Third Degree given NJ who wanted Post Office money order


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Hi Blog. Here’s something I got through email the other day. Anonymized, reproduced with permission. Debito in San Francisco

Debito, this a statement / comment …

Am I the only personl who absolutely HATES changing cash from yen to cash in the Post Office.

Just bought an item on E-Bay. Cost was $65.00. Watch. Person does not accept PayPal. Fine. Went to convert cash at the Post Office. Should be easy … right. Well, it was, yet again, a living hell.

Cost to convert from yen to dollars: 2000 yen.

Wasted well over 90 minutes there, and once it took over 3 hours to convert about $50 (they ran out of paper, machine needed to be cleaned, etc … total nightmare !).

I think they are either incompetent as hell, or they really hate me. I get there to change the cash. They want my Alien card. Fine. Once they got it, they contacted the City Hall to make certain I’m legal. I showed them my meishi which said I am full time at a university and explained I am a permanent resident of Japan. Nope. They could care less. Person spent forever on the telephone too. I went to the guy saying … can I head out to eat … will be back in 2 hours and perhaps you will be finished by then. Nope. Did not want me to leave.

I had to rewrite their damn paperwork numerous times — directions were confusing. They wanted my FULL name in the box, JOSEPH, and would not accept the name JOE. They wanted my middle name too, as it was on the Alien card. Why ??? They demanded my home address on the form and not my work address on the application form. They it was my home address in one area and my work address in another area of the form. I was really treated as a criminal there, far far worse than immigration at Narita ever treated me (never a problem w/ Japanese immigration). I think they ran the equivalent of a US FBI check on me, and to remind you this was only to convert a lousy $65.00.

And, then when all finished, and I spent just under 10,000 yen for the $65 money order (recall that extra 2000 yen charge) and wasted over 90 minutes. Then came the question. That QUESTION . They asked me what the cash was for. I said it was for a watch.

They then said to me: “Is it a North Korean watch?” (while making the cross sign meaning this would be illegal if it were). “WHAT !!” I screamed. I was FURIOUS! First, the person getting the MO was located in Texas, USA, as they checked the name and location on their money order perhaps over a thousand times. Second, the person’s name was “Johnson”, hardly a Korean name. And finally, even if the watch belonged to Kim Jong Ill himself, WHO DA F–K CARES !!!!!!

This is only for a damn $65 to purchase a friggin watch !!!!!

Anyway, point. Have you a better way to convert $65.00?

Thought about this, and here is my solution, and feel free to post this on your web site. I will head to the bank and purchase Traveler’s Checks. The lowest demonimation I can get is for $150 — three $50 Traveler’s Checks. Then I will get $100 in cash, all 1s, 5s, 10s, and 20s. All at the proper exchange rates. When I get an item on E-bay (and many sellers do not take personal checks or Pay pal), I will send them Traveler’s Checks worth $50 and the rest in cash. I will then send it via EMS, which is expensive but pretty safe, and moreover it allows me to avoid the ripoff charge of 2000 yen just to be harassed by those bigoted loser bureaucrats!!

Oh, just a note to you, and to anyone who chooses to read this should you post this on your website.

Oh, last note: If there is a problem with the Postal Money Order, it takes over 10 months, and perhaps longer to get a replacement. And yes, it happened to me. I sent to my credit card company about three years ago (before I set up direct transfer via the Internet) a letter along with the Postal Money Order. The Credit Card Co opened and read the letter and accidentally tossed the MO.


I eventually worked it out w/ the credit card company. Went to the Post Office and wanted a replacement. They needed to do a “investigation” and this investigation would last about 10 months.

Nothing I could do to expedite the process at all. Of course, if I left Japan never to return, I’d never see the money again, that a guarantee.

OK, all to report for now. L8r. Joe

21 comments on “Third Degree given NJ who wanted Post Office money order

  • Back up a minute. Money orders to sellers on eBay? No way. That’s an easy way for a fool and their money to be parted. Stick with credit cards–that way you can dispute the charges if there’s a problem. If the seller doesn’t take plastic, don’t mess around with them.

    Easiest payment solution for a foreigner in Japan who has no overseas accounts and can’t get credit: Go to Suruga Bank and get an account with a VISA debit card.

    That said, I have never gotten this sort of lousy treatment when requesting a postal money order in Tokyo, even for much higher amounts of money. In this sort of situation it’s probably best to speak to a manager.

  • Joe, I am afraid you took the more arduous path on this one. The P.O. is a tad cumbersome for this kind of transaction, and not really suited for it. A M.O. on e-Bay is “iffy” too. The VISA Debit sounds like a good idea, but, surely there are other ways to do this? Surely? Worst case scenario, the fee for a bank draft is about the same at a chartered bank, and they don’t ask all the questions. Good luck next time!

  • I’ve been changing yen to a USD money order at my same local post office in Tokyo for 10 years. I did the form the same way every time. No problems.

    Then, the documents changed a little in 2008. The price increased. Now they copy my alien card every time, they also demand the exact name as it is written on my alien card (which no one knows me by).

    I refused to do the exact name thing. Ten years, no problems I said. The first time I refused the name change, the lady explained the entire system to me in Japanese, most of the Japanese I did not understand. But it was loud enough to alert the seven people waiting in line.

    Finally, to make this horror end, I gave in. I said, in Japanese, to show me exactly where to add my middle name. She explained and explained and then traced my name in the location! I scratched in my middle name. The two male clerks who always processed my money order without questions or troubles, were amused.

    Since then, I have waited in line for these two guys and refused to go to the same woman. But now, the guys also insist on copying the alien card. (There’s going to be quite a pile of my alien card copies there.)

    If you look at the money order form instructions, you’ll see it was changed in 2008 to require your exact name as it is on your official identification.

    The form has always asked the purpose, which I believe is similar to the money transfer laws in the USA. So if it turns out you lied about the purpose on the form, something bad can happen to you.

    I send the money to my bank. Don’t we mostly do that? I write “bank deposit”. They don’t understand. Sigh.

    Once I made the mistake of writing “credit card payment”. Well, since the credit card system in Japan is different, the postal clerks need a long explanation about monthly payments.

    Money order lost in the system? Happened to me once also. I started the investigation procedures, it took months. In the end, they could not confirm whether the money order had been processed and cashed.

  • While there is no excuse for poor service, interpersonal skills go a long way towards preventing problems at the post office, or resolving them once they happen – it seems like Joe has a chip on his shoulder, and that may be part of the problem.

    However, the staff at bank in small city where I used to live could be pretty annoying (giggling when the foreigner – me – came up to do a transaction), which is very unfortunate. You need a thick skin to live in Japan and good Japanese language skills.

  • don`t get me started on the ill-trained people at the post office when it comes to money orders. have been doing it for over 13 years and as of yet not a pleasant experience. i have sent money orders to sellers on e-bay and yahoo auctions also to my bank, credit card companies. now, out here in the provinces there are only 2 or 3 post offices in each city that is allowed to do them. you`d think that those 2 or 3 po`s would have trained their workers but….nooooooooooo.

    a note to emily – this is postal money order. try it sometime – if you have a half a day you want to waste. banks and cash money on the other hand run quite smoothly.

  • I haven’t had any problems sending money home. They even give me the form and leave me to fill it , then only check it and take the money.They asked for my name as written on the ARC, but have never copied the card itself.
    One of my friends, however, had pretty nasty experience. He is from Iran and just got his PhD in Architecture. They asked hime if the money will be used for nuclear research…But Joe’s experience tops it!

  • The red tape is due to international bureaucrats obsessed with fighting against money laundering after 9/11.
    Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF),3343,en_32250379_32236930_33658140_1_1_1_1,00.html#Measures_to_be_taken

    recommendation 5
    Financial institutions should undertake customer due diligence measures, including identifying and verifying the identity of their customers, when:
    carrying out occasional transactions: (i) above the applicable designated threshold; or (ii) that are wire transfers in the circumstances covered by the Interpretative Note to Special Recommendation VII;

    Special Recommendation
    VII. Wire transfers
    Countries should take measures to require financial institutions, including money remitters, to include accurate and meaningful originator information (name, address and account number) on funds transfers and related messages that are sent, and the information should remain with the transfer or related message through the payment chain.

  • Governments are really putting the screws on banks and other organisations that deal with sending money across borders in terms of the information they now demand.

    These demands need to be balanced with the need to provide good customer service. It appears that the post office has failed miserably on this occasion.

  • “While there is no excuse for poor service, interpersonal skills go a long way towards preventing problems at the post office, or resolving them once they happen – it seems like Joe has a chip on his shoulder, and that may be part of the problem.”

    Oh come on now, are you really laying blame on Joe for not being a “friendly foreigner”? I understand that charming people will ALWAYS be treated better than grumpy people in any situation, but to say that ingrained institutional problems will be solved if the NJ population would just act more politely when they encounter them is…well, silly is the only word I can think of.

    This isn’t to say NJ (or anybody for that matter) have a free license to act like an ass. What I’m saying is that being liked and/or respected by the person on the other side of the counter should not determine whether you are treated in a fair or courteous manner.

    Granted, I don’t find Joe’s case particularly earth-shattering, but I have seen this kind of response pop up in almost any discussion where an NJ has a run-in with a bureaucrat or policeman, and it completely dodges the issue at hand and is not helpful. I know I could get a chauvenistic boss to treat me more kindly if I flashed my cleavage at him, but that would hardly address the core issue.

  • 2000JPY?! That’s ridiculous, don’t pay!

    In the US, a Postal Money Order from the USPS is only about $1, they can go up to $1000 domestic, $500 international. And no ID needed.

  • randomcommenter says:

    “What I’m saying is that being liked and/or respected by the person on the other side of the counter should not determine whether you are treated in a fair or courteous manner.”

    And yet it does, in every single country on the face of the earth. In fact, Japan is one of the best countries in the world in terms of treating a customer well even if the customer is an absolute dick. You can do stuff in Japan that would get the manager to throw you out in many other countries.

    So, sure, the core problem is that service workers treat customers who act like jerks badly. That’s a problem that hasn’t been solved in several thousands of years of attempts to do so. If you have any kick ass ideas of how to make it stop, please, chime in. But how to get clerks to treat you fair and courteously? That’s a problem that HAS been solved: don’t act like a jerk. So I’m sorry that we’re all providing tried and tested solutions instead of trying to solve the unsolvable problem.

  • This is one of reasons I don`t make transfers from Japan. Too much control, too much they want to know what I do with my money I honestly earn. It`s my business!. I had a situation, in which Mitsubishi UFJ Bank didn`t allow me to send 300,000yen to my overseas account. After this I decided to operate elsewhere and have ZERO yen in banks here and first of all in one above. I always say and will say that Japan is like communistic country with central regime, at least exchange money stuff they handle is that way. Even Japanese have to fill in form when exchanging money. Why? What for? Why do they need my address etc. Why do they need my private data like copy of GC? In my country there are exchange money booths everywhere. You just come in, give them currency and ask for exchange. Nobody ask you a single question, even in the bank. The only question comes may be “which currency do you want to exchange for?” I remember during communism era was the same full control like in Japan in 21st
    century, but it`s long over.

  • If the guy doesn’t take PayPal or any other electronic payment I wouldn’t even bother.
    I can buy a watch from ks’ of places, the burden is on him to sell it, not on me to buy it.

    But, besides that, usually when I am mistreated in Japan (extremely rare) I demand to see his/her manager.
    I know it’s sad to say it, but those clerks are not authorized to think, they have to do exactly what they are told to. Therefore you might as well take it to the decision maker (the manager).

    You might be surprised at the results, and if you are still not satisfied just cancel the whole thing and leave.
    There are good and bad employees everywhere, but don’t automatically assume that when the clerk is a J and the customer is a NJ is a discrimination.

  • I never show my Alien card to anyone outside of immigration – my Japanese drivers licence and insurance card are both legal forms of ID and more than enough for anyone. I don’t really care what your companies policy may be regarding foreigners, if you want to make it difficult there is plenty of other companies out there who are happy to take my money without being stupid about the process.

  • I too have had similar problems with money orders. I have visited Japan several times in the last 14 years and now live here. When here as a student I was pretty much reliant on Money sent from home from my account via my parents with international postal money orders. The local banks would not accept cashier’s checks and my classmates who had money wired lost it. Postal money orders were the only safe way we could find. So, once a month every month for a year I went to the post office to cash the money order. And each time the clerk, the same person, acted as if they had never seen an international postal money order before and called their supervisor who in turn called their supervisor. Then now less than 3 manuals were consulted and finally after 45 minutes to and hour I had my yen and was on my way. This exact act played out each month.
    I have since graduated from college and have to send money home to pay for my college loans and my credit card bill. Until recently, I did not have a Japanese driver’s license so had to use my gaijin card as ID. I used to have very little problem, at least no more than when trying to cash one, but over the last few years things have gotten very difficult. First the price jumped from 500 yen to 2000 yen. Then they began to ask why I was sending money home for. Again, each month I usually go to the same local post office, I have moved twice in the last 8 years so I have used 3 local Post offices, and each month I gave to same answer. As time passed, I was intorrogated by more and people at the post office, first the clerk then their sup. then the sup’s supervisor and finally phone calls from the regional post office. I find that if I am the only person in the post office it takes no less than 30 minutes and usually longer to buy a money order. If I have to wait at all I either skip lunch or have to wait till another day to try again. And I have once even been denied the service and had the money refunded to me being told that I was trying to use the money order for a prohibited reason, despite having used them for that exact purpose each and every month for the prior 6 years. Of course, I too was very much angered by all this nonsense and waste of time, but I never raised my voice or be anything but polite, so that isn’t the answer.
    The bottom line is, the have decided that they do not want their money to leave the country and have been making it progressively harder to do so.

  • I know that the post office is totally anal about sending MO, as I am sure some idiot bureacrats wrote the rule book. I check the box at the bottom of the page and get the forms printed up and sent to me for free since I use them often (Unless they elimiated that service as part of their “service-up” campaign).

    It is best to just fill everything out EXACTLY as it appears on your ID.

    I guess I agree with Carl above: it’s a pain in the ass (and only the Japanese know how to make the simple 10 times harder than needed) but not really discrimination.

    Living in Japan means learning to deal with shit like this. I’ve been here almost 10 years and I know to take some good reading material if I have to go to the PO, the bank or any gvt office.


    I read your story about the man who had trouble getting a foreign currency money order. I had problems myself in June of this year (or maybe it was late May) in Ishikawa. I cannot now remember if I was charged 1000 or 2000 yen for the MO, however, I was questioned over and over about WHAT it was for, and why I wanted to send it. The third time I was asked I finally lost it and got mad and told them that it didn’t matter WHY or WHERE I wanted to send it, they should just send it out for me. Then one woman, who sat with this big blue binder filled with old, yellowed and flaking papers in it on her lap, pointed to a page and telling me that I could NOT send any money to that address (I was trying to pay for a passport renewal, sending money to the American embassy in Tokyo), as it was not a valid address for the American embassy. Again I got angry and told them it IS the address, they could find out just as easily as I had, by going to their address on the internet.

    Then I was told it was illegal for me to send money through the mail, to an embassy, for any reason. It was so absurd I simply said “that is not true”. Then it was WHY I was sending that particular amount? I had already answered twice and was thoroughly sick of them and I said it was not their job to ask that kind of question, it was their job to send mail for people and to provide MOs to people who want to buy them. Then I filled out the form and was told twice that I had made an error and would have to fill it in again. The first time I was told I had to produce and show my gaikokujintorokosho to them, so I had to drive back home to get it. Then my first “error” was that I continued to insist on writing the “invalid” address for the American embassy in Tokyo.

    Somebody finally went to check that and confirmed that I was writing the correct address and phone number. I had my current passport with me I asked why they could not simply look at that to confirm my identity. They had repeated that I needed the visa card. The second time they said my “error” had been not to using block lettering when filling in my Japan address. I just stared at her, in red faced and furious protest, until another woman watching came over, took it, and said no it was fine the way it was written (without looking at it herself though, so she must have seen I had had enough nonsense).

    Then they finally gave it back to me and I was allowed to send my envelope to the embassy. The whole thing had taken over an hour of sometimes loud arguing by me and an extra bit of driving back and forth to my house when it should have taken 10 minutes. They made me feel as if I was trying to do something illegal or wrong when all I wanted to do was renew my passport within Japan.

  • Debito,

    When something like this happen to me I use the old technique I’ve learned in the States.

    Talk to the manager.

    Chances are that the person giving you s**t is only doing what someone told him/her.
    By seeking the manager you rise above her because:
    1) If the manager told her to act this way, you might as well talk directly to the decision maker.
    2) If she’s doing entirely out of her own free will thinking that “gaijin don’t complain” you are gonna prove her wrong and all of the sudden her main concern becomes not-to-look-bad-in-front-of-the-manager.

    Works everytime for me, and if I am mistaken (occasionally I do), the manager explain it to me with much better details than the employee does.

  • Here’s some idea how to circumvent the system:

    I send money regularly to places all around the world, and to two overseas accounts I am holding (one in Germany, one in the US).

    1) Get a postal savings account (formerly known as Pa-ru-ru).

    2) Get your postal money orders debited from directly debited from that account instead of paying cash (there are special forms available for that kind of service). Present your account passbook when you make the payment.

    3) For regular payments to recipients living overseas, wire a lump sum to an account of your choice. If in your name, note “savings” as your reason of payment.

    4) If to the US, your stateside bank will charge you $12 to $22 to credit the wire, which usually takes 3 to 5 banking days, and the charge depends on whether a third bank is involved.
    Inquire with your bank to get the correct routing number. Routing numbers for wire transfers MAY be different from those printed on your checks. The time frame depends on where you live (the P.O. sends a fax to the postal giro center in charge of int’l transactions – it used to be a straight wire before the fees were “adjusted”, as they put it). Tokyo and Osaka are usually the fastest, with countryside P.O.’s trailing far behind.

    5) If to Germany, the Postbank will not charge any fees, and other banks will charge EUR 5 to credit incoming wires. For time frames, see previous comments.

    6) From a US account, write checks against your balance & send them thru the mail. At $1 a pop it should be cheaper than spending 2000+ Yen per IPMO…

    7) From a German account, make online IBAN / BIC transfers to any Euro zone bank (Postbank offers them for free).

    Sending funds directly from a postal savings passbook SHOULD save you all those stupid questions P.O. employees are supposedly supposed to ask. At my P.O. some do, some don’t – the passbook plus my “hanko”, and eventually plus my DL are sufficient to confirm my identity, and “savings” (“貯金”) is a valid reason. It’s no one’s business what you do with your money once it hits an overseas account in your name. It is legally earned and has been taxed, and the trail can be followed to the point where it exits Japan. End of story for nosey counter clerks.

    On a personal note – I do a lot of buying on eBay, and the safest way is to NOT use Paypal!!
    Check this site:

    Paypal has made it a habit to freeze accounts and seize funds at will, leaving little or no recourse to defrauded sellers and buyers alike, other than go thru law enforcement, the BBB or even the court system.
    Many sellers refuse to deal with PayPal, and eBay will see their core business shrink further come the end of this month due to their third line forcing of their own subsidiary (checks and MOs will be banned from

    I am both a seller and a buyer with 10,000s of transactions since 1999…


    If you happen to encounter a postal clerk with little or no knowledge / training, assume (s)he is a newbie. It happens. If the same person messes up the second time, call the supervisor and ask him politely to re-train the counter clerk in question. If it happens again, call the supervisor again, and tell him, that time is a customer’s most valuable asset, and that nobody should be stealing it (this particular phrase got a lot of nods from customers waiting in line every time I have used it!), and that you would not want to see that person serving you again.
    At my local P.O., six consecutive foul-ups by one particular clerk that cost almost four hours of my time excluding waiting in line earned him five a**-chewings, and a backroom desk job as a consequence.


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