MONTEGO BAY, St James — The decision by Western Union to set a money transfer limit of US$400 at three locations in Montego Bay has been greeted with mixed reactions across the tourist capital.
The outlets — located at MegaMart, in Catherine Hall; Hometown Supermarket along Church Street; and Whitter Village in Ironshore — resumed operations after Western Union closed its 14 outlets in St James nearly two weeks ago in a bid to review its security procedures.
The closure decision was widely believed to have been taken to counter the operations of players in the multimillion dollar lottery scam, many of whom are said to be using the Western Union service in Montego Bay.
Lottery scammers generally target mostly elderly US residents by luring them to transfer “processing fees” to claim winnings from a bogus sweepstake.
Yesterday, a mother of eight children who was among persons in line at the MegaMart outlet was furious about the restriction when the Observer West spoke with her.
She claimed that the father of seven of her children who now resides in the US, generally sends her money through the remittance service to pay bills.
She claimed that the restriction comes at a time of the year when she is preparing to purchase school supplies for her children.
“Right now, me in a problem. Me have pickney to go back to school, rent and light bill to pay. US$400 can’t do nothing,” she stressed.
She also lamented the fact that customers are now restricted to collecting remittances once per day.
“If me have other ways and means me don’t use Western Union. A foolishness,” she rued.
A male customer was in agreement.
“I am waiting on some money to seal a deal and the US$400 is not sufficient. They need to increase the amount,” said a man who gave his name only as Tony.
But a businessman who spoke to the Observer West after using the service at Whitter Village supported the restriction.
“I think it is justified because normally you hardly would find family members or a business friend that would send you more than US$300… so to put it at $400 is okay,” he said, adding that he collects roughly US$700 annually.
A young man who was at the MegaMart location expressed delight that the service has been restored.
“At least we still can collect. It better than when they locked down all of them,” he said.
A woman who overheard the conversation interjected, “The amount is good for me because me never collect as much as US$400 yet.”
Last night, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Davon Crump, told the Observer West that the decision to put a limit on the amount of money transferred at any given time will hit legitimate business persons hard.
“We think that the limit of US$400 might be inadequate for some legitimate users of Western Union and persons who rely on their remittances for back-to-school payments,” Crump stated.
He added, however, that the opening of the three outlets will ease the burden somewhat for persons who were travelling to neighbouring parishes to collect their remittances.
The recent closure of Western Union outlets in Montego Bay had resulted in customers travelling to locations in the neighbouring parishes of Trelawny and Hanover to receive their remittances.