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June 06, 2008


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Yes you did the right thing. But my perspective my be different from most. My husband and I were in the Army back in 1979 and poorer than church mice, he found money at a samll store and immediately turned it in ($50). It would have kept us in groceries for the month, but giving it back was the better option. We also had no idea who the money belonged to, and gave it to the store employee.

If option #2 would fail, i'd go with #1. #3 is IMHO just giving YOUR (you have it, no one else want's it, so it's yours) money away.

I really have to applaud you for your honesty. I can't say whether or not you did the right thing. I think all 4 are good and honestly socially acceptable answers. It's a matter of perspective. I would have pocketed it without thinking twice, just as I would expect never to see $5 again if I dropped it on the floor of any store. $20 would be a different story on both sides, just like you differentiated between $1 and $5.

From my perspective, I'd be annoyed at losing any amount of money, but $5 isn't going to make or break me.

Here's the great thing about what you did though - being that you were with your son, he got to see morality in action. That lesson in and of itself was probably worth much more than the $5.

I would put it in my pocket and stand where I found it for two minutes (perhaps longer for a $10 or $20). Then if someone were to come to that aisle and it's clear to me that they're looking for something on the floor, I'd quiz them a little and return the money.

Just leaving it on the floor and walking away means *anyone* can and likely will pick it up, pocket it and walk away within that same two minutes.

Turning it over to anyone other than a manager just about guarantees it will be pocketed.

Another option to keeping it in your own pocket: Wal-Mart and other large retailers typically have some sort of charitable initiative to which you can contribute at checkout. Put it towards that.

So long as the cashier was honest. Walmart adds any extra money in the cashier's drawer at the end of the night to their charity. It's pretty much the same as if you paid too much at the checkout and the cashier didn't notice.

If you just found money sitting on the ground and no one obviously is looking through their pockets at the cash trying to find it and no one obviously dropped it, it's yours. If you saw the person who dropped it and you keep it, that's stealing. In no way shape or form would I have considered option 3

Although I think there's hardly a wrong answer here, I think I'd combine two of the ideas posted above:

1) Hang out for a little while to see if the owner comes looking for it. If no one comes, then...

2) Contribute that amount to some charitable initiative, whether it be Walmart-sponsored or something that you support on your own.

I think that you will leave a good impression on your child by doing this AND you will be helping a good cause. The next person to pick it up might just blow it on a cd or something useless and not much good would come of it!!

#2 - money on the ground is "free money" as long as you can't find the owner.

I meant to say #1 (not 2)... I need my morning coffee. ha

Well, funny... two weeks ago my wife and I were at the Indy 500 race... She spotted a 5 dollar bill on the floor and pick it up... Our first reaction was to look around to see if we'd find anyone looking for something (like they have lost some money or something...) No one seemed to have lost anything so we just pocketed it and went to get some to eat with the money... IMO when you find money you should not give it to anyone else but the owner (if you can find it). It would be totally different if you had found a cell phone instead of money, then it would make more sense turning it in to a store clerk... that's my 2 cent worth. Thanks.

Do you really want to know if we think you did the right thing? Or is it more a case of wanting us to know you did the right thing?

Here's my question: how, just by looking, could you tell the cashier needed five bucks?

David --

1. No, I'd like to know what people think. I'm sure the situation will happen again and I'm not sure I did the right thing. I like the "give the money to charity" ideas presented above. They seem like a better solution to me.

2. Why did I think the cashier needed five bucks? A few reasons:

A. She's working at Walmart. I'm going out on a limb here and guess that most Walmart employees aren't well off. In fact, $5 was probably close to 45 minutes salary for her.

B. She was young (late teenager to earyl 20's). How many young people do you know who couldn't use (or at least appreciate) an extra $5?

C. She was dressed in clothes that, while not inappropriate for an employee, weren't the nicest either. Maybe she just wore old clothes to work and maybe not, but her appearance led me to believe she didn't have a lot.

The most important part of the equation was that your child was with you. Kids can't really distinguish between the value of $1 and $20, so I think you did the right thing by attempting to return the dough. Trying to explain, "Well, it's only $5, so we'll take it. If it was more, we should try to return it," is not really an option.

items (purse, belongings) have owners, and people need that back.

cash is cash. no traceability to owners. if there are people around, the chance of finding the owner is zero. take the money, fate smiled on you today. karma coming back around and all.

Did you do the right thing? Probably. I would probably go with the stand around and see if someone is was looking for it methodology. It reminds me of something that happened to me several years ago. I was in my early 20s, had just moved to NYC and had almost no money. While standing in line at a drugstore, I dropped a five dollar bill and the woman behind me PUT HER FOOT ON TOP OF IT. It took some convincing for me to get her to "un-foot" my money. Thanks for the warm welcome NY!

You're a good person. Another option is to donate it to charity.

We turned in a $10 bill at the grocery store that our son found. They put it in an envelope with his name and said come back in a week to see if anyone has claimed it. That was that longest week of his life but, lo and behold, it was still there after a week so he got to keep it. The lesson learned was worth far more than $10, even if the clerk has pocketed the money.

When I was in middle school I found a $20 bill and turned it in the school office. Nobody claimed it so they gave it back to me after a couple of weeks. For kids in middle school, you know that $20 is a lot of money.

When I was in elementary school I found a scratch-off lottery ticket that was already scratched off and was a five dollar winner. I turned it into a teacher and a week later when no one claimed it, I got it back and my parents redeemed it and gave me the $5.

If I see someone drop it (or know who lost it), I would tell them (or return it) immediately. However, if I see it lying there, I would keep it and thank God for the blessing.

Good post and comments. I agree with the commenter who said it was a good lesson for your son.


I recently found $5 on the floor in the basement of my hospital. Since public safety was just around the bend, I took it to them. I asked them to mark it for the hospital's charity fund (for people who can't afford to pay and the like) if nobody claimed it. I don't know if they did or not, but PS has been good to me a couple times so if they used it for coffee I wouldn't be too upset.

One of the few "sins" I remember on a regular basis is one from my freshman year in high school. I was sitting at a cafeteria table watching the crowd of kids getting their food and I saw one guy drop a small wad of cash (about $18). I watched the money for about 2 minutes, starring at it like a vulture. I stood up, walked over, and picked it up. I could have looked for the guy, but I stuffed the money in my pocket and went back to my seat. At the time I didn't think twice about it (or the lie I told my dad about how I had some extra cash), but the right thing would have been to find the kid and give it back. Barring that I should have given it to a teacher. You did the best thing you could have. I did the worst. Like I said, one of the few "sins" I actively remember (along with the one where I stole some books from the church library :-).


I think you did the right thing. Given the likelihood of the cashier pocketing it, I think it would also have been okay--after looking around--to put the money in whatever donation bin they have by the checkout, but I still think the cashier option is best.

I'm a little depressed by the "finders keepers" attitude here. Especially given that it was a Wal-Mart, that $5 could represent a significant part of their budget to someone. You can't turn your life upside down to return that money to them, but this "oh, well, they dropped it, it's anyone's" attitude is remarkably heartless.

I think the best thing is to try #2. Ask if anyone lost some money. If someone says they did, then ask what denominations the bills were (note the misleading plural); if someone is going to lie they'll probably name an amount larger than $5. I don't think it's very likely that you'd find the person who lost it, but it's worth a shot.

I really don't like the idea of giving it to some random employee. Take it to the customer service area, or wherever you would go if you were the person who lost it - which could mean leave it on the floor.

It's a tricky situation with no personal identification attached to the funds. I would probably keep it. When I find a wallet with money in it, I make every effort to return the wallet and funds to the appropriate party. Loose money is finders keepers IMO.

Most companies will just absorb the $5; i.e. it never gets back to the person that lost it, and it goes right into profit for the company. I think that making the effort to find the person first is the right thing. Failing that, you'll put the money to a better use than Wal-Mart will.

I would keep the money as a windfall or perhaps just give it to charity, depending on my mood.

I asked my wife and she had a very interesting take on the matter. She believes that the person had some bad luck which caused them to lose the money in the first place. By picking up the money and keeping it you are then taking that bad luck for yourself.... and will lose even more money soon. She says this happened to her about 3 times in her life so she really believes this. So she said she would pick up the money and give it to charity so as not to get stuck with bad luck.

I guess it depends on what you believe... very interesting post!


We found a $100 bill on the floor of our grocer's deli once. Man it was hard ... real hard to do the right thing since we were so broke ourselves.

We turned it in to customer service to put in their safe until someone claimed it. I was told by the store manager they mark when and where the money was found. If, after 3 months, no one claims the money the store then uses it to purchase food. The store then donates the groceries to the local food bank.

I wish someone had returned my $100 bill I dropped on the floor of my grocery store, once. I was a poor student, and there was only about a ten minute delay between me losing it and realizing it was gone (it was ten minutes after I'd visited the restroom, and it was with me in the restroom). I searched the entire store, asked people in the immediate vicinity, and asked the store employees. No one admitted to finding it. I cried. It was my grocery money.

That said, if I find a $1 or a $5, or change, I figure it's untraceable. But if it was $10 or more, I'd stick around a bit to see if someone was looking for it. Then I'd keep it.

If it was on the floor, and nobody else was clearly looking around for it, it's yours. Of course, if someone had been there, obviously trying to find their lost money, I would have done the "quiz them/give it back" thing.

The charity option would have been good, too, for people with overdeveloped consciences in this area....or people trying for a "teachable moment" with a kid. Maybe I'm a scumbag, but yeah, the presence of the child may have driven me more toward the "charity option" than the "pocket it" option that I would have taken if alone.

It's illegal to take something that isn't yours. Period. Check with the police if you don't believe me. Even if you find a penny on the sidewalk. You know it isn't yours so if you take it, it's stealing. The grey area is should you turn it in or leave it there. The safest thing for you personally is to leave it there. Morally I would feel I needed to turn it in.

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