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Scenario:

You’re walking along the street, and you happen to glance down and see a wallet on the pavement (sidewalk to you Americans). You open the wallet up and find $3k in cash in the wallet. You immediately look for some ID, but there isn’t one in the wallet, however there are bank cards with the owners’ name on them. You look at the money and think about the things you can pay for with it. Your mortgage hasn’t been paid for a couple of months since your husband was laid off, and you’re finding it difficult to even pay for groceries. Your eldest kid starts school soon, and he/she needs new clothes, as the ones he/she has are ill-fitting

What do you do?

Do you keep the money, and pay your bills off/buy stuff for your family, or do you go to the owner’s bank and hand the wallet in?

35 Comments »


  • Dawn
    December 12
    9:09 am

    No question – I’d hand the wallet in. I couldn’t deal with the guilt.

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  • Emmy
    December 12
    10:08 am

    a) In the world of checks and check dards/debit cards, what retard walks around with $3000 in their wallet? Seriously, that’s just begging to get mugged.

    b)Where’s the moral dilemma here? Give the wallet back, then have 20 of your closest friends hold an auction on ebay for you so you can pay your mortgage, your spouse’s medical bills, get a new sewer line, etc. That seems to be the popular method of paying delinquent bills lately.

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  • Since I can’t even bear to shortchange the grocery cashier of 50 cents, I can’t imagine the guilt of keeping $3K, so I’m handing it in. BUT I’d hand it in to the police. I think we have a rule here that if a lost item remains unclaimed after a period of time, the finder is entitled to keep it.

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  • That money is someone’s. It’s their housepayment, their groceries, their bills.

    I’d have a few bad minutes yes, but I would turn it in.

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  • I return the money. It doesn’t matter what my needs are, there is no way of knowing what the other person’s needs are. What if some of that money is for their sick daughter’s routine prescriptions, prescriptions insurance doesn’t cover?

    Regardless of need, the fact that isn’t mine makes all the difference. So I’d find the owner.

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  • I absolutely give the money back. I doubt I’d even think about my own bills that need to be paid.

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  • Yep. Give it back. I’d probably take it to the nearest police department instead of a bank.

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  • MB (Leah)
    December 12
    2:18 pm

    This is a no-brainer for me. Not even the slightest question would come up in me, return it. Go to great lengths, whatever I have to do, but return it. It’s simple.

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  • TracyS
    December 12
    2:33 pm

    I’d return it. I couldn’t handle the guilt. And like Shiloh said, we don’t know what all that money was for. Maybe it’s THEIR last $3k.

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  • Yup, same as above. I find acts of selfishness like that come back on you ten fold. It’s not worth it.

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  • M E 2
    December 12
    3:27 pm

    I too wonder, what/where is the moral dilemma here?

    The money is NOT “yours”. Period.

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  • Would I have a moment? Sure. I’m sure most of us would have a moment of ‘man, what I could do with three grand’. But then like everyone else has said, I’d be dropping it off at the nearest cop shop.

    Finding a dollar on the ground is one thing, three thousand is quite another.

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  • Randi
    December 12
    4:08 pm

    No hesitation, I’d return the money. I can’t even imagine the mountain of guilt I would carry around if I kept the wallet..ugh.

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  • I’d return the money. Sure I may think about it for a moment but I know how I would feel if I lost a any amount of money. This kind of reminds me of the lady who found 97K in cash at the Cracker Barrel recently and she returned it. She even refused the 1000 dollar reward. Now while I would have returned the 97K, I don’t think I would have returned the reward. LOL

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  • Honesty is not always the best policy. This situation doesn’t illustrate that concept well, however. I’d turn the money in.

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  • I confess I would have one or two bad moments, though I would return it.

    However, being the suspicious soul that I am, I would make sure there were records of the return. I would suck really bad if I did the honest thing only to have the money disappear before reaching its rightful owner, no?

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  • MD
    December 12
    5:32 pm

    If those are the worst of my worries, then I’d turn the money in. We could lose the house and move to an apartment, live on beans, and my kid will be stronger as an adult for having to bear up wearing ill-fitting clothes for a while.

    If you want to make it a real moral dilemma for me…

    Tell me that three thousand dollars is the only way to keep my desperately-ill child alive.

    Then, to be painfully honest (as far as my confession goes, anyway), I would keep the money in an instant.

    So I guess I do have a line where I could live with myself after having committed an act I still logically see as being morally wrong.

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  • Hand it in to the police. I actually had a situation like this and that is what I did.

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  • I’m one of those people who sees meat at the store accidentally priced at $0.69/kg instead of $6.95/kg, grabs the nearest employee and lets them know it’s been mislabeled. I’m one of those people who, if the waitress forgot to add my dessert onto the check, I tell her she forgot to charge me. I’m one of those people who when I find $300 that someone forgot in the slot of the ATM, I take it to the teller for when the panicked person comes back for it.

    Yeah, I’m almost obnoxiously honest. The wallet would be going to the bank, with the money still inside it.

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  • Karen Scott
    December 12
    6:06 pm

    It’s interesting that everybody is so adamant that they would hand the money in, but I would like to challenge whether that’s what we would really do.

    When we were in the States in September, we were in the car (in Clearwater no less) waiting for the lights to turn, when this guy on a bike, next to our car, got off, bent down and plucked a wallet from the road. He looked in the wallet, flashed a wad of cash at us, grinned, and said, “Looks like this is my lucky day”, and rode off.

    The guy didn’t particularly look like a bad person, but that money wasn’t going anywhere but his pocket.

    I think we would all like to think that we would take the money back, but I’m not so sure we all actually would.

    It reminds me of one of those Candid Camera-type shows, where to test how honest people, the show’s producers dropped a wallet on the floor to see how many people would attempt to hand it in, I can tell you, it wasn’t a very high percentage, and these were just presumably, honest, everyday people, who probably weren’t facing financial ruin, at that point.

    I personally think that some of us, given the above scenario, would give in to temptation. ( Yes, even those of us who have said otherwise.)

    I can’t remember who mentioned the Milgram experiments a few posts ago, but ever since learning about those in psych class at Uni, I’m convinced, that there are certain things that we would swear off ever doing, but when push came to shove, we’d find that doing the right thing, may not come so easy.

    The responses to next week’s Dilemma Question should be interesting, given the stats that I learned this week, with regards to the subject matter.

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  • Karma is a bitch, Karen. One I’d rather never deal with, so yeah, I turn the money in.

    As for the eBay auctions, these are extreme circumstances and Emmy, I find your comment really cruel. I’ve participated in several and never were the situations worthy of such scorn, IMO.

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  • Marianne McA
    December 12
    7:33 pm

    I did find someone’s card in the hole-in-the-wall machine – I can’t imagine how absent minded they must be, because they’d entered their number before they’d wandered off, so it was on the screen that lets you withdraw money.

    And, yes, I was morally upstanding, and just left the card back in the shop.

    OTOH, while I have to be careful, I’m not as hard-up as the person in your dilemma. If I was about to lose my house, I might start thinking that anyone who carries that much cash around could probably afford to lose it – the temptation would be to return the cards but keep the cash. Honestly, I’m not sure how tempted I would be.

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  • Diane V
    December 12
    7:44 pm

    I’d definitely turn in the money, but that’s because the good old Catholic guilt would definitely kick in if I even thought about keeping the money.

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  • Sam
    December 12
    8:18 pm

    I have to say ‘turn it back in’.

    To make it more of a dilemma to me, the name would have to be one you recognize and a person you *absolutely know* did not get the money honestly.

    Then, do you screw the screwer???

    Sam

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  • Dude, all three examples I gave are things I have actually done–while raising three kids on less than $25 000 Canadian/year. Living below the poverty line, yeah, it was tempting to go ahead and buy that 20 lbs of mislabeled boneless skinless chicken breast for 6 bucks–and according to store policy, they would have given it to me for the tagged price, too. And hey, it’s a big chain grocery store, right? They aren’t going to go hungry over $60.

    But the employee who mislabeled the chicken? They might not get fired, but I’m sure they’d be in trouble.

    The $300 in the ATM, sure, it might have belonged to the bitch in the fancy house down the street whose dog shits in my yard, but I just kept picturing some little old lady all panicky and upset over the loss.

    And with the dessert, if I can afford to order it, I can afford to pay for it. Hate for a waitress to get in trouble over a $4 piece of cake.

    I know there are people who don’t do this. I know, because the guy at the meat department was shocked that I told him about the mislabeling and didn’t just cash in, and the teller was equally shocked that I didn’t just take the three hundred bucks. And I know it doesn’t necessarily make them bad people. But I just couldn’t do it.

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  • Karen, I can honestly say I’d find the owner. I don’t do so well with guilt, so I couldn’t possibly spend the money.

    Shoot, I was in a local produce shop the other day and the lady forgot to charge me for some salad dressing. Two bottles, a whopping six bucks. But I already knew what the total should be and when she mentioned what it was, I told her that didn’t sound right and she must have forgotten something. If I can’t think of getting six bucks worth of oil, vinegar and seasonings without paying for it, I can’t imagine taking 3k that isn’t mine.

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  • I’d hand it in to the manager at a branch of that bank, or even better, the police (station). It’s a no brainer. Like others have pointed out, I’d immediately put myself in the shoes of the peep who lost the wallet, the sheer panick and desolation they’d be feeling. Nevermind, I don’t do well with guilt. I’d rather sleep at night and be able to look at myself in the mirror.

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  • I honestly don’t know what I would do. Most of me wants to say yes, I’d turn it in, but there’s part of me going “Oh really? You would not, shut up!” and I don’t know which part would take charge should the situation ever arise.

    I think, being that there’s identification in it, yes I would return it. I don’t think I’d be able to justify not, because clearly the owner could be found easily.

    Those people who find unmarked envelopes with thousands in them and turn them in to the police? No, no I don’t think I would at all. If there’s id, it becomes another person’s money and yeah i start thinking of their situation and what losing it would mean to them. But those unmarked envelopes of cash people find laying about? Nope, that would be my money the second I found it. I don’t think upstanding people with sick kids are walking around with envelopes of cash on them, so I don’t think I’d feel obligated to turn unmarked money in.

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  • Diane/Anonym2857
    December 13
    12:46 am

    I’d give it back, no question. It’s not only the right thing to do, but God would get me if I didn’t! No amount of money would be worth the cost of the dishonesty, IMO.

    Just two weekends ago I found a neighbor’s paycheck in the driveway of our townhome complex. He’d already endorsed it, so I could have easily deposited it in my bank account without anyone knowing, and Lord knows I need the money. There was that split second flash of greed, but it was easily and quickly outweighed by doing the right thing. He’d never know, but I would. Actually even with the check in my hand, it wasn’t like I really gave keeping it a thought… more of a ‘Gee, if I weren’t so compulsively honest, think what this could do’ sort of idea.

    By whatever name you call it — justice, karma, divine retribution, etc — the results are the same. I like to think that I’ll be rewarded for my good deeds just as I’d be disciplined for the dishonest ones, so on balance it will come out in my favor. Sure, I lost out on some easy cash, but eventually I’ll be rewarded in some other way.

    Diane :o)

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  • LauraD
    December 13
    1:21 am

    Having been on the other end-losing a pocketbook with a freshly cashed paycheck in it-turn it in, no doubt. (Back before check cards, 1987.)

    I will never forget how awful I felt, and how hard it was to make up that two weeks’ pay.

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  • I’d file a police report and contact the bank.

    Karma’s a bitch.

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  • I actually had this happen a while back. Okay, there wasn’t 3K in the wallet, but he had more in his wallet than I did in my purse.

    It did have his ID, but no contact. I had to Info call his wife. Not the most comfortable phone call to make until I go to the part … “and I found his wallet”. Strange woman calling was forgiven at that point. šŸ˜‰

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  • I totally forgot about this until somebody mentioned cash in unmarked envelopes.

    Back when I was in high school, I did cashiering. One of the girls I worked with found a white envelope in her aisle. No name, no ID, nothing. Had about $300 in it.

    She turned it in. Later, she told me about it and I was thinking…man, I dunno, I might have kept it. But as we were talking, this old man walked in. In his 80s, fixed income. We knew the guy. He was a sweet as he could be, widowed, always smiling.

    Well, he’d lost the money he received for the month. It was all he had. He didn’t trust banks…I think it had something to do with the depression and he only used cash.

    After he cashed his monthly check, he’d come into the store to do his shopping. Dropped the envelope.

    It was all he had for the month, it was early in the month, and it was winter. God only knows how far he had to make that money stretch.

    He came in, goes up to the manager and asks, hopefully but not quite expecting anything. You could hear it in his voice, on his face as he told the manager how much money was in the envelope, even the denominations of the bills.

    When the manager gave him the envelope and pointed out my honest friend, the look on his face–eh, well I can tell you that there’s been some things I’ve done that made me feel pretty small. But very few things ever made me feel that small, that petty and greedy.

    My friend’s honesty that day did something for that man that still stays with me to this day. It’s been sixteen years and I can still recall it all so vividly. She did the right thing. I don’t know if we could say she did him a favor since the right thing shouldn’t ever be a favor.

    But she sure as hell did me one. It made enough of an impact on me that I still remember it. Maybe it’s one of the subconscious things that still influence my decisions, even over something as silly as $6 worth of salad dressing.

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  • I agree with whoever said that people rarely walk around with that kind of cash. There’s also another logical consideration – apart from the moral dilemma, which I’ll get to in a minute – that no one has mentioned: the more cash is involved, the more likely the missing wallet will be reported as a theft. Theft is treated as a more serious situation by the police than missing property, which is not always assumed stolen.

    I’ve found bills on sidewalks a couple of times before. At school, I handed them in; at the rest stop, I kept one I found because there was no way to tell who had dropped it. I’ve also given back change when people give me too much money, like on the subway, whenthe operator thought I was nuts for giving them back a dollar. What they aren’t thinking about is that if they make that many mistakes all day, their drawers will come up short.

    I know what it feels like to have a manager give you a penalty because not everyone can make change properly. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    But a wallet? Dude, I would turn that in unless someone was holding my child for ransom. If you are meant to have the money, no one will claim it, and the police will give it to you after 30 days.

    Besides, rich people usually use plastic (I’m not advocating anyone steal from the rich, but if people are using that as an excuse…). It’s people like Shiloh’s poor man and blue-collar workers with small paychecks who carry around envelopes of cash.

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  • MB (Leah)
    December 13
    4:29 pm

    There is also other issues sometimes with finding a wallet or any kind of purse and that is that many times people keep mementos and other important things in their wallets and purses like pictures and things like that.

    I once lost a purse that had my address book in it. That was a bigger loss to me than the money I had in there. I would have given anything to whoever found it, including all the money, to have that back because it had phone numbers and addresses of family and friends in there that I didn’t know by memory. I caused me more grief in the long run having lost that.

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