The other day, I asked readers how they’d handle finding a large sum of money in a wallet with no ID. For background, my wife and I ran into this exact situation about ten years ago… We were living on a shoestring and about to have a baby (in fact, we were past my wife’s due date and out walking to get things moving) when we ran across a wallet containing eleven $100 bills and nothing else — no identification, no credit cards, nothing.
Given our situation, I must admit that it was tempting to pocket the money, but… $1100 is a lot of money, and just walking off with it would not only be wrong, but it could also be devastating to the person that 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 found a wallet with a large sum of money in it, give them our contact info, and then hold onto it ourselves in hopes that someone would come along and claim it with a detailed description.
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. The security office wrote up a report, complete with our contact info, put it in an envelope, and stashed it in their safe. They also promised that we could have the money if it went unclaimed for 30 days.
As we were walking away from the mall security office, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach… We had just handed $1100 over to strangers in hopes that they’d do the right thing. Thankfully, just as we left the office and were heading down the corridor, we saw a panic-stricken man rushing in the opposite direction. He hustled into the security office, and we lingered at a distance. A few minutes later, we saw a totally relieved man emerge from the security office. Apparently he had lost the wallet on his way into the mall just a few minutes ahead of us.
So… We did the right thing, but probably not in the smartest way possible. Nonetheless, it worked out for the best. Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d be smarter about it, and not relinquish control of the money in hopes that someone else would do the right thing. As of this writing, the majority of responses to my original post agree that trying to return the money is the right thing to do.
The most annoying thing about all of this was that we never even got so much as a thank you from the rightful owner. It would’ve been nice to at least receive a few words of appreciation for not simply walking off with over a grand in cash, or leaving it lying there in the parking lot.