A Canadian couple is locked in a battle with UPS after the courier company lost a package containing a $CA846,00 (NZ$$946,300) bank draft — and offered them a $CA32 (NZ$36) refund for the "inconvenience".
Lorette Taylor told CBC News she and her husband John were at their wits' end trying to recover the money, intended for her brother, after more than 10 months.
The bank which issued the draft, TD Canada Trust, has refused to issue a new one. That's because a bank draft, unlike a cheque, is treated as cash — the money is withdrawn from the account when the draft is issued.
"It was a total surprise," Ms Taylor said. "Never in my wildest imagination did I think something like this would happen."
The saga started in February, when the Ontario woman was finalising her father's will and was tasked with disbursing the inheritances to her siblings, including her brother Louis Paul Hebert, who lives about 440km away.
She and her husband went to the local bank branch to get certified cheques, but were told bank drafts were more appropriate for the amount of money involved.
The couple said they asked bank staff about what kind of provisions were in place if the draft was lost or stolen. "I was told there were procedures to deal with that," Mr Taylor said. "[We were told we would just] fill out some documentation and a new draft would be issued."
Mr Hebert hired UPS to have the bank draft shipped from the couple's lawyer's office to a local UPS store. It made its way to a distribution centre north of Toronto before vanishing.
"I'm waiting at the UPS store, around 3pm because that's when they said the guys came in, nothing shows up," he told CBC News. "I came back in the evening. Nothing shows up ... and I'm wondering 'What's happened to my inheritance?'
"I should have just driven [to the lawyer's office]. It's something I kick myself in the rear over every day."
A UPS spokeswoman told the broadcaster, "While UPS' service is excellent in our industry, we are unfortunately not perfect. Occasionally, the loss of a package does occur.
"Our records indicate that our team followed UPS protocol and an exhaustive search for this package was completed by our Operations and Security teams. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate the package."
The couple said TD Canada Trust initially said there was a process for cancelling the draft, but then demanded they sign an onerous indemnity agreement putting their house on the line if the missing draft was cashed illegally.
"It also said that if something happened to me, for example, my children and my heirs and my spouse and my executor would have to pay this debt," Ms Taylor said. "Well, I didn't really want to sign this."
Even though they felt UPS should be the one to sign any indemnity agreement, feeling she had no other choice, she signed anyway — but the bank still "never paid anyone a dime".
A TD Canada Trust spokeswoman told CBC, "Bank drafts do not expire, and once the draft is issued, the funds are guaranteed for payment. They should be treated as though they are cash.
"In situations where a bank draft is lost or stolen, before we can agree to a replacement or reimbursement we need appropriate security to be in place.
"Examples of security requirements could include an Indemnity Agreement signed by the parties involved and a surety bond or GIC held for a period of three years."
In Australia, the maximum amount customers can claim back from Australia Post for a lost or damaged standard delivery is $50 — a figure which hasn't changed since 1987, despite a recommendation by the Postal Industry Ombudsman to review the figure.