Friday, July 6, 2012

Show me the Money Order

I don't think I've had to purchase a money order since I ordered tickets for the 1979 NBA All Star Game at the sparkling new Pontiac Silverdome, but I needed one yesterday as part of Worldwide's expedited application for more pages in her well-traveled passport. It's ironic that the Department of State requires payment by certified cheque or money order in today's world, especially when the IRS, in a mistaken belief that we had underpaid taxes, was able to directly grab the money from our bank account last year. This is a government that serves the people? I can top up the BG's cafeteria credit online and buy my bus pass via Paypal, but the federal government up on the hill is using an 18th century innovation.

I'm not one given to rant against the government, and, as someone who has worked in the federal courts and on USAID projects, I'm intimately familiar with many of the frustrating inefficiencies in those agencies; but this one struck a chord. I tried to buy the order at the UPS store, but they didn't sell them, so I went to the bank branch embedded at our local supermarket. "Do you have an account here?" the teller asked. When I replied in the negative, she sent me to the Customer Service desk, where, after waiting for a man to collect his "rain check" on the Liquid Tide on sale this week, I got my draft, paying the $1 service charge.

One wonders why the federal government won't accept its own legal tender; or a cheque drawn on a federally insured institution (which can be cleared immediately now); credit card; Paypal; wire transfer, or one of the slick new mobile phone payment systems. Everybody else does. There are reasons why each will not work, and I heard many of them when we tried to get PACER to accept credit card payments in 2002, but none are legitimate.

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