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November 19, 2007

What would you do?

Wallet-002.gif Do you ever wonder what you would do if given the choice between keeping something you found, something that was worth a fair amount of money, or trying to find the rightful owner? It happened to me recently ...

A couple of weeks ago I went to a conference in Monterey, California. Nice place. Lots of interesting things to see and do, and the wildlife in the bay is spectacular. I was impressed. On my way to Monterey I had a layover at the San Francisco airport. While sitting at my gate and listening to my iPod I noticed a wallet sitting on the floor under the chair next to me. Curious, I picked it up and found it contained $350 cash. Looking at the ID I found out that the owner was a British national currently living in Hong Kong.

So, what would you do if this happened to you? There it was, $350 cash with no questions asked and no strings attached (other than the overwhelming guilt). I had a number of choices: 1) I could keep the cash and toss the wallet, 2) I could keep the cash and turn in the wallet, or 3) I could turn in the whole wallet with the cash and be on my merry way.

I turned in the whole wallet. I can honestly say I didn't consider the first two options for more than a few seconds. I quickly came to the conclusion that if I ever lost a wallet with $350 cash I would really, really, really hope someone would be honest enough to turn it in.

I went to the gate and told the people manning the counter that I found someone's wallet, that it contained $350 and some ID, and I sincerely hope they can track the gentleman down who lost it. They were quite amazed and surprised. They couldn't believe I would turn in so much money that I could have easily stolen. Quite frankly, I was surprised by their reaction. Isn't this what most people would do?

Recently a group of people performed an experiment where they intentionally "lost" a wallet with $2.10, a fake $50 gift certificate, and some ID clearly identifying the rightful owner. They posted their findings on the web. Out of 100 people they tested, 74% were honest and returned the wallet and 26% were dishonest. The statistics change somewhat when age, race, and gender are taken into account, but overall it would appear that most people are honest.

Of course, none of the people above had to deal with the fact that they were holding $350. I would like to think this would make people more honest given the bigger amount at stake, but who knows?

After I turned in the wallet I sat back down and started to read a book I had brought along. A short while later the gate counter agent approached me and asked to see my ticket. I gave it to her and she took it back to the counter. I thought this was kind of odd. I thought, maybe they lost my luggage? Eventually she came back and gave me back my ticket plus a $100 ticket voucher good for one year on any United Airlines flight. Not too shabby!

So, that is my story. It would appear that it pays to be honest. And if the above experiment is a good indicator, it would appear that most people are still honest. I am proud to say I can include myself in that bunch. Would you have done the same thing? Probably, but you never know until you get in that situation yourself.

Keep it real, my homies! Talk to you soon!

Posted by snackeru at November 19, 2007 8:21 PM


When I was a Sophmore at the U I found a wallet with $60 in it. Sadly I kept the $60 and put the wallet in a mailbox. At the time $60 was probably worth $350 to me now.

However about a month ago a $20 bill fell out of the back pocket of a woman walking in front of me. She didn't notice and no one was around. I could have easily pocketed it. I got her attention and gave the $20 back to her.

So I guess I'm still $40 in the hole.

Posted by: Freealonzo at November 20, 2007 9:27 AM

Good man Shane!

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at November 20, 2007 10:45 AM

Much like Earl in that TV show, I believe in Karma. If you are gonna keep that money now, just be prepared for a storm of crap later.

That's what I think.

Jeff T.

Posted by: Jeff T. at November 20, 2007 7:54 PM

Way to go Shane. The "reward" of turning in that wallet is worth more than the $350 could ever buy. I'm just glad you got some recognition for being an honest and decent person.

Posted by: The Tube at November 22, 2007 8:25 PM

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