First of all, I have to start by saying THANK YOU to folks who are helping us climb out of the hole we collapsed into after the wallet theft. I am grateful beyond words, absolutely blown away by your generosity, we’re almost back at square one, thank you! I will write to each of you when I have time to write and I’m not standing in line at An Post all day (read on…)
Today was just a day. There were annoying bits and wonderful bits, but mostly we felt that we were fighting against an unseen, uncaring megalithic power beyond any human control: An Post, the Irish Post Office.
At the start of the day all looked promising. We’d had an AMAZING dinner last night (soufflé) and a wonderful night’s sleep.
I contacted Amex by using skype (our phone salvation!) and arranged for them to send an emergency wire transfer via Western Union to us in Ireland. Amex also enabled us to use our one remaining credit card for a withdrawl of funds using a pin number, and I was thrilled to be able to set all this up via skype.
The Irish post office allows folks to pick up Western Union money grams, so we were VERY hopeful as we set out for Raphoe. But when we got to the post office, there was a problem.
It went like something this:
- “Hi, I’m here to pick up some money wired to me by American Express, sending under the name ‘Merchant International’, and the money transfer code is xxxxxxxxx.”
- “Oh, yes, here’s the transfer! And your name checks out, the passport is correct, you have the proper code… But wait, there’s no name in the ‘from’ section of the transfer… WHO actually sent you this?”
- “It was sent by American Express, under the business name, ‘Merchant International’”
- “But what’s the first name?”
- “There is no first name – it was sent by a company. There’s no one person who sent it, just ‘Merchant International’”
- “Yes, we’re showing ‘Merchant International’ as the last name, but we need a first name before we can release the money.”
- “Try ‘American Express’”
- “No, that’s not working…”
This went on from about 1pm to after 5pm. Conference calls were made between all parties involved, the folks at the post office were AMAZINGLY helpful, it really wasn’t their fault. They were at the mercy of the computer application which would NOT clear the funds for release. It was the An Post computer which would NOT allow us to pick up the money.
It was all simple logic:
If there was no ‘sender’s first name’ information, the money could not be released by the computer. Therefore it was impossible for us to pick up our money gram.
The fact that there was NO first name provided by the sender, that the field in the form could not even be filled out, was inconsequential.
Concurrently, while Gerry was at An Post, I tried to use our Amex card in every ATM in Raphoe. Unfortunately, none of them would take Amex.
Our hosts fed us today – beautifully on pot roast and parsnips – but they leave tomorrow morning. They have, however, lent us enough money to get through a week or so, which is very kind and entirely NOT expected of them! But BOY do we appreciate it!
Everyone’s been very kind (well, everyone but the guy who took the wallet and the person at An Post who programmed the damned computer to reject any wire transfers from a business to an individual.)
Tomorrow we drive to Letterkenny to a travel agency that is supposed to be an OFFICIAL Western Union stop with a ‘free standing Western Union console’ which will – according to general consensus at the post office in Raphoe – allow the operator to override the computer and give us our money.
We’ve also asked Gerry’s family to wire us some (why didn’t we think of them before?) so that even if plan A doesn’t work, plan B should and we should have SOME funds we can use for silly things like gas and food.
This day was so full of frustration, though. At one point I was on the skype phone with my own bank’s branch manager back in St. Paul, who was very sympathetic, but there was really nothing he could do. We went around and around with different brainstorms, but each solution seems so convoluted and fraught with potential pitfalls (like no first name in the sender field for a money gram from American Express)
It was slight consolation that EVERY person we spoke with at Amex, Western Union my bank, even the postal employees, thought the situation was ridiculous. No one could even imagine how it could be that we, the recipients, could have all our documentation, the money transfer code, even authorization on the phone from American Express and STILL not be able to get our money.
The only folks who seemed unable to judge how insane the whole thing is were the higher ups at the An Post. It seems they would rather follow the letter of some insane non-sensical protocol rather than use logic to solve a problem for a customer.
VACATION OF THE ABSURD
As it happens, we were explaining to the kids the other night about Beckett, and the Theater of the Absurd (Michael Gambon is appearing in Krapp’s Last Tape in Dublin, I would have liked to see it but things didn’t work out that way…)
Sitting in the back room of the post office (they very kindly let us in to rest about 3 hours into our adventure) Hannah said, “This is like one of those plays – like the one where the guys are waiting for the other guy to show up…”
It would have been fitting if the missing first name turned out to be, “Godot”
But lest you think it’s been all rubber stamps and queues, I’ve sprinkled some wonderful photographs we’ve taken so far of our trip to Ireland through this post – enjoy!