Preferred Customer


As for many of us with loved ones in other countries, I send money regularly to my husband R in Mexico.

In my world, sending money through Western Union and MoneyGram has run the gamut from annoying to humiliating.

Over the years, I’ve sent money via Western Union or MoneyGram to R from sketchy liquor shops, crowded supermarkets, and understaffed drug stores all over the US. Even though my info and R’s info are in both their systems, something inevitably comes up, such as the person can’t find R’s city in Mexico. I’ll spell it out for them on a piece of paper, and the person will still be convinced that I made up the name.

A person processing my money transfer once told me that, “I don’t look like the type of person who sends money to Mexico.”

A good friend of mine suggested that I check out a place in the Fruitvale here in Oakland. I was so burnt out from MoneyGram and Western Union, that I decided to give it a go, preparing myself for the worst.

It actually has restored a little bit of my faith.

The employee there, C always greets me with a wide smile. The first time I came in, she was very warm and friendly, set me up with a  membership card, explained the process to me, and sent me on my way quickly and professionally. I just had to get into the system once, and that was it, no further questions. She always looks for the best place for R to pick up money in Mexico, where he can get the highest exchange rate. She says his name with care, and never has and never will ask if the city where R lives is real.

C is from Costa Rica. And while she and I could speak in English, we always speak in Spanish. And sometimes, when I’m tired, or my brain’s just not working, my Spanish comes out profoundly crooked. C never makes any snide remarks, just sails along with my bumpiness.

Since I came back from my last visit in Mexico, I hadn’t seen C in the times that I’d gone to send money. While I was totally taken care of by the other employees, I missed her. I thought that perhaps she had left the job.

Last Saturday, I stopped by to send some money, and there she was. C’s working a second job Monday and Tuesdays at an accountant’s office, which is why I hadn’t seen her. There were two people ahead of me, and she still gave me a big smile. I saw how she treated other customers with the same respect, saying their loved one’s name with the same warmth in her voice as she says my husband’s name.

When I got to the window, she asked me how my trip to Mexico was, and looked at me with a lot of compassion in her eyes when I told her that it was a great trip.

She joked with me that she thought I’d decided to stay in Mexico.

We then half-seriously but half-jokingly promised each other that if we ever do leave the US permanently, that we’d better let the other one know and say goodbye.

For those of us who send money regularly to loved ones in other countries, the process can definitely hurt your heart.

But today I’m thankful for people like C-she is a part of my extended team that looks out for R and myself.

My membership card says, “Cliente Preferido”-Preferred Customer. I truly do feel like one.

And I won’t lie-there’s a big part of me that would love to bring R up to the window one day and introduce them to each other. The name that she’s said so warmly all this time, smiling shyly back at her.

Monday wishes, kids. Monday wishes.


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