Time is money is a saying that demands that long distance journeys be done at night; even if the government doesn’t like it – even if some would rather lie beside a dead body than take a sunset bus to Mombasa. Two weeks ago I travelled to Mombasa, arriving at the coast city a few minutes past 7:30 AM, and that’s how I had planned it to happen. I wanted to arrive in Mombasa no earlier than 6 AM and no later than 8 AM so that by 8 AM I could be in his office, hold the meeting, finish up no later than 10 AM, attend to my other shughulis that included saying hi to a bunch of long lost friends and eating my favorite fish mbichi at mama UG traditional foods joint, so that at no later than 10 PM I be on the road back to Nakuru.
If I traveled during the day, I could have wasted two working days and money – the day of travel to Mombasa, then book an hotel for the night (wasted money), go about my businesses a day after, spend another night in an hotel (another wasted cash), then travel back to Nakuru the third day.
A similar logic applies whenever I have a one day business to do in Nairobi. Instead of wasting precious three working hours on the road, I ensure that I leave my house no earlier than 5:30 PM to arrive in Nairobi at around 8:30 PM, spend the night at a friend’s place, go about my business in Nairobi the following day, and plan to arrive back in Nakuru before it’s past dinner; and that is exactly what I had planned to do on a day in July this year.
It was one of those days that traffic from Ngara to town won’t move. Looking at the watch (which I didn’t have), the time read 5:33 PM which was only three minutes past the time I was supposed to be booking the mat to Naks. Then ten minutes past. No movement. Not an inch. Should I walk? I opened Google maps that told me I needed about 23 minutes to walk to Latema Road, debated and calculated the risk then I finally I decided to walk. I didn’t have to walk for 2 minutes before the traffic could open up for the vehicles to scream “fooooool” past me in time racing speeds. That’s how nature works when you spend all the time debating an inevitable decision. After dealing with the insult I arrived at Latema Road a few minutes past 6, but I couldn’t head straight to the Mololine booking office as I didn’t have cash – not a coin, so I had to stop by an MPESA Agent.
“I want to withdraw 3K”
“Do you have your ID”
I rarely carry my National ID for reasons well known to some of you (see also Safaricom’s customer care should be smarter). When I told the MPESA Agent I didn’t have an ID I can bet I heard her say “Okay”. I then asked her to show me her Agent number which she pointed at. I went ahead and withdrew. She started to record the transaction details. Then she asked,
“I told you I don’t have an ID”, I replied politely.
“No you can’t withdraw without an ID”
“But I just did?”
“Sorry for that, but I can’t give you the money without an ID”
Getting annoyed, “You asked me if I have an ID, and I said no. And you still told me it’s okay”
“You didn’t say you don’t have an ID”, she insisted
“Anyway, I have always withdrawn without an ID many times so I see no problem”
“You didn’t withdraw here”, she retorted.
Yes it is true. I have made several, actually hundreds, of MPESA transactions without producing an ID. The reasoning I always give is that it is very unlikely for someone other than me to have my phone and at the same time know my MPESA PIN without my express permission. And that for deposits, it is very easy to verify that the money was deposited in my phone simply by counter checking the text message sent to my phone. The only person who has challenged this argument is an MPESA Agent who explained that there would be no way to verify that I wasn’t some thug who had at gunpoint forced some innocent bystander to give me his phone and MPESA PIN.
By now my patience was running out. The time was slowly drifting into seven and if by seven I wasn’t in a moving vehicle headed to Nakuru I was destined to miss my dinner time. But that was being too optimistic. I was in town, no money in my pocket, and no money in MPESA. The only money at my disposal was being held hostage by a rude MPESA Agent who wouldn’t listen to logic, a lady who insisted that the only solution to the stalemate was for me to call Safaricom Care and ask them to cancel the withdrawal. I did. But the Safaricom Customer Care who received the call fifteen minutes later would only talk with the Agent.
They talked for eternity. Then she hanged up, handed the phone back to me with a simple explanation, “the money will be reverted back to your account”. She wouldn’t answer any of my many questions. When will the reversal take place? Immediately or after 48 hours as they normally do? What if they don’t?
“Can I have your number just in case?” I requested.
“Why are you being so unkind to me?”
“Your money will be reverted, now get out of my premise. I have other clients to serve”
I had to walk away. There was a time I caused frakas in a similar premise after being treated rudely only for her male colleagues from adjacent premises to come and ransack me all round, robbing me of a phone and money in the process. This day I didn’t have money but I cherished my two phones and laptop, so I walked away, made a phone call, received money sufficient to take me back to Kasarani which I withdrew from a friendlier MPESA Agent, and spent a second night in Nairobi.
I have made several MPESA transactions after that some without ID. Three days ago I once again went to an MPESA Agent who wouldn’t serve me without an ID. The problem this time round is that while searching for the ID hoping I carried it in my laptop bag, she served two ladies without asking them for their IDs.
“Why did you serve those two without asking them for ID”, I asked.
“Because I know them”, she answered. And she was kind.
“Isn’t that discriminatory?
“No, and that’s because I can verify their identity without asking them for IDs, I can’t verify yours”
“No one else can have my phone and PIN number”, I went straight into stating the obvious.
“That’s right, but you may call Safaricom and ask them to cancel the withdrawal after you have gone with the money”
“How would my ID prevent that?”
“Before they reverse the transaction, Safaricom will call me and ask me to read for them the ID number I recorded against the transaction”
“Oh I see”.
And that’s why four months ago the Latema Road MPESA Agent could not give me the already withdrawn cash no matter how hard I pleaded. I wish she had just explained it as simple as that. Woe unto MPESA Agents who don’t insist on IDs.