Monday, February 18, 2008

सिर्फ़ हिंदुस्तान में!

Turns out, I have to send some money to someone in Bangalore. So, I looked up the nearest Western Union branch online: apparently, it's at a nearby Bank of Baroda branch. I go there. There's a big "Western Union Money Transfer Here" sign hanging outside. However, inside, no one has heard of it. Blank looks. "E shoon?" (What's that?) Finally something goes off in one guy's head ... he tells the lady I was asking, in Marathi (it's not that uncommon to hear Marathi in Gujarat), "Oh it hasn't started yet." I look at him incredulously and reply in Marathi, "Suru jhalya ch' adi sign kashyala lavla?" Why'd you put the sign up outside if it hasn't started yet? He just smiles. As we used to say, using the slogan concocted for the 45hth anniversary of Independence ironically (it's always used ironically): Mera Bharat mahan. My India is great. :)

I think I'll send a good old money order via India Post, rather than hunt down an extant Western Union office.

:: UPDATE :: I called two more Western Union agents (as listed on their website) who both first said, "Yes we are agents," but then said that they could only be used for receiving money, not sending it, and then said, "But we've stopped [working for] Western Union recently." I have no idea what the deal is, but something's clearly off. I then sent a text message to the number on the website ("Send SMS 'WU (pincode)' to 3636 to find nearest agent.") Well, it turns out it's not 3636, but 53636. And then I got one name, with an outdated phone number, and an US(!) 800 number to call for questions, along with an Indian toll number in Bangalore. It did seem that I could use a US credit card and have the money sent in minutes online (with a hefty 10% fee), but why the heck should I pay dollars?

Thanks, but no thanks. I went to the nearby Post Office, filled out a money order form (Re. 1 for the form. I only had a 5 rupee coin. "No change?" Ugh. Small change is a perennial headache in India.), gave the money, plus a 5% commission, and sent it off. It'll take a few days; India Post is creaky but reliable.

I think I should send a link to this post to WU's customer service.


Zadok the Roman said...

Are you sure you're in India and not Italy?

Gashwin said...

It's no wonder I like Italy so much! Bureaucracy, inefficiency! It's the same! :)

mike said...

But do Indians have the Roman shrug — the final punctuation to a bureaucrat's conversation?

Gashwin said...

Hmm. No. I don't think so. Of course, Indian bureaucrats' body language changes a lot depending on the class of person being addressed: those from the upper-class, English speaking elite, even if without the proper connection (or unwilling to offer the necessary baksheesh) to get the favor done, get a more polite stonewalling. The lower classes get treated like cr*p. What is common is that very Indian head-waggle, along with the always final-sounding but never actually final "No, not possible."