In 1988 I received a British Postal Money Order in the amount of Four Pounds as a refund on a book I had ordered from the former East German information office in London. I prepaid but the book was no longer available. I was living in Amsterdam at the time, writing the first edition of Eastern Europe on a Shoestring for Lonely Planet. No one in Holland would cash the British money order and I was also unable to cash it in Canada a few years later. I ended up holding it for 22 years.
In June I made my first trip to the United Kingdom since July, 1985, and my wife and I spent a week in London immediately before our cruise to Iceland. For fun, I took my old British Postal Order to a London post office to see if it could be cashed. No luck. I was told to send the money order to Port Office Ltd., No 1 Future Walk, Chesterfield S49 1PF, England, for a refund. I spent 51 pence on a stamp and did just that.
Last week I got a letter from the “Method of Payment Team Manager” at Post Office Customer Care in Chesterfield, England, informing me that “The Postal Order which you presented for encashment expired in November 1998 and unfortunately are no longer valid. The type of Postal Order you have presented are no longer in use. We replaced them with a new style Postal Orders on 25 April 2006. When the new style Postal Orders were introduced, Post Office Limited authorized a discretionary extension on the expiry period for old style Postal Orders, allowing customers to obtain a refund for three years after the sale of old style orders ceased. This extension has now ended and unfortunately I am no longer able to refund the value of your old style Postal Orders.” Darn. I missed the deadline by a mere14 months.
Last year I received a United States Postal Money Order for US$55 as a refund on a visa overpayment. When I took it to my local bank here in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, I was informed that it was only valid in the USA. Well, US$55 is more than four pounds so I decided it was worth risking a trip south of the border. So I took the ferry to Vancouver and drove across to Point Roberts, Washington, where the postal clerk cashed my money order with no question. I used some of those funds to tank up on cheap gas and hightailed it back across the border to safety in Canada. Lesson learned? Don’t buy a postal money order unless you’re sure the recipient will be able to cash it.