I shipped a package abroad recently, containing dutiable goods. Unfortunately, I underestimated the duty that would be charged, and now I need to send the recipient a cheque. (Feeling annoyed with myself for dreaming that FedEx would handle this aspect and bill me, and now I have caused a big nuisance) My fall-back position is going to my local bank branch and obtaining a bank draft in US funds, which I would then mail or courier. But I have another plan.
Remittance services, are a HUGE and expanding business. Some countries take in more money through remittances than they do through major industries. All those foreign workers and immigrants send funds home on a regular basis, and these are the services that help them do it.
So I want to see if I can do this online through a remittance service. Care to join me while I go shopping?
First stop, Senvia.
I know that Senvia is a remittance service that covers the country I'm interested in, and they are also based in Canada, so this seems like a good bet.
Start time: 10:30 am.
Registering at Senvia requires the usual personal information. I debate as to whether to say "yes" that I am acting on behalf of a third party -- which I am, as this is a business transaction. I go for it, with some hesitation becuase I don't want to get booted out. Now I need to give the details of the third party. (I assume this is an anti-money-laundering, anti-terrorist-financing requirement, but the web site doesn't tell me this.) A bit of info about the business, such as the incorporation number, and I'm through the first screen. (Yipee!)
Now I need to provide the recipient's information. I hope I have all of it...
First possible problem. I only know the recipient's business address, not home address. And I don't have their bank account information. Let's see if this will work. Okay, I think I have added a recipient. But I'm not sure this is working... I can't go further without a customer number, in any event, which I am supposed to get by phone. Elapsed time so far: 15 minutes.
Now that I am reading through the FAQ's, I think I can only send Canadian funds. This might be okay, but I'd rather send the US, since I think that will be easier for my recipient.
Next stop, my personal bank, TD Canada Trust.
I've heard about e-mail personal transfers, maybe this is a better way to go. It's not, as it turns out. To make an e-mail money transfer, the recipient has to have an account at a Canadian financial institution. I find myself wishing the site told me what my next best option is, if I'm NOT sending money to someone who has an account at a Canadian financial institution, etc. They must think I already know. The side-bar menu also does not have a "send money" button. I guess I would have to call, but I don't feel like doing that.
Okay, over to Western Union.
This looks promising, but I can't find any information about sending in another currency. Also, my first transfer is limited to $500 CAD. That's okay, actually, but I really think they would prefer the US funds. Oh well.
My next problem is that I have to tell them how much I want to send, before I know the fee involved. But I need to gross up the charges so my recipient gets the whole amount. So I open a new browser window and see if I can find prices. Yes, they have a handy calculator, and they let me know their estimated conversion to the local currency. Which is a nice feature.
But the price is a lot higher -- $30 versus $7 with Senvia. And I know my recipient will have to wait in line somewhere and show ID to get the money. Is that a bigger nuisance than depositing a bank draft? I look at the locations list, and have no idea if these are convenient locations for my recipient.
I like that I can bill this to a credit card. With Senvia, I need to set up the payment as a bill payment from my bank account. Senvia seems like a better service for regular payments, which is what the majority of users are likely making.
I decided to call Senvia to find out where my customer number is. Finding their number on the website means converting 1-877-4-SENVIA to a phone number, which is slightly annoying (and these folks know better, I'm surprised. One should only use the letters when it is totally memorable, which this is not. And one should always provide the actual numbers as well.)
Turns out that an hour is not enough time to get in the system, but the nice guy on the other end takes my number and promises to call back. It's now 11:35.
I decide to put the Western Union idea on hold for now, to see if I can make the Senvia thing work. Why? Well it's cheaper, for one thing. Plus I think the pick up locations may be more convenient for my recipient.
11:46 am. It turns out that I somehow didn't complete the online registration properly. (I was using Firefox at the time, perhaps that was a factor.) However, I did get a quick call back from Joe, who offers to set me up on the telephone, walks me through the service, and is generally very friendly and helpful.
All I have to do now is take my customer number and set it up as a bill payment with my bank. This seems easy enough. And then I need to let my recipient know that I have sent them the funds. This is starting to feel like fun again.
I decide not to risk trying to do this from the business bank accounts, since I've already invested quite a bit of time this morning. I'll just do it personally, and then deal with that element later. It's possible their system screens for a match between the sender and the account holder name they have, and I don't want my transaction rejected. (Note that Joe did not ask me if this was a third party transaction. Not that I'm blaming him, as he knew he was dealing with a service recovery situation. And I did not volunteer the info.)
I just finished setting Senvia up as a bill payment -- ZIP, ZIP, ZIP. Much easier than I expected, and this would work really well for someone doing this regularly, I think. I had to let my recipient know that the funds would be arriving. And it will take a day.
What have we learned here?
The web is gradually enabling more and more business processes. While there are glitches, it is a lot easier than in the past. When things go wrong, or we have questions, a human voice is a huge reassurance. I find I'm starting to EXPECT that I should be able to do a great many things online. It's becoming my first stop for practically anything. I wonder how widespread this is?