On Thursday, June 5, 2014, a customer of a local bank walked into the offices of the Daily Observer and in his hand was a wad of mutilated Liberian dollar banknotes. The banknotes were all in L$50 denomination valued at about L$600.00. Some of the notes were torn and taped; some had mixed serial numbers, while others just looked very bad.
This bank customer, name withheld, explained that the mutilated bills were among thousands of Liberian dollars he withdrew from the local bank, name withheld. He alleged that the mutilated banknote was among the money the teller paid him. “I didn’t check the money at the counter because it was a huge amount. But when I got somewhere safer to check it, I observed that a huge amount of the money, mainly the L$50 bills, were mutilated,” he explained.
The business desk of the Daily Observer is withholding the names of the local bank and the customer involved because he [customer] admitted that he didn’t check the money at the bank [counter] in line with banking policy.
It is a major policy of banks requiring all customers to check their monies on the counter immediately after they are paid by the teller.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has a window at its Warren Street Banking Hall that accepts mutilated banknotes. This customer was immediately requested by our business desk to proceed to the CBL to change his mutilated money. Meanwhile, bank customers including the general public, have also complained about mutilated L$5 banknotes in circulation.
Most bank customers complain about the mutilated L$5 at banking halls, with some going to the extent of refusing it because of the L$5 banknote are mutilated. Most businesses, to include market women and other traders, will not accept mutilated money from customers. As such, it is unclear why bank would circulate them.
Nonetheless, mutilated bank notes are also a business opportunity for many yanna boys. Passing through Monrovia and its environs with a loudspeaker in hand, yanna boys announce that they will exchange 'tear-tear' money (mutilated banknotes) for good ones — for fifty percent of the value, that is. For example, a yanna boy will exchange a mutilated L$50 for L$25. Would the buyer rather lose the whole L$50 or at least get L$25 out of it? Yanna boys of course know about the Central Bank window, which most customers may not, or may not have the time to visit. A matter of opportunity cost.
Such is the nature of business — one man's problem is another man's business idea. As such, while Liberians may be angry about getting tear-tear bank notes from their banks, business is probably booming for yanna boys.