Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Help Me Howard: Western Union
Many people pay bills online, others write checks, and some people use money orders. But when that money order gets lost, what can you do? Are you out of luck? It's why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Robin Johnson: "That doesn't bother me, Patrick. It just doesn't bother me. I won't let ... that's mind over matter to me."
Robin Johnson has been living in this HUD project since 1995, paying all her bills from the $700 a month she gets in government assistance, and she considers herself very lucky.
Robin Johnson: "Yeah, I'm blessed. I take care of myself. I try to eliminate stress and problems."
But when Robin called us, she had a problem that was stressing her out.
Robin Johnson: "I don't write checks -- I never have -- and I have always done good with money orders in the mailbox."
In July, Robin bought three money orders to pay for her mother's insurance, her grandson's insurance, and her share of the rent.
Robin Johnson: "I dropped it in the mailbox on July 2nd and it hasn't been seen anymore. I have never dealt with this in my life, so what can I say?"
When the money orders didn't show up for a month, Robin contacted Western Union.
Robin Johnson: "The only way they could trace the money orders is, each money order I would have to pay $15 dollars each to be traced through Western Union. That's the only option that I have."
The money order for her portion of the rent was $139 dollars, but the one for her grandson's life insurance was $7, so it made no sense to pay to trace that one. Not that Robin could to trace any of them...
Robin Johnson: "I don't have the money. I got one income. I got to pay 15 plus 15 plus 15."
Robin doesn't have the money to trace the money orders and doesn't have the money to repay her bills, meaning she is facing eviction.
Robin Johnson: "I only get a fixed income of SSI, and I don't know what I am going to do to try to double up and pay double bills when I had the receipt saying I paid them for July."
Robin mailed her money orders to pay her bills, but they never arrived. So Howard, legally, is Robin out of luck?
Howard Finkelstein: "No. The good thing about using a money order to pay a bill rather than cash, if it gets lost you can put a trace on it and get your money back. The bad news is that you have to pay for that, and for someone struggling to get by, they may not be able to afford it."
We have learned when you deal with good companies, our job is easier. I sent Western Union the copies of Robin's three money orders. They investigated, and within a few days, she got checks in the mail to compensate her for those money orders. Robin got her money back, and once again reminded us how blessed she is.
Robin Johnson: "No, now that I don't have no burdens or headaches anymore. I got two bedrooms, one bath, front yard, side yard. You got condominium, paying $2,000, don't have a yard."
Feeling blessed and feeling grateful.
Robin Johnson: "Thanks to Help Me Howard ... or Patrick. How can I thank the guy? Can I get him a birthday cake?" (laughs)
No cake; just saying thanks is enough. And you know, Robin is a reminder of how important attitude is, because if you think bad things are going to happen, you find the bad things in a day. But if you think it's going to be a great day and great things will happen, that's what you see. Some people with lots of money may think Robin has it tough, but she has a great attitude and feels everything is fine. That's a good way to look at life.
A money problem left your life out of order? Don't know how to check it out? Contact us. We can't promise you will cash in, but we hope it will pay off for you.
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.