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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Don't bother getting foreign currency from the Post Office.

In future, I don't think I'll bother getting foreign currency from the Post Office.

I figure I need a total of £200 in US Dollars and £100 in Canadian Dollars for out of pocket expenses on this upcoming trip. Anything else I will use my card. Since I live near a PO branch, I popped in to order it there on the way to work. First thing "Come back with ID". Sigh. Another day wasted.

So today, clutching my passport, I went back. I duly filled in a form. The PO is commission free, but VISA like their cut, so I took my cheque book.
"We don't take cheques. Do you have cash?"
I didn't because I can't draw out that much cash in one go. Ever since a friend got "double dipped" by muggers I have had a deliberately low withdrawal limit - they grabbed him at 1130pm, made him draw out his daily allowance then kept him in a car at knifepoint until 1230am then made him do it again. Result: £500. Since then, I have had a withdrawal limit of £100. I've never had any problems until now.
Resigned to paying 1.5%, I handed over my debit card.
Card Declined.
"It's because you only have a cash withdrawal limit of £100".
I handed over my Credit Card.
"The Post Office only accepts it's own credit cards".

With no other choice, I went to the nearest cashpoint planning to draw out the money on 3 different cards.
"Out of order" it proclaimed after wasting 60 seconds of my life as I entered my PIN and waited for it to process. Why don't they tell you this before you waste your time queuing and waiting for the machine to process your request?

I trudged a quarter of a mile up the road in 30 degree heat to the next cashpoint, making a mental note to find my sun glasses and take the lead bricks out of my bag.

I put the card in "Card declined". Great, now the card is blocked.
I replaced it with my little-used BarclayCard. "That service is unavailable at this time" What the fuck does that mean?
Now with no hope of getting £300 out on my remaining credit card, I jumped on the bus and went to my nearest bank.
Fortunately, I had my passport on me so I was able to withdraw £300 in twenties and get my card unblocked then back on the bus, with an uncomfortably large wad of notes burning a hole in my pocket.

Back at the PO, it was Giro day so I queued for a further twenty minutes, the stifling heat making the smell of Special Brew and cheap cider seem even more heady than usual. Finally, my turn again. I handed him the wad and filled the paperwork in whilst he called the office. After repeating himself three times and confirming that "Yes he wants both American and Canadian dollars" he looked at me apologetically.
"You've missed the deadline by 10 minutes - you can't pick them up until Friday afternoon".

Oooh, I really hope they haven't fucked up my order now or I am going to be in deep shit.



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