Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ever lose your wallet? Ever find one? Is there a behavioral norm here?

Yesterday, in one of my last weeks' days at the cafe, I found a wallet. A fat, black leather, three-tiered-middle-aged-man's wallet. Inside were a drivers' license (Thomas, a caucasian male born 1963), concealed carry permit, insurance card from the Firefighters' Association, several credit / bank cards, $128 in cash, and a bank recepit indicating a checking balance of $650, and a savings balance of almost $7,000.

After waiting a couple hours to see if Thomas returned on his own, on lunch I used the phone book to call the guy up. I reached Thomas's parents' house and spoke with his mother -- turn out Thomas was a junior. The mother gave me the sons' cell phone, I reached him, and he returned later to pick up the wallet.

I returned Thomas's wallet with every dollar in place, though of course I have no way of knowing whether a previous "finder" had removed some bills and replaced the wallet, I find this unlikely.

Thomas took the wallet, said, "thanks very much," and left the store.

The questions I have are these: if you found this wallet, nearly everyone would of course declare that they'd return it. But, honestly, would you be at all tempted to remove any of the cash before its return? I was tempted, of course, but did not. Now, was I affected by the fact that the guy was a firefighter? Did it matter to me that I've recently been hired on at a job that pays a real living wage? Six months ago, I was eating almost exclusively pasta and oatmeal. Would it have made a difference then?

Second, if you LOST this wallet, what would you do if it were found and returned to you? How grateful would you be, and how would you express this gratitude? Thomas seemed sincere enough, but it wasn't the over-the-top thankfulness that I'd probably have shown. Similarly, I think if one person had found mine, I'd likely try to give them some of the cash in it as a reward -- the credit cards and licenses are the more annoying loss, but I'd still be pretty impressed to get all of the cash back. If it were at a business like a cafe, I'd probably put a ten or twenty dollar bill in the tip jar, at least.

I'm not saying that I feel diminished in any way by Thomas's level of appreciation, or that I EXPECTED more, but I know I'd have offered more if it were the billfold of yours truly.



  • At 8:50 AM , Blogger Andrew said...

    I lost my wallet in Eugene. Whoever found it mailed it to the address on the driver's license, everything intact except 20 dollars. I don't know if someone picked the $ out before, but I didn't mind too much. I'd like to say I'd give a similar reward if it were not returned anonymously. I'd also like to say that I would not nick dollars from a wallet that I found...

  • At 11:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have had similar experiences, most recently with a found dog. (Very cute, small and white; I actually considered keeping her myself.) I think people who receive lost items are initially embarrassed...and then possibly (hopefully?) regret not properly thanking the person who returns their property. I agree with you--just mumbling a thank you is NOT enough for the kind-heartedness, time spent and honesty required for such a deed.


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