREFOR. IN NO EVENT WILL WESTERN UNION BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES OR THE LIKE. THESE CONDITIONS CANNOT BE CHANGED OR SUPPLEMENTED ORALLY.

WESTERN UNION PRIVACY POLICIES: Western Union may disclose your personal information to third parties as explained in its Privacy Statement ("Statement"). To obtain a copy of the Statement, ask your Western Union Agent or call 1-800-562-2598. Information disclosed may include financial background; identification, such as name and address; transaction information; and other information relating to financial matters. Recipients may include financial institutions; retailers; companies that process transactions or provide other services for us; government agencies; and direct marketers. You may opt out of (direct us not to make) certain disclosures. If you do not opt out, we will assume that you agree that your information may be used as the Statement describes. To opt out, call 1-800-562-2598.

Check if the receiver has picked up the money transfer.

If you have any questions, visit us at westernunion.com.

Thank you for using Western Union!
DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS PLEASE CONTACT US

If you can help it, DO NOT use Western Union to send money!!!