Money laundering at the Post Office
This is one of those complaints about the absurdities of modern regulations . . . so if you really can't bear wry moans about modernity, better not read on.
Earlier this week the husband had to acquire a postal order for just over £100. He is going to India and must get a visa. Time was when you just queued up at India House with your cash, left your passport in the morning and picked it up later that day. Now the whole Indian visa operation has been out-sourced, it's shot up in price, and you have to pay by POSTAL ORDER -- a kind of currency that I imagine most people in the land didn't realise still existed.
So the husband trots around to the local sub post office last week to acquire the postal order.
It turns out to be a pricey piece of paper. I scoffed in disbelief when he said it cost £12,50 (didn't he mean 12p?), but checking on the web I discover that there is indeed an admin fee of 12.5% of the value of the order, capped at £12.50. Makes even your credit card look cheap.
Anyway when it comes to paying, he gets his debit card out, only to be told by the woman behind the counter that he must pay in cash. He protests that last time he bought one (also for an Indian visa) he paid by debit card. That was, she retorted, absolutely impossible. It has bever been allowed to buy a postal order with a debit card; he can't be remembering straight. Cash or nothing.
He had no option but to leave the post office and find the nearest bank machine, get the cash and return to the back of the queue and start the whole palaver all over again. (Anyone who knows our local sub post office will know how long that will have taken ....almost longer than it used to take to queue at india House.)
Back home, and still cross, the husband decides to ring up the Post Office customer service line to complain. The man on the other end of the line explains that the woman behind the counter was quite right, you cannot buy a postal order with a debit card. Why? Because of money laundering regulations, he explains.
The husband then plays the over-60s card. He points out that the consequence of this ruling was that he had to go down the road, withdraw a large amount of cash from the hole in the wall (how safe is that?) and then join the back of the queue all over again . . .
Oh, replied the helpful customer service man, there was no need for all that. You could have got £100 cash with your debit card at the Post Office counter, through their card machine, and then used that cash to pay for the postal order (which is presumably what happened the previous time...understandly "misremembered" as "paying with a debit card").
The husband asked that this useful information be passed on to the counter staff at our local sub post office, which the customer service man promised he would do.
But can anyone explain how any of this would help prevent "money laundering"... especially if you can't pay for a Postal Order by debit card, but you can withdraw the cash on the debit card and then use that to buy the Postal Order. The logic is certainly lost on me. And what serious money launderers deal in £100 postal orders anyway?
(Just in case you're thinking that we are terrible old stick in the muds in this house, let me assure you that we do see some advantages in modern technology. If you aren't any longer allowed to go and queue up for your visa at India House, it is quite nice to have reassuring text messages arriving on your mobile, telling you how far your passport has progressed in the system...at extra cost, of course)