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If you found someone's wallet, would you return it?
May 10, 2009 9:34 AM   Subscribe

The Toronto Star tested people's honesty by leaving 20 wallets in various places around the city. How many of them were returned?

Answer: 16 were returned. But before you start feeling too warm and fuzzy, sociologist Robert Brym warns about drawing sweeping conclusions.... "Twenty cases is an awfully small sample," Brym says.

Follow-up: a similar story from the Depression.

A similar kindness-of-strangers phenomenon: returning digital cameras. Previously.
posted by russilwvong (114 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just last night a friend of mine left his iPhone in a taxi. Thinking he'd lost it in his room somewhere, he asked me to call it. When I did, the taxi driver answered and asked us where he needed to go in order to give it back. I was surprised to say the least.
posted by Biru at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2009


I hate these stories - they're all kind of passive-aggressive, and it turns something that should be pretty automatic into a contest. I've found precisely zero abandoned wallets. If I should happen to, I'd suspect it was planted, and if whoever owns it wants it back, they're going to have to go to great lengths to convince me they're not "working on a story."
posted by logicpunk at 9:43 AM on May 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I found a wallet once and returned it to its owner. The woman didn't even thank me - for real.
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


A similar experiment done by Reader's Digest, except around the country with ten wallets in several cities. Toronto was the least honest location. The most honest was Moncton NB.
posted by stray at 9:48 AM on May 10, 2009


I once left my wallet on an airport express in Toronto. Several frantic phone calls later, the driver had given it to another driver who turned it over to yet another driver who brought it to the airport in time for me to make my flight.
posted by stray at 9:49 AM on May 10, 2009


Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody" has a real good chapter on a similar issue, only it's about hunting down who found, in this case, your cell phone. Either way, most people are jerks.
posted by jon_hansen at 9:50 AM on May 10, 2009


I've found 3 wallets in my life. I've returned them all. However, two were already emptied of cash (and the people picking them up said they were in a stolen purse).

That said, I did enjoy going through the wallets and seeing what people find important enough to carry around with them, besides the obvious. Working retail, I've also had umpteen different people leave their wallets behind.

Last year a guy left a wallet at our store with credit cards, debit card, DL, and other stuff in it. I called his credit card companies and told them all where we were and instructed them to call him and tell him to come pick it up. He never did. I found that pretty fucking weird.

The saddest story I have about a found wallet was again while I was working retail. We had a call from the cops as one of our customers was hit by a car. The only thing in his wallet was a membership to our store--they had no other way of identifying him. :(
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:56 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I did, the taxi driver answered and asked us where he needed to go in order to give [the iPhone] back.

That could have been a lot more expensive if you'd had Tracy Jordan in your address book.
posted by rokusan at 9:59 AM on May 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


The most honest was Moncton NB.

But the returned wallets had been emptied of all Canadian Tire money.
posted by rokusan at 10:00 AM on May 10, 2009 [21 favorites]


Nice to see that Brym got dusted off for this gem of insight, especially when he has no specific familiarity with this methodology or what a proper "sample" would look like for this sort of inquiry. They should've contacted somebody with a research focus on altruism.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:09 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


My wife lost her wallet in Sea-Tac a couple years ago after checking in to our flight. She set it down on the side of a big planter while she rearranged her carry-on, then we went to get in line for security. She realized almost immediately that she didn't have it, and within two minutes we were back by the ticket counter, where the wallet was gone. Turns out that, in that short time, someone had found it and turned it in to airport security, and it wound up taking us about half an hour to figure out what had happened to it and get it back. By the end of the saga, my wife was being paged to call 911 over the airport PA, but it was more like a dull "Rffhwy Myrfhr kjl 911" in the background. Eventually they called the ticket counter, where we'd first gone for help, and lady there then told us to call 911; finally an airport cop arrived with the wallet. Everything was still in place. So I guess the moral of the story is, thank you for being a good citizen, but if you find a lost wallet, give it a minute.
posted by aaronetc at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2009


I did find a womans bag left in a shopping cart a few years ago. I had a quick look through to see if there was any obvious contact information in it, but couldn't see any - but the purse did have quite a bit of money in it. I handed it over to the manager of the store in the hope that it would be reunited with its owner. I got a call the next day from the store (they'd taken my number) - the lady had collected it OK, and she'd asked them to convey her great thanks, as she'd just collected her pension, and was utterly distraught that she might have lost it. It didn't even occur to me to keep it. I also had my neighbour's wallet posted through my letterbox a couple of months ago - some kind soul must have found it in the street and thought it was mine. I returned it to its rightful owner.

A friend of mine when I was a teenager did find a £50 note in the street, and handed it in to the local police lost and found. I believe he got it back 6 months later, when it went unclaimed.

On the other hand, my digital camera did drop out of my pocket when I was getting in my car a few years ago. I asked around my neighbours if any of them had found it, and the elderly lady overlooking the lot did say they'd seen me drop something, but a man who parked up a few minutes later had picked it up (we lived near a market, so people often used the residential parking instead of paying for the official parking). I did call police lost and found with the serial number, but it was never handed in.

I've also dropped small stuff a couple of times (or not so small, like my hat) and invariably someone behind me has alerted me that I've dropped something, for which I've always been very grateful!
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:18 AM on May 10, 2009


I found a wallet once and returned it to its owner. The woman didn't even thank me - for real.

I once found a notebook/sketch pad belonging to a big brand-name starchitect. He didn't thank me either, was a real prick about it actually, as though I stole it. I remember my mum's handbag and purse being returned by good samaritans not once but twice (must have been a spate of bag snatching in South Dublin in the eighties) and struggling to pull a reward together from whatever was left in the bag.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2009


A friend of mine when I was a teenager did find a £50 note in the street, and handed it in to the local police lost and found. I believe he got it back 6 months later, when it went unclaimed.

Oh wow, that's great. Would it happen today?
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:20 AM on May 10, 2009


Previously.

And my comment in that thread was about how I did this 3 times, and all three times got it back.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:29 AM on May 10, 2009


I've only found one wallet -- the interesting part was it was full of (almost worthless) Soviet currency. I think it was about 1990. I got it back to the owner, and he was profusely thankful, and offered me a reward, but I just accepted a 5-Ruble bill to add to my personal collection of coins & worthless foreign currency that I keep just because of curiosity.

I've never lost a wallet, thankfully. My money lost/found ratio is still negative, though. Dropped $160.00 cash at the extremely windy Cape Perpetua parking lot one time, and have since found back about $45.00 of it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2009


I found a wallet once and returned it to its owner. The woman didn't even thank me - for real.

I can believe it. I found a woman's driver's license in a snowbank on a busy street a couple of years back, found a phone listing with the correct surname at the address shown, called, left a message, got a call back from the owner's mother to see where the owner could pick it up. When the owner came by my workplace a day or two later, she said "I believe you have something belonging to me," snatched the license and left without a further word. Glad to do it!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2009


*yoink*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2009


I found a wallet once.
Kept it.
posted by brevator at 10:38 AM on May 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


I have two "the kindness of strangers in Toronto" stories:

The night before my wedding, my wife and I were in a cab on our way to the rehearsal dinner. In the trunk of the cab we had ten gift bags for the bridesmaids/grooms, plus a satchel containing our laptop and an external hard drive. We were already running late and got stuck in some Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on Yonge St., so we decided to get out of the cab and take the subway the rest of the way (three stops). We were on the train when we realized that in our haste we'd left the bag with the laptop and the hard drive (which we'd brought with us because we were doing our own music for the wedding, and my best man wanted to test them with the rest of the sound system) in the trunk of the cab. When we got to the surface and called the cab company, we were told that the guy who had driven us had just gone off duty and had gone home. When they finally managed to get in touch with him a couple of hours later he confirmed that the laptop/hard drive were still in the trunk and that he'd be happy to drive them over even though he wasn't on duty. My best man was kind enough to offer to go to our apartment and wait for the cabbie, and when he arrived he didn't want to accept the money I'd given my best man to give to him by way of a token of my appreciation (he did in the end, though).

The other time I was with my future wife and a couple of friends on the streetcar headed east on Queen St.. When we got to The Beaches we hopped out, but the one friend (who was up visiting from NYC) realized that she'd left her purse - which contained her wallet, all of her money and I.D. and even her freakin' passport - on the streetcar. I started running as fast as I could, but after a couple of blocks it was obvious I wasn't going to be able to catch up to the streetcar, so I gave up. A couple of minutes later my wife and friends caught up to me and we were standing around wondering what the hell to do now (this was eight years ago; no-one had a cell phone to call the TTC) when a guy walked up, said "I noticed you running and figured you were probably after this," and handed us the purse. Needless to say, the friend from NYC came away from the experience thinking everyone in Toronto was Jesus.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:39 AM on May 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


I found a wallet last fall on the backseat of a taxi from JFK to Brooklyn. Had about $200 in it. I was overtired and nearly handed it over to the driver sort of instinctively, but I decided to follow through myself to be sure it made its way home. (In my mind, I was remembering an important notebook - I'm a journalist - I left next to a payphone in the Copenhagen central station and found sitting there waiting for me three hours later.)

Found the owner's business card inside, called him, he came and picked it up the next day with a decent bottle of wine as a thank you. Felt better about myself and the world for a little while, which was nice.

Another time, I left my cellphone in the seat pocket of a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Vancouver. Realized my error just after I'd cleared a checkpoint into the transiting passengers area. Talked to the United luggage agent there. He rather offhandedly refused to even call over to the gate to ask someone to retrieve it for me. Said if they found it, I could call the number he scrawled on a luggage tag to get it shipped. That number didn't work. Found one that did. No sign of the cellphone ever again.

The lesson (if I want to be facetious about it): People are a lot kinder than bureaucracies.
posted by gompa at 10:41 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, when I first move to a city, I just drop my wallet a few times and see if people return it. I do this so I can get a real objective measure of how shitty the citizens are.

I know it is alot of work, but it sure as hell beats talking to people, and for that matter, getting to know them.

For example, I've found that in DC, people seem really nice, but bitches, you are 2/5.
posted by zach4000 at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


People are basically good. Until they get user accounts with pseudonyms.
posted by srboisvert at 10:49 AM on May 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Oh wow, that's great. Would it happen today?

Well this was some 20 years ago, and £50 was really worth something back then. I remember we did rib him about it mercilessly for some time. I think he was afraid he'd get in trouble if he didn't hand it over! If I remember when he did get it back, he promptly handed it over to his mum, who asked him all sorts of questions as to where he'd got it...
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:50 AM on May 10, 2009


Just before Christmas several years back, my wife and I found a day planner that had been left in a shopping cart in the parking lot of our local grocery store. We opened the thing up to see if we could find a way to contact the owner. We found her phone number plus just under a thousand bucks, cash.

She was very grateful, needless to say, and ended up giving us twenty dollars for our efforts. We accepted it with thanks (we were having a pretty lean time that year.)
posted by metagnathous at 10:51 AM on May 10, 2009


When I find a lost wallet, I assume it belongs to some jerk who's newly arrived in the city and imagines he's "testing" the place. I call the contact information he's left inside and arrange to meet him in a quiet spot to return it. I then mug him for his real wallet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:54 AM on May 10, 2009 [28 favorites]


I found a bunch of wallets, phones, and cards during my restaurant days; calling the card companies seems like the prudent thing to do, but more often than not it was more efficient to just track down the holders ASAP using a phone book or info in their belongings.

The one time I didn't return the item was when a pompously arrogant and rude middle-aged businessman dropped his phone in the crumbcatcher of the booth he was sitting in. Since he was such a miserable prick and the phone was decent I gave it to the kitchen supervisor for his birthday. The man returned shortly after and immediately justified my pettiness by being a belligerent asshole as soon as he walked back in.

Last winter I found a zippered binder on the bus. Opening it up I found a fancy-schmancy calculator and an engineering student's papers. Having my doubts regarding the trust-worthiness of transit operators (Yes, I know, who am I to judge), I took the stuff home. The dude wasn't in the phone book, and while his name and location showed up on the Google, I couldn't find a number. Finally I tracked him down on Facebook - funnily enough he shared a contact with my girlfriend - and messaged him. The next day he retrieved it and gave me a large box of Ferrero Rocher.

Chocolate-encased hazelnuts and doing the right thing: Two great tastes, indeed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:01 AM on May 10, 2009


Here's another one (although there are so many of these out there I can't vouch for its methodology). It's by country, and I am not surprised that Italy and Mexico are among the worst. But Switzerland?
posted by kozad at 11:06 AM on May 10, 2009


When exiting a crowded subway train in Vienna in 1989, the doors slammed shut on my arm, which was pulling my wheeled suitcase behind me. I let go of the strap and was able to pull arm arm free, but the train took off with my suitcase. (It was my friend's bright idea to take the subway to our hotel upon arriving in the city, rather than a cab, to save money.) My German is limited to "yes, no, please, thank you" and the cardinal numbers up to four. I sort of reported my loss via an elaborate pantomime at our arrival station, and eventually an employee who spoke halting English gave me a map and indicated that at the end of the day I should go to some main terminal's "lost and found." I decided to try my luck and started going backwards to each stop on that subway line and reinacted the entire loss-of-suitcase scene. (My friend kept saying to me "I wish I had a video camera with me.") Luck was with me - during my fourth performance, I could almost see the lightbulb flash over the man's head. "Ja! Ja!"He nodded his head vigorously to indicate he understood, and then said slowly, with emphasis, "Ein stass-ee-own!" He pointed into the distance. "One station?" I replied, and he again nodded enthusiastically. Sure enough, I went to the next station down the line, and saw my suitcase sitting in the office.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:06 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I lost my cell phone in Williamsport PA once and some guys found it and called my house and we met up at some bar to return it. Gave them $50 and a couple rounds of alcohol and wound up being friendly with them (they were friends of another friend of mine, heh).
posted by sperose at 11:12 AM on May 10, 2009


I once found a wallet in the bathroom when I was working in a library. Tracked down contact info from it, called the owner, and she came to get it. She looked inside it and gave me a dirty look - I guess there was money in it when she lost it and someone else found before I did. I always kind of regretted tracking her down because of that look I got.

I've heard that when he was a young man, my grandfather and his friends would occasionally get hold of an old empty purse and throw it out in plain sight on the side of the street. Then they'd sit nearby watching to see how quickly passersby stopped to grab the purse and go through it.
posted by dilettante at 11:18 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I lost a wallet outside a bar somewhere on the west side of Manhattan around 1982. Never got it back.

If one of you fuckers has it, hand it over.
posted by languagehat at 11:24 AM on May 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I live in Cambridge, which amongst other things is relatively well known for having punts on the River Cam, especially so that tourists can start at Magdalene bridge or down by Queens' and go and look at the Backs. A fair amount of people earn their living as punt chauffeurs.

Anyway, one evening a friend and I were walking back from a night out, and saw what appeared to be a guy getting out of a taxi, and dropping some cash before heading into a bar. It was £20. Feeling altruistic, we picked it up, and followed him.

"Mate, mate, you dropped some cash", and we handed it over before heading back outside, wending our not-entirely-sober way home, and feeling pretty damn happy with ourselves.

"Lads!" the cry came from the street. It was the same fellow. "Fancy a drink?"

Of course we did, and our faith in the kindness of men was restored, a good act going rewarded.

We head back to the bar. Guy buys us both a drink, and brings us over to a seated area where we meet his friends.

Turns out they're all punt chauffeurs. The lot of them.

Now, apart from having an incredibly detailed knowledge of the history of Cambridge (well, the parts on the river at least), they also all have a good sense of humour.

Which is how we learnt that a lot of the time, these guys lie through their teeth. Not your little white "I can't remember exactly when this building was built so I'll guess in the area" lies. Whoppers.

It all generally comes down to one-upmanship. Tom will be punting twelve tourists down the Cam, and his punt will be going just behind his friend Bill's, who is also punting tourists down the Cam.

So when Bill starts telling his tourists that King's Chapel was built in 1446, Tom will conspiratorially lean in to his punt, and scoff. "1446? Built in 1712 guys, by Oliver Cromwell, who although regent saw himself as a King, and so wanted to make his mark on King's college." The fact that Cromwell died in the 1600's sadly not being well known in Japan.

St John's College? Founded by John the Baptist.
That tree there, opposite Trinity? The very one Isaac Newton sat under.
etc. etc.

They mix them up - no tale is ever the same (except the standard one about a Trinity cox being sabred by a John's boat in bumps, thus leading the whole clock tower incident. Or the one about the missing quarter of an orb on Clare Bridge).

Those guys make an absolute killing out of tips.

Which is why he bought us drinks all night.
posted by djgh at 11:33 AM on May 10, 2009 [14 favorites]


Friend? Some of your foldin' money has come unstowed.
posted by brevator at 11:52 AM on May 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


I once got wasted in Vientiane, Laos and left my passport, money, credit cards and camera outside over night on a public patio. When I got up the next morning I was terrified. The front desk man had seen and heard nothing and I was ready to go to an internet cafe and cancel my credit cards when I asked the front desk man if the night security guard had seen something. So, the front desk man calls and yes the night security had found all my stuff and put it in a bag under the desk. I about wet myself in relief. I gave the night security guard a reward but really I wanted to hug and kiss him.
posted by PHINC at 12:04 PM on May 10, 2009


So I guess the moral of the story is, thank you for being a good citizen, but if you find a lost wallet, give it a minute.

There's really no "but" after "thank you" in this instance.
posted by palliser at 12:11 PM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Another time, I left my cellphone in the seat pocket of a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Vancouver. Realized my error just after I'd cleared a checkpoint into the transiting passengers area. Talked to the United luggage agent there. He rather offhandedly refused to even call over to the gate to ask someone to retrieve it for me. Said if they found it, I could call the number he scrawled on a luggage tag to get it shipped. That number didn't work. Found one that did. No sign of the cellphone ever again.

I've lost many things on United including 2 Ipods. their customer service in the area of lost and found is some of the worst on earth. It's common knowledge that the cleaners see lost items as one one the few percs of their low wage jobs. A flight attendant did once send a lost library book back to my library with a note saying they were a book lover and wanted it to get back to it's rightful place.
posted by Xurando at 12:16 PM on May 10, 2009


Here in Seattle, a woman dropped her purse about 50 feet away from a bus stop late at night. I picked it up, biked over to her and asked her four times if she had lost her purse, before she lifted up her head to bother to respond. No simple "thank you", either. I'd still do it again, but, as a request out to the cosmos, if any of you ever lose your wallet, please be kind enough to acknowledge the existence of those who help you recover your valuables.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 PM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


My wife left her iPod in the seatback pocket on our flight back from our honeymoon. Of course, she never got it back. The sad thing was it had all of her contact information clearly printed and labeled on it. LAX cleaning crew or British Airways flight crew?
posted by infinitewindow at 12:24 PM on May 10, 2009


I've left my phone in countless taxis, called it, and got it back each time.

I've lost my wallet many times and nearly always got it back.

People are basically decent.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:34 PM on May 10, 2009


I dropped my wallet at a gas station in East Palo Alto (which, for non-Bay Area people, is not generally considered a nice place to be dropping wallets). About an hour later, while I was on the phone cancelling all my shit, there was a knock at the door. It was a guy with my fully-intact wallet. He'd called in late to work to bring it to me, because he figured I was probably pretty upset about losing it.
posted by padraigin at 12:55 PM on May 10, 2009


Left a journal in the pocket of a VIA rail train from Kingston to Toronto last year. Only the second journal I have ever lost, the first was stolen from a backstage greenroom while I was playing in 1990.

Two months later I get an envelope (I live in British Columbia, 3000 miles away from that train) that contains the missing moleskine, with an anonymous note saying "Thought you'd miss this."

I hope the Samaritan is a mefite. Thank you.
posted by salishsea at 1:03 PM on May 10, 2009


I lost a wallet outside a bar somewhere on the west side of Manhattan around 1982. Never got it back.
If one of you fuckers has it, hand it over.


Only if you convince me you're not "working on a story."

I've left my phone in countless taxis, called it, and got it back each time.
I've lost my wallet many times and nearly always got it back.
People are basically decent.


But your pockets are basically suck.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:04 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was going to mock all those idiots who leave expensive phones/wallets/iThings on planes/trains/automobiles, and then I remembered I once left my mobile in a cheap hotel in Italy. I was pleasantly surprised to get it back a couple of months later after, I'd written them a letter and enclosed my leftover Euros for postage back to the UK.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:11 PM on May 10, 2009


One time I was catching a flight out of El Paso and I'd parked my truck in the long-term area. As I was unloading stuff I left the keys on the hood and in my haste to catch the parking lot shuttle bus I forgot about them. I didn't realize I'd lost my keys until that evening as I was sitting in my hotel room several states away. I also didn't know at what point I'd lost them since there's so much removing metallic objects going through security, opportunities for keys to fall out when sitting in planes, and so on. I ended up calling every lost and found of every airport and airline I'd been on, but nothing, until later that night when I realized I might have actually just left them on the truck.

I had the feeling an unlocked truck with keys on the hood in a border town wasn't going to last very long. To make matters worse, the truck was borrowed, so I didn't know the license plate number, and I hadn't bothered writing down what parking spot I'd taken. I called the El Paso airport police saying basically "There's a white truck somewhere in long-term parking, can you see if it's still there, and if so, can you check if there are keys on the hood?"

I didn't hear anything back until late the next day, when they called me saying they'd found the truck and the keys on the hood! I even wrote an AskMe during the ordeal.
posted by pravit at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Her stolen iPod] had all of her contact information clearly printed and labeled on it. LAX cleaning crew or British Airways flight crew?

Completely without data, I know exactly which of those two I'd bet on.

I don't know if this makes me corporate-ist.
posted by rokusan at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2009


When I was a young impressionable kid I found a wallet with over $900 dollars in it hidden in an empty house where some old lady had recently died. My father and I tracked down her daughter and returned it. She gave me a $5 reward. I was young, and impressionable. She could have done a little better than that.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:31 PM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I lost a wallet... if one of you fuckers has it, hand it over. -- languagehat

Is it the one that says bæd m^ðer.f^ker on it?
posted by rokusan at 1:51 PM on May 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


That's the one! MeMail me for address. I'll give you five bucks reward, same as in StickyCarpet's town.
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The sample is small, but I'll thrown in my 2 cents and say that Calgarians are very honest as well. Just last week I left my wallet on the bus and fortunately it was on a loop. All I had to do was cross the street and wait for it to come back. Whew!

There have been two other occasions where I forgot my wallet and had it returned...perhaps should consider a chain wallet.

Last year I found someone's keycard and ID badge at a crosswalk near work. Fortunately I found him in the phone book and he was grateful to have it back that he gave me a bottle of red wine as a reward. Thank goodness for kind souls!
posted by Calzephyr at 1:59 PM on May 10, 2009


The one time I found a wallet, the woman whose it was owned a salon. I ended up being offered a haircut for it. Didn't take it up, but a nice idea for a reward, I thought. The police in the town I found it in were all grumbly about taking it, so I guess in the future I'll just mail things back.

Otoh, Reptile lost his cellophone in a taxi in Vegas and I'm still stunned he got it back.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:01 PM on May 10, 2009


I found a purse left behind at a payphone about 20 years ago and kept it...took the money, got rid of the rest.

No excuses. It was a shitty thing to do and I did it at a time in my life where drugs were pretty important to me. For what it's worth, I have felt guilty about it often and have tried to make up for that with many good deeds. I hope my karma is a net positive.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:09 PM on May 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Returning a lost wallet/found money/etc isn't really doing a good deed. It's more the absence of doing something evil by keeping it. Returning it is just stepping up to the baseline of normality and not exceeding it by any amount.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:10 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would also add that a few years after that, shoppers where I worked at a boating centre left behind their wallet. I borrowed a boat from the store owner and hauled ass to find them to return it. They gave me a $20 reward and the store owner (who had nothing to do with this except lending me her boat) told me that either she gets the $20 or I could look for another job. She ended up getting the money and I quit a month later.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:13 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


...hidden in an empty house where some old lady had recently died.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering what a 12 year old kid was doing in an abandoned house prying loose boards from the mantelpiece, I was looking for porn.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Looking for porn in a deceased old lady's house?

(My younger brother went looking through a dead old man's house and found a stack of porn and a cock-pump. he was 11.)
posted by dunkadunc at 2:43 PM on May 10, 2009


I lost my travel journal in Toronto, which was filled with invective toward Canada at that point, and it was promptly and caringly mailed to my in-laws in the States without an expectation of the listed reward. It was then forwarded to me in New York where the package was stolen from the mail room and ostensibly thrown away somewhere.
posted by arruns at 2:56 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


A dead old man who was 11? That's very benjamin buttony.
posted by found missing at 3:04 PM on May 10, 2009


A fair amount of people earn their living as punt chauffeurs.

And you wonder why North Americans have so much trouble accepting your brand of "football."
posted by Sys Rq at 3:13 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looking for porn in a deceased old lady's house?

In another abandoned house not too far from that one, I found a stack of ancient cracked and faded homemade photos of a naked lady, posing right in front of the very same stone basement wall that I was looking at. That was so hot. Except the part about imaging how old that lady must have been by then.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:13 PM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I found a wallet once.
Kept it.


For real?
Why?

I found one once. I walked it over to the cop station so they could deal with it. Let's give me a pat on the back!
posted by IndigoJones at 3:27 PM on May 10, 2009


I've never lost a wallet although I've lost a number of other things: bike helmets, raincoats, umbrellas, expensive prescription sunglasses... The only thing I've gotten back so far has been my daughter's backpack, left in a taxi in Wellington. I suspect that came back because the description I had to give about four times was so amusing - "well, it's small and shaped like a penguin and, uh, it's full of dolls' clothes."

The police rang me a couple of days later when I was mountain biking the Rimutaka Incline saying the penguin had turned up in their lost and found. So then we had a double bonus the next day from the four year old's point of view - getting the bag back and a trip to the police station.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 3:35 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny how trips to the police station get exponentially uncooler the older you get.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:51 PM on May 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Returning a lost wallet/found money/etc isn't really doing a good deed. It's more the absence of doing something evil by keeping it. Returning it is just stepping up to the baseline of normality and not exceeding it by any amount.

No, the baseline in a city large enough to lack community, is to keep walking and leave other people's business alone. Once you start putting time and effort into helping a stranger, you're above the baseline.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:59 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Oh, and if anyone is wondering what a 12 year old kid was doing in an abandoned house prying loose boards from the mantelpiece, I was looking for porn."

Should've been looking in the woods.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:00 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I once found a french Identity Card. Contacted the embassy and asked what I should do with it, and they said to mail it to them. So I put it in an envelope, wrote the adress on it and put it in a boring book that I carried with me at that time, until I remembered I was supposed to get a stamp to send it away months later. Guess my good deed arrived a bit too late for this tourist...

But seriously, those stories of people getting their belongings back and not offering a simpe thank you? Thats fucked up. I would seriously consider grabbing the purse/wallet/bag and running away, just to show them!
You'd have a hard time explaining that to the judge afterwards though.

"So you wanted to teach them a lesson, did you? To show them the importance of civility and decency? Overwhelmed by their rudeness? Let me show you what the state has thought up to fight these deplorable customs."
posted by kolophon at 4:11 PM on May 10, 2009


Some dude returned a wallet I lost out of my back pocket while riding my bike one night last year. When I got home there was a message on the answering machine; he'd found it in the street.

There is no way in hell I would ever not return a lost wallet.
posted by mediareport at 4:30 PM on May 10, 2009


I lost my wallet at a hotel I was staying at. I was pissed. Not only was I out $250, I had to borrow more money from a friend to cover my share of the room, meals, etc. Hotel security called me at home a week later - staff had found my wallet. Not a cent missing. A friend picked it up for me a few days later when he was in the area, so I never got a chance to say: Thank you unknown Chateau Lake Louise housekeeper (circa 2000).
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:31 PM on May 10, 2009


I found a purse left behind at a payphone about 20 years ago and kept it...took the money, got rid of the rest.

To be fair, 20 years left behind at a pay phone did give the owner plenty of time to reclaim it.
posted by tepidmonkey at 4:34 PM on May 10, 2009


The last time I lost my wallet was right around the time my doctors were trying to sort out whether or not I had cancer. (I did.) I was in a daze, completely distracted, unable to focus on anything. Somehow I managed to leave my wallet on a bus on my way to work, and the bus left my place of work and trundled on its way to the local mall at about 9:30am. There was about 60 bucks in my wallet, and some kids on th ebus. I didn't realize it was gone until that afternoon.

Things that were in it: my birth certificate (original), social insurance card, visa, bank card, health card, everything. That afternoon I was on my way to my doctor for more questionable news, and had to beg the office to let me in in spite of my lack of id or health card. (They did.)

I got my wallet back the next day, complete with cash, cards, everything. Someone on the bus had turned it in to the driver, who brought it to the transit system's lost and found. I was incredibly grateful, and the lady at the lost and found says they get wallets full of cash turned in all the time. Nothing extraordinary.

That was probably the one bright spot in those months. There are enough kind people in my city that this event wasn't even remarkable. I love you, Mississauga!
posted by Hildegarde at 4:42 PM on May 10, 2009


A friend and I once found a wallet on the street in Philly, went through it to find any identifying information. There was a drivers license, a heck of a lot of other cards, but no contact info. Finally, googling revealed an email address. We sent the folllowing email:

James/Jim,

Perk up!! We have located your wallet, but man are you hard to track
down. We called Christine and Greg but they didnt pick up. We didnt
want to just use your work email, which we realize is rather formal.
We wanted to call you and give you the good news over the phone.
Unfortunately, yahoo people search does not know of you. also, it
seems you have not discovered the wonders of the social networking
tool facebook. check it out. Friend us.

Anyway, we go to Penn and are good people, and therefore have not
maxed out your credit cards, nor have we used your blank check, nor
have we used your account for AAA roadside service, nor have we placed
a large order at littman jewlers, nor have we gone to new york and
ridden the subway on your tab, nor have we contacted Denise Day of the
FBI (though we'd love to hear that story). We did go to the local
Sheraton and try every room there with your key, to no avail. Also,
just for our general knowledge (as you seem to be somewhat of a food
person) which do you find a more comfortable place to shop? Acme or
giant? (in case we are ever in cherry hill).

We are graduating in a few short years, and were also wondering about
the commute from Cherry Hill to King of Prussia? Too long? Just right?
have you met the king?

We've talked it out and we think you should go for Beky. She seems
cute. And hey, free haircuts!

Additionally, we would like to commend you on the decision to become
an organ donor. We are both very proud of you.

We are hopeful that you check this email on weekends, so you dont have
to go through the hassle of having to cancel/renew all this stuff.
thats why we wanted to get in touch with you. We write,

sincerely,

milestogo and friend

Email us back, or give us a call...
posted by milestogo at 4:42 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


He wrote back, and promised beer upon wallet pickup, but none was delivered. Oh well, it was a fun email to write.
posted by milestogo at 4:43 PM on May 10, 2009


I really enjoy finding and returning lost things, because of all the profuse thanks you can receive for so little actual effort.
posted by orme at 5:16 PM on May 10, 2009


*yoink*

Yes?
posted by yoink at 5:26 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


A few months ago I found a wallet on the bus. There was about 60 bucks in the wallet. I was pretty much broke.

It wasn't a hard decision. I gave it to the bus driver. Though in retrospect I think I detected a tone of "Rad, free lunch" from the bus driver's single word response of "thanks", but I might just be being paranoid and he did the right thing.

If it happens again I think I'd try to track down the owner myself.
posted by loquacious at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2009


Back in college I worked in a movie theater. One day two guys came up to the box office with a wallet they'd found. I thanked them and then found a bunch of business cards inside with a woman's name. Called her and asked did you lose your wallet and she said YES! and came down to the theater later in the day to pick it up. I was still in the box office when she came, was very nice and thanked me profusely. She leaves, but then about an hour later, after I had left for the day, her boyfriend comes by and wants to speak to the manager. It seems the cash that was in there was stolen, and the boyfriend was accusing me of stealing it. And he was red hot angry, threatening violence and whatnot, at which point my manager kicked him out of the theater. It just baffled me: that money could've been stolen by any number of people. It was left behind in a freakin' movie theater, for Chrissakes. But dude wanted to beat my ass for something I didn't do, and after I did the logical thing of finding the wallet's owner.

Some people are just assholes who never take responsibility for their own mistakes.
posted by zardoz at 5:51 PM on May 10, 2009


I found a wallet with $88 in it in the TV room at college. I took the money and threw the wallet away.

Five years later I left my wallet on a bus in India. I got the wallet back at the bus depot, but it was missing the 100 bucks or so that I was carrying.

So really, me taking the money in college was how the universe retroactively righted itself. That's Karma, baby!

I should know, I've been to India, bitch.
posted by fucker at 5:55 PM on May 10, 2009


That's the dumbest thing I've read all week.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:05 PM on May 10, 2009


fucker fucks the fucked gets fucked by fucker; calls it all sex
posted by found missing at 6:14 PM on May 10, 2009




I lost my wallet once, and then someone called me to say they found the contents of my wallet, but not the wallet or the cash. They said they found it piled on top of a phone booth, which I'm pretty sure is where I left the wallet. I got all my ID back but lost a crappy grey (ick) wallet and about $40. All in all I felt pretty lucky. I live 40 KM from Toronto.
posted by autodidact at 6:48 PM on May 10, 2009


I once pulled up to a drive-up ATM, only to find $40 sticking out of the withdrawl slot and a receipt waving in the breeze from the receipt printer. I took them both out, did the banking that I was there to do, then went into the branch attached to the ATM, waited in line, and gave the money and the receipt to a teller.

She seemed a bit surprised.
posted by djfiander at 6:57 PM on May 10, 2009


zardoz, when somebody returns a wallet to the service desk in my library, we always have two staff members open it together when looking for contact information, just to try to forestall that sort of problem.
posted by djfiander at 6:59 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who finds a wallet or purse and doesn't return it? I can't believe people are actually admitting it in this thread. Oh, definition of asshole: Someone who finds a lost wallet or purse, takes the money and throws the rest away.

Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you people?
posted by purephase at 7:23 PM on May 10, 2009


I too found a wallet once in a shopping mall restroom stall. I was leaving the stall, with the intention of turning it over to mall security when the owner came looking for it. I flipped it open and confirmed that yup, he looked like the guy in the driver's license & I handed it back over to him.

For that matter I found a lost cellphone once, I turned it over to the cellphone service provider in the local shopping mall, and they contacted the owner.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:27 PM on May 10, 2009


Lost stuff has a habit of finding me...

When I was in 6th grade, I found a wallet in the middle of a busy street and returned it... The reward was a 15 dollar gift certificate to Scottie's which I used to purchase Toad The Wet Sprocket's Fear and Phish's A Picture of Nectar.

A few months later, I found a camera on the street dropped by a girl who'd taken it to the prom. Her father said, "Thanks, you just saved her life." and gave me $20, which I put towards a drum set a neighbor was selling.

Another wallet got me a $20 reward, and a nice letter from the owner, told me about his "arthritic neice," who lived in my town.

The next wallet was found atop a payphone in a train station and returned to the police, but I decided not to leave any contact info.

Also found: a notebook, also in the middle of the street, and, most recently, a camera in front of the Smithsonian.

The best find goes to a studend ID I found belonging to a member of the Rutgers University Marijuana Supporters while I was a student. I placed this under the windshield wiper of his car, which I recognized because a few days earlier he'd backed into my friend's Miata while I was in it. And I knew he was a member of the RU Marijuana supporters because he offered to smoke my friend and I up after the accident. Good times.
posted by alphanerd at 7:39 PM on May 10, 2009


Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Ooo, that reminded me of a midnight shift at the restaurant when a drunk little snotnose punk who insisted his friends were coming to meet him nodded out in his plate of mac and cheese. After repeated attempts at rousing the stupid turd, we called the cops who tossed him in the back of their car and took him to the tank or, I guess, his proud parents. The server found $80 under a napkin when he bussed the table, and to assuage his guilt, divided it up with the cook and myself.

So, I guess my problem is I have little sympathy for drunk little punks. And prickish middle-aged men.

Also, I had dibs on any packs of cigarettes left at tables, though I did impose a 5-day wait period. Once one had drugs in it, they weren't very good.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:43 PM on May 10, 2009


I lost my wallet in San Francisco. That was a stressful afternoon - no cards, no cash to get to the airport, no ID. Got back home to Colorado, and had a message waiting from a nice guy who said he'd found it and would express it to me. He sent it by DHL, and DHL lost it again by delivering it to the wrong address. Managed to get it back in the end, by figuring out where it might have been delivered. I've had a dim view of DHL ever since.
posted by carter at 7:50 PM on May 10, 2009


I've had a dim view of DHL ever since.

That's pretty much inevitable, sad to say.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:23 PM on May 10, 2009


I've found lots of things in my neighborhood while walking the dog early in the morning. The first wallet was sticking out of the snow right outside the owner's front door. The second wallet was actually a cigarette case or card case, found on the sidewalk next to an iPod. Both belonged to a very sleepy teenager a block away. Once, there were the contents of someone's work folder, including work ID, strewn along half a block. That one was a few years ago, and he still thanks me once in a while when I walk past his house. My most unusual find was a poodle wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

Almost forgot: there was a third wallet, and that one was a doozy. It belonged to a security guard I had often seen a few blocks away. The wallet had driver's license, credit cards, work ID, family photos, gun permit, and birth certificate (!). I couldn't find a telephone number for the owner, so I handed it over to the police. They called me half an hour later saying they'd found the owner and did I want my name passed on. I said I didn't care either way and I never heard anything after that.
posted by bentley at 8:23 PM on May 10, 2009


Several years ago I found a fat, velcro wallet sticking up conspicuously between the leather cushions at a community library. I assumed the owner would be back for it shortly, so, of course, I opened it up and started cruelly mocking all the dorky wallet pictures with my date, who was perched next to me on the armrest. It belonged to a toothy high school boy, with moppy red hair, and a sad-looking beagle pal. In the money pockets were several dirty, crinkled smaller bills and a few bucks in change. Obviously I wasn't left with much of a choice-- I confiscated all the bills and coins, and summarily replaced it all with a crisp, new Benny and stuffed it back between the cushions. I guess I thought it would be funny. Also, I probably thought it would make my date horny.

It either made for a very confused and very elated teen boy, or ended up tempting the next person who came along into stealing a wallet they otherwise would have brought up to the front desk. I guess I don't care much either way... it seemingly did end up making my date pretty horny.
posted by dgaicun at 8:41 PM on May 10, 2009


When I was in university (in Toronto), I went to a party thrown by a friend of a friend. I wore my huge secondhand men's winter coat from Goodwill, and just stuck my wallet in one pocket rather than carry a purse. When I arrived, I threw my coat on the pile on the bed and left the wallet in my pocket, because these were friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, right?

Hours later, I went into the bedroom and couldn't find that big brown coat. The hostess couldn't believe that someone had actually stolen my coat (and probably couldn't believe that I was so stupid as to leave my wallet in the pocket, though she was too polite to say so), and she loaned me a ski jacket and gave me bus fare to get home.

The next few days, I ordered a new health card, got a new university ID card, and kicked myself. Often. My friend told me that her friend the hostess had a pretty good idea who had taken my coat and wallet and was pressuring them. I didn't expect to get anything back, but a few days later, a big box arrived at my home containing a carefully folded coat and the wallet with all my cards intact (and $40 in cash gone).

This is why I now have two university ID cards (one photo with a bad perm and one photo with an unspeakable perm) and a vivid, recurring dream of leaving my wallet somewhere and dashing back to find it completely empty.

Hell yes, I'd return a lost wallet.
posted by maudlin at 8:49 PM on May 10, 2009


Not really wallet-related, but once when I was a kid I wrote the following on a $5 note: "Hello! I'm lost. If you find me please return me to -" and here I included the name and address of a friend, as a practical joke.

I spent the $5 someplace and forgot about it. A couple of months went by, and then my friend called me up one day to ask me if I'd put his name and address on a $5 note. I started laughing, and he explained that he'd received an odd letter from a stranger regretfully informing my friend that he would not be getting the money back, along with a photocopy of the $5 I'd circulated.
posted by Ritchie at 8:57 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I lost my wallet twice in Toronto. The first time someone showed up at my door with it and I was too stunned to say or offer anything more than a quick "thanks" before he darted back to his car. The second time it was mailed anonymously back to me.

I found a wallet a year or so ago which had obviously been previously searched and dumped. I mailed it with an anonymous note blathering about paying it forward or some such shit, probably a bit much, but I was in an idealistic period.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:11 PM on May 10, 2009


Lessee ... since this is blue-green chatfilter ...

* Pickpocketed twice in NYC. Didn't get anything back either time, oddly.
* Lost a wallet on Fifth Avenue. Guy called me at work as I had something with my temp agency in there, then offered to send me the wallet but said "I'll just remove $20 as a fee." He took all $50+ that was in there, asshole. The least he could have done was lied and said it was empty. See, now I knew that his honesty was compromised.
* Lost a Lands End Deluxe Attache in a restaurant in NYC on a Friday night. Called Saturday, they had it, everything was there including keys, walkman, half-read book, etc. I was in Jersey, thought it was safe, and made an appointment Monday morning before work. Got there, the weekday staff didn't know a damned thing about it. It was just gone. Again, a bit more disappointing having had the opportunity to think for two whole days that my stuff was coming back.
posted by dhartung at 9:36 PM on May 10, 2009


Lost an envelope with $500 in a taxi, phoned the company and they said they hadn't seen it, and I had to press them to take my details so they could call me back if it did turn up. Was most annoyed because I'd been talking to the driver and he'd been very friendly, and I'd given him some stuff (I was moving flat and had sold a lot of my possessions, which was why I had the cash).

I don't 100% know it was him, but I'm fairly sure it was.

Have lost my wallet twice, once on a bus it fell out and the guy next to me took it, took the cash and dumped it. Someone else found and returned it. Another time I left it at a party, one of the guys there worked with my mother and gave it to her - he'd removed the cash and left the roach from a joint in there, for some reason (get me in trouble? Who knows...)
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:00 AM on May 11, 2009


I lost my wallet about 13 years ago while I was living in Foster City, CA. I'm almost 100% certain that this happened during the short walk from my unit to the carport, so it must have been laying on the apartment complex path for some time. Even though I had my ID in there (as well as about $130 in cash), it was never returned. And I thought I was a relatively nice neighbor too. The funny thing is when I went to the police dept to report it lost they treated me like a suspect. The front desk person had me wait, and then a sergeant and another cop came back and started questioning me about my identity and (nonexistent) police record. Once they determined I wasn't a perp or trying to somehow create an alibi or a cover story by reporting my wallet lost, they kicked me out w/o really listening to any information I gave about where it was lost, what it contained, and how to contact me should someone turn it in. It was the strangest thing.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:42 AM on May 11, 2009


I lost my wallet in a parking lot at a train station in Germany. I was secretly leaving town and my cheating ex-boyfriend and I needed to buy a ticket to my relative's place a few hours away. In my haste I lost my wallet from the car to the ticket booth and ended up having to come clean and borrow the money from said douchebag. I filed a report once I got to my relative's place and they found my wallet a week later with all my money and cards intact, giving me my freedom to continue my trip abroad. Apparently I had dropped it near a trash can and someone had found it and brought it to Lost and Found. Thank you, kind German soul!
posted by KathyK at 7:26 AM on May 11, 2009


I found a wallet once. Kept it, but returned the money.
posted by Eideteker at 7:47 AM on May 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I was a young man, and hungry, I would often saunter down to the train tracks with a false wallet, a reel of fishing line, a few hooks, and a dollar bill. Back in them days, a dollar bill was something -- you could get yourself a fine goulash or a large plate of sardine fritters, and have plenty left over for a foaming mug of Schlitz. But I was always ambitious, and I was after more than just another fish fry, delicious, but so quickly gone.

I would hide behind a convenient hedge, fold the dollar onto one of my hooks, and carefully secret it within the wallet. I would then toss this "lure" toward the nearest visible hobo jungle, or sometimes just under any nearby overpass, which was a type of area where I knew hobos to congregate. I was clumsy at first, often casting too close to the fire barrel, and once or twice even hitting an indigent gentleman on the head with my lure. I ruined a couple of promising "holes" this way, to be sure! But with time and practice, I could perform this "cast" so smoothly that none of the transients would even notice, or be disturbed. And in practically no time, one would wander too close to my wallet and espy the folding money poking alluringly from the wallet's enclosure. This was too much for most of them to resist, and when he grabbed the wallet with his fingerless woolen gloves, I would immediately give a sharp "yank" on my pole, and thus set the hook.

There began now a tremendous struggle, with my prey running this way and that, sometimes with surprising ferocity and vigor. Often they would make cries or noises, like "Oh b'gorry! Oh jeezle summin's got me! Getter offa! Ah my hand!" These incoherent cries were like music to me though, for soon they would become weaker, and my quarry would begin to tire. At this stage, I could start to inexorably reel the big fella in, already anticipating the sweet smoke of the frying pan.

I doubt that in these days of 24 hour mini-malls and convenience markets anyone here has had cause to explore or revisit the nearly lost art of hobo-fishing. But in my day, it was a staple food source for many an energetic young go-getter. And I still say you cannot beat the savor and satisfaction of a stick of jerky you caught and prepared yourself.
posted by rusty at 8:32 AM on May 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I'll just remove $20 as a fee."

I <3 NY.
posted by rokusan at 9:50 AM on May 11, 2009


Nice to see that Brym got dusted off for this gem of insight, especially when he has no specific familiarity with this methodology or what a proper "sample" would look like for this sort of inquiry.

If you're curious as to whether a teaspoon of sugar will spontaneously rearrange itself into a 100,000-acre forest, and an inorganic chemist tells you it will not, it's really not necessary to get a second opinion from a biochemist.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:07 AM on May 11, 2009


Confession: found a wallet in the A/V department while attending college. It wasn't a student wallet and had $7 and several credit cards. Gathered up some friends and we went from video store to video store in order to get memberships and rent a Nintendo 64. We managed to get the game machine and a half dozen games. Owned the Nintendo for a bunch of years before leaving it at a friend's apartment. I feel terrible about it now (have returned lost items on several occasions before and after) but if it's any consolation, we got a lot of good times out of that Nintendo, including endless sessions of Golden Eye 007 during the '98 Ice Storm.
posted by furtive at 12:12 PM on May 11, 2009


I always return lost wallets. But whenever I do, I add $20 to it. In part because if someone is hapless enough to forget their wallet - they probably need a little help that day. But mostly because - let's see how honest YOU are, pal.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I witnessed some guy who left his wallet on the top of his car as he drove off down Pacific Coast Hwy near Pt Mugu. The wallet was full of $20's and the money fell out of his wallet and scattered all over the highway and off a short cliff into the ocean. It was kind of surreal. I managed to get the wallet and some of the 20's but the rest floated out on the waves.
After seeing the money disappear like that there was no way I was going to try to contact the guy and tell him I found his wallet. He'd never beleve the money disappeared like that and I didn't want to have to be put in a situation where I would be defending the truth of what happened. So I took the wallet to the nearest police station.
posted by Rashomon at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2009


I found a wallet but lost my own on the way to turn it in. Based on the extreme disparity in the amount of cash I was now holding verses the that which I lost, I decided to assume the identity of the new person. After a quick bit of messy work at the new me's apartment and a consult of AskMe, the stage for transformation was set. All it took from there was a move to a new city that was reasonably far away, a few afternoons on the phone clearing up some old business, and some deft slight of hand at the DMV.

I'm not exactly proud of myself but I was in a really dark place at the time. You know, domestic problems, gambling addiction, poor eating habits...that kind of thing. The way I see it, sometimes life hands you a cup of sugar and a pitcher of water along with those lemons. It's up to you to seize the opportunity, which is all I did. Some call it all a rationalization...I call it good lookin' out.

I've never been happier.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:35 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman, you are, of course, assuming that I have any freaking clue how much cash I have in my wallet at any given time.
posted by djfiander at 4:09 PM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and if anyone is wondering what a 12 year old kid was doing in an abandoned house prying loose boards from the mantelpiece, I was looking for porn.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:22 PM on May 10


Eponysterical!



I didn't want to have to be put in a situation where I would be defending the truth of what happened.
posted by Rashomon at 5:29 PM on May 11 [+] [!]


Eponysterical!


Not precisely the same, but I worked for years in a youth hostel in Toronto -- when guests wanted to borrow a hair dryer or an alarm clock or a guidebook or whatever, we asked for them to leave something with us to remind them to return it. usually they would leave their membership card, but I was always astonished by the number of people who left behind (a) credit cards or (b) passports and would then forget to retrieve these items later. About once every six months I would look in the deposit box, see six or seven passports, and then spend a half-day going around to the various consulates dropping them off.

One year I got grilled by some official at the Japanese consulate for 30 minutes on why exactly I had two Japanese passports that I was turning in... he seemed to be intimating that I might have buried Mr Watanabe and Ms. Mori under my garage's dirt floor.

After that interrogation, I went over to the German consulate, slipped the passport through the mail slot and then departed posthaste.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:28 PM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


A few years ago, a friend of mine noticed a woman at an ATM drop a 20 dollar bill. He ran after her with the bill and it turned out to be a sociology or psychology experiment, and he was the only one who passed. Ever since then, whenever I see money on the street, I look around to see where the scientists are.

Last year I found fifty bucks (!) on the sidewalk. We were headed to the bar anyway, so it became a wild night. The last thing I remember was telling the bartender to make the Bloody Mary extra strong. Ugh.
posted by boghead at 7:19 PM on May 11, 2009


I once went to use the dryer in the laundry room of my old building. Some jerk had left their clothes in there. I waited a few minutes, then started moving their clothes and found several hundred dollars scattered in the dryer. I have to admit, I was broke and sorely tempted, but I bundled up the money, stuck it back in a pocket (not mine), and put my clothes in the dryer.

Come down 40 minutes later: a big, hulking bruiser is sitting in a chair in front of the dryer. I forget exactly what he said, but the suggestion was that I had stolen his money. I showed him the pocket full of cash. He wasn't very grateful. I guess I'm lucky nobody else had swiped the money in between.

I have found money several times in my life. When I was 8 or 9, I found an envelope full of cash in the gutter on my way to school. The principal took me door to door to try to find the owner -- we never did. My parents supposedly put the money in the bank for me, but I never saw it again. Another time I found about a hundred bucks in twenties blowing around in front of a bank machine. Took it in to the bank but they told me to keep it. Score!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:38 PM on May 11, 2009


A few years ago, a friend of mine noticed a woman at an ATM drop a 20 dollar bill. He ran after her with the bill and it turned out to be a sociology or psychology experiment, and he was the only one who passed.

I would be sorely tempted to raise a stink about ethics and experimenting on humans without their prior informed consent. Don't universities generally have prohibitions against that?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:32 AM on May 12, 2009


I would be sorely tempted to raise a stink about ethics and experimenting on humans without their prior informed consent. Don't universities generally have prohibitions against that?

Oh, for god's sake. These people are finding a twenty and going home with it. They're not aware social scientists are observing them and using their reaction for a study; what possible harm could come to them from it? I swear, this place is turning into NannyWorld.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on May 12, 2009


My question was not whether universities should have prohibitions against that, it was whether universities do have prohibitions against that. (And if in fact I'm mistaken and they don't, that's fine with me.)

But if you find it acceptable for people to ignore rules because, gee, they can't possibly imagine that any harm could come from it, then you and I have very different opinions on that. Maybe you don't, but I still stop at stop signs on country roads at 3 a.m. when no other cars are around.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:59 AM on May 12, 2009


Ever since then, whenever I see money on the street, I look around to see where the scientists are.

Heh. There must be a lot of them at my local food market. The ATM there has a large hand-lettered sign saying "Please remember to take ALL your money!" No kidding.
posted by dhartung at 9:45 AM on May 12, 2009


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