Eating away at your savings

An Indian trader's life savings have been eaten by termites. If only he'd put them in a sub-prime CDO...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Dwarika Prasad had left about $11,000 in cash in a safe deposit box at his bank – but when he went to check up on it, he found that some peckish termites had munched their way through the whole lot. The pesky white ants had even chewed holes in his financial documents and scoffed the shine off his gold and silver jewellery. Where’s the Rentokil when you need it?

Worse still, his bank is refusing to refund the money, on the grounds that they’re only liable if the box is actually broken or damaged – which in this case it isn’t. It reckons that it did its bit by putting a notice on the door of the room last May, warning customers that it had a termite infestation and advising them to move their valuables elsewhere. Unfortunately for Prasad, he didn’t go to the bank until the following January – by which time his life savings had literally turned to dust.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the 60-year-old. Apparently he only put the money in there in the first place because he was arguing with his family (his wife subsequently left him) and didn’t trust them not to pinch it. Now he’s lost all his savings, just as he was preparing to retire from his life as a trader of ghee (a type of clarified Indian butter).

We also reckon the bank has a lot to answer for. After all, surely the whole point of having a safe deposit box is that a) it keeps your valuables safe and b) you can deposit them there without having to visit every ten minutes. In fact as safe deposit boxes go, surely these contravene the Trade Descriptions Act? And the bank freely admits that it didn’t bother telling box-holders individually – which sounds like pretty dismal customer service to us for an institution whose reputation depends on looking after people’s money.

Let’s hope the Indian authorities rule in Prasad’s favour – because the bank’s defence has even more holes in it than those share certificates...

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