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The Western Union Company Message Board

  • redheadinvestor@ymail.com redheadinvestor Apr 2, 2013 1:51 PM Flag

    Recent visit to Wal-Mart

    I live in a Sun Belt state. I visited a local Wal-Mart yesterday. I have also recently used both Western Union and MoneyGram to send money, and will do the FX math to see whether MGI is making up for low transmission prices by stiffing the FX rate.

    MoneyGram is present at the Customer Service counter at Wal-Mart. Many people were in line at the crowded counter, but they were all there to return Wal-Mart purchases, not to send money using MoneyGram. I could tell, because they were all bearing the kinds of random items people buy and return at Wal-Mart, not filling out MoneyGram forms (found in front of the counter). To use MoneyGram at this Wal-Mart, you have to stand in this line and wait.

    Interestingly, Western Union is also present inside this Wal-Mart. It is an add-on service offered by the third party bank, that (obviously also in a JV with Wal-Mart) set up a bank branch inside the Wal-Mart right next to the Customer Service counter. This is how WU got inside the Wal-Mart and achieved a side-by-side presence with MGI.

    No customer was at the bank when I visited, but there would have been no line had anyone wanted to send money via Western Union. The presence of WU was clearly marked, but the presence of MGI was overall more prominently displayed.

    As neither send-money service had any customers at all when I visited, I didn't take this random visit as any sign of demand or lack of demand for WU or MGI. But it was curious to me that it was clearly more convenient and less time-consuming, within the Wal-Mart, to use WU, rather than MGI, despite the WMT/MGI partnership, simply because of the difference between standing in a long Wal-Mart Customer Service line full of Wal-Mart random shoppers versus patronizing the underemployed counter staff at Wal-Mart's in-house third-party bank.

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    • redheadinvestor@ymail.com redheadinvestor Apr 2, 2013 1:58 PM Flag

      To condense that post's main conclusion: WMT and MGI have a much-heralded JV, but oddly enough, within my local Wal-Mart, it's not only possible to use WU (surprise #1), but also significantly more convenient to use WU (surprise #2), because it's in the empty third-party-brand bank branch rather than at the congested WMT-brand Customer Service counter. On top of this, about 1/3 of MGI revenues derive from WMT use, while WMT is not a significant revenue driver for WU (though this would probably be counted as bank use, but still, the bank's in the Wal-Mart).

      • 1 Reply to redheadinvestor
      • redheadinvestor@ymail.com redheadinvestor Apr 2, 2013 2:32 PM Flag

        There is a Bloomberg article today about how Wal-Mart has grown the number of Wal-Marts while shrinking the number of employees, leading to stock-outs of Wal-Mart items, as overwhelmed employees fail to consistently achieve restocking targets due to time constraints.

        This suggests that MGI's in-WMT send-money service would be suffering a directionally similar fate. But where WU is in WMT, WU is in the bank - it can't be in WMT at the Customer Service counter, because MGI has excluded it. Using WU depends on bank staffing levels, not Wal-Mart staffing levels. Logically, banks are a lot less likely to be staff-constrained or labor-constrained than Wal-Mart.

        The counter-intuitive conclusion is that despite the MGI/WMT JV, WU actually has the more advantageous on-site strategy for operating within a Wal-Mart (where it does so), offering a superior customer experience at the point of transfer.

 
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