Walking along an empty street, you notice a wallet. It contains $5,000 in cash but no name or address. What would you do? Would it alter your decision if inside you found the name, address, and picture of either a wealthy-looking young man or a frail-looking old woman?
Look, if I turn the wallet into the police, it’s not like they’re going to track down the owner without a name or address in it, right? I mean, I guess the person who lost the wallet could show up looking for the wallet that they carelessly misplaced. But, not to be judgmental or anything, if someone is carrying around that much cash and they’re that careless with it, then they’re obviously very stupid and maybe this is a life lesson that they need to learn.
And of course my decision would be different if the name and/or address were found in the wallet. The picture wouldn’t matter. Because who keeps a picture of themselves in their wallet, unless it’s part of a family photo? The wealthy-looking young man or the frail-looking old woman would, most likely, be a loved one of the idiot who just lost $5,000. In that case, I wouldn’t keep it. I’d return it and the money to the person identified in the wallet.
Even though I said I’d spend the money if there were no ID, I’m actually not sure that I would, now that I think about it a little more. Because of It’s a Wonderful Life. Toward the end of the movie, Mr. Potter finds $8,000 that Uncle Billy misplaced and keeps it. The difference being that Potter knew for a fact that this money belonged to the Building & Loan. He stole that money and, as far as the movie-going public are aware, received no consequences for this crime. That’s always bothered me. Maybe I could rationalize that it’s different finding this $5,000… not knowing to whom it really belongs.
What would you do? Keep the money? Turn the money into the police and keep the wallet? What if the shoe was on the other foot and it was your wallet that was lost?
*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.