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Woman Accidentally Returns Costco Fridge with Her Life Savings in Freezer

Perhaps storing $35,000 behind the ice cube trays isn't the safest bet.
Photo: Getty Images/Jeffrey Coolidge

If you want to start an argument among security professionals or amateurs who think they can outsmart the average criminal, then ask them whether you should hide cash or valuables in your freezer. For every person who recommends stashing your emergency cash under the beef stew you froze last fall, there is someone else who says that determined burglars will definitely look behind the leftovers. And although older ceramic and metal freezers might’ve been fire-resistant, many newer versions have too many plastic parts to withstand high temperatures.


Regardless, a lot of people still use the freezer as their go-to hiding spot. Renee Reese is one of those people. Or at least she was, until she replaced her old freezer—and forgot about the $35,000 in cash she’d stored inside it.

Reese told Denver7 that she’d used her freezer as a sub-zero safe because she believed that the appliance would survive a house fire, and because her multiple sclerosis makes it difficult for her to make frequent trips to the bank. “It was a safe place to put it in case there was a fire," she told the station. "Because I had no need to get in [the money] for any reason other than to deposit it.”

She recently swapped her old fridge-and-freezer combo for a newer model with wide French doors that better accommodated her disability. She purchased one from Costco, but after it was placed in her kitchen, she realized that the doors were slightly defective. She contacted Costco and the company agreed to collect the freezer from her home and exchange it for a new one.

According to Reese, the subcontractor Costco used for its freezer deliveries didn’t give her much time to prepare for their arrival. She hurriedly emptied the freezer’s shelves, but forgot about all that cash she’d wrapped in paper towels and put in a Ziploc bag. “I thought my daughter had grabbed it, she thought I had grabbed it, then when I went to look for it to put it back, it wasn't there," she said.

She quickly filed a police report with the local cops and opened a claim with Costco; the retailer said that it had located her old freezer but—SPOILER ALERT—there was no money inside it. Denver7 got in touch with the company that actually took the freezer from Reese’s home, but it couldn’t account for her money, either.

Reese blames Costco for failing to perform the necessary background checks on its employees and subcontractors. “Who's checking these people? What if they're rapists or pedophiles?” she asked. “I mean, nobody knows anything and you can't talk to them, at least through the experience I've had.” She says that, due to her illness, she has no way to earn the money back.

So where should you store large amounts of cash? Some experts suggest a water- and fire-proof safe, preferably one that can be bolted to the floor. Others recommend constructing a fake air vent or power outlet or putting it in a glass jar and burying it in the yard. Or there’s always, say, a safety deposit box.

Banks are OK for that kind of thing, too.