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What would you do if you found lost cash?

Blogger recounts finding wallet with $1,100.

By Karen Datko Oct 26, 2009 1:26AM
This post comes from partner blog Five Cent Nickel.

I recently asked readers how they would handle finding a large sum of money in a wallet with no ID. My wife and I ran into this situation just over 10 years ago.


We were living on a shoestring and about to have a baby. In fact, my wife's due date had passed, and we were out walking to get things moving. We ran across a wallet containing 11 $100 bills and nothing else. No identification, no credit cards, nothing.


I must admit it was tempting, given our situation, to pocket the money, but $1,100 is a lot of money, and walking off with it would have been not only wrong, but also possibly devastating to the person who lost it.

My wife's first reaction was: "The mall security office is just inside the door. We have to turn it in."


I was less sure. After all, there's no guarantee that mall security (or the police, for that matter) would do the right thing and hold it for the owner. I wanted to tell them that we had found a wallet with a large sum of money in it, give them our contact info, and then hold on to it in hopes that someone would come along and claim it with a detailed description.


Right thing, wrong way?

In the end, my wife won out, in large part because we were so close to the security office that we didn't have time to think things through. A security guard wrote up a report, put the wallet in an envelope, and stashed it in a safe. The guard also promised that we could have the money if it went unclaimed for 30 days.


As we walked away, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. We had just handed $1,100 to strangers in hopes that they'd do the right thing.


Just after we left, a panic-stricken man rushed into the security office, and we lingered at a distance. A few minutes later, the totally relieved man emerged. Apparently he had lost the wallet on his way into the mall just a few minutes ahead of us.

We did the right thing, but probably not in the smartest way possible. Nonetheless, it worked out for the best.


No regrets

Would I do it again? Yes, and I'm not alone. As of this writing, the majority of readers who responded agreed that trying to return the money is the right thing to do. That being said, I'd be smarter about it. At the very least, I’d turn it over to the police instead of hoping that mall security would do the right thing. Note that in many locales the law requires it. 


The only annoying thing about all of this was that we never got so much as a thank-you from the owner. To be fair, it’s possible the security guard didn't tell him who turned it in. Nonetheless, it would've been nice to receive a few words of appreciation for not walking off with more than a grand in cash.


Other articles of interest at Five Cent Nickel:  

Published Oct. 24, 2007
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