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A Dilemma

Don - July 15, 2008

I just talked with my youngest son. He just changed jobs and is now a game tester at EA Sports. While walking to the cafeteria he noticed some crumpled up money on the ground. He picked it up and discovered it was a $20 bill and a $1 bill.
Some thoughts went thru his mind. “Great found money!” “Should I turn this in?” “Who would I turn it into?” “If I turn it in, what will they do with it….keep it probably.” “I could turn in the $20, keep the $1 as my reward and spend it in the cheap vending machines.”

I was impressed that he turned it in and why. As he said “I didn’t turn it in expecting a reward, or expecting to get it back later, I turned it in because it wasn’t my money.”

Ok, ok he’s a good kid and all that. The question that comes to my mind is “Would I have done the same thing?” If not, why not? If so, why? If I kept it could I justify doing so? Obviously no one is going to ask about it, or claim it. What’s the “right” thing to do….really!?


  1. I admire the thought, too… but wonder aloud: would you turn in a found penny? A found nickle? A dollar? … Where do we draw the line?

    If I dropped a $20, I’d never notice it was missing.

    If I did notice it missing, I’d never think to go looking for it beyond staring down at my feet and retracing my steps a bit. … Because how would I ever claim that money? “You sir… that’s my $20″ “Uh… prove it.”

    It’s not that I’m dishonest… I just don’t see the value in handing-in items that are either unremarkable or untraceable.

    Comment by Silus Grok — July 15, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

  2. A few years ago one of the Salt Lake TV stations ran a “test” that tried to overcome the problem Silus mentions, but dropping children’s coin purses containing — I think — $5 bills and a crumpled birthday card from “Grandma” that just happened to contain a phone number. They wondered whether the pathos of a child’s lost birthday money would overcome the “it’s too little for anyone to miss or try to reclaim” factor. They dropped them all around town and reported the attempts to return them.

    I’m relieved that the one dropped where temple patrons passed was one of those returned!

    Good on your son, regardless. It’s analogous to the people who republish uncredited bits they lift from email discussions — “I didn’t know who wrote it or whether it was copyrighted” is no excuse when you know YOU didn’t write it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  3. Many years ago Thor and I were on our way to a concert. We had stopped off for dinner at a nearby restaurant. As I was getting into the car after dinner I notice a bill on the ground under the car. I asked Thor to get in and drive off of it. I reached down thinking it was a hoax/religious tract and nope, it was a real $100.00 bill. I told Thor about it, we both got excited and then went into the restaurant to see if anyone had reported missing a sum of money. The manager said “no, how much?” I told him and he replied, “Lady, it’s your lucky day.” I was blown away!

    Comment by s'mee — July 15, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

  4. My daughter found $100 on the street the other day. She came to me with it and wondered what to do. There was no one to turn it in to; no way of discovering who it belonged to. If there had been we would have immediately done so. But we couldn’t so she kept it.

    Comment by Susan M — July 16, 2008 @ 7:52 am

  5. One striking entry in Lorenzo Brown’s journal (at least my dad says it’s there–I have yet to find it):

    “Found a dime today.”

    Many states have lost property laws that establish a procedure for turning in things you find at the police station, where it’s held for a time. If it isn’t claimed for that time, then you can go get it–it’s yours.

    It might be interesting to compare the laws relating to salvage in admiralty law–see the Wikipedia entry on Admiralty Law. Perhaps the salient point is that awards to the “salvor” (if you think lawyers talk funny, you should talk to admiralty lawyers) are decided by an independent arbiter, a court. Even in cases where the salvor puts himself at significant risk (boarding a sinking vessel to save property, for example) the awards are generally about half the value of the salvaged property.

    Comment by Mark B. — July 16, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  6. I once found a $100 bill outside the Borders in downtown Seattle. This was at the height of the dot.com phantasm, and we already had a lot of money. I picked it up and laughed, it literally seemed like money was falling on me out of the sky.

    I kept the $100. I have no excuses.


    Comment by Thomas Parkin — July 16, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  7. I found 5 dollars in middle school. I remember going to the teacher who’s door it was near and saying someone dropped this, can we find who it belongs to? they said, “sure!” and stuck it in their back pocket, where I am sure it stayed. Yes that means you Mr. Kapplemen.

    Comment by TrevorM — July 17, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  8. I found a roll of 10 $20 bills in a supermarket parking lot. Chatted up the manager; nobody had mentioned missing the money. Turned it in at the police department; picked it up 60 days later after nobody had claimed it.

    Comment by Paul Brown — July 17, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

  9. I found a quarter once. I turned it into the police station, but they laughed at me.

    Comment by Kim Siever — July 18, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

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