If you find and return lost property, do you feel entitled to a reward?

There is in interesting article in the Washington Post about the growing ethic that if you find something that belongs to someone else, you are entitled to receive some kind of compensation. For example, (from the article):

I agree with with Davy Rothbart, who is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s a violation of the human code if you find something that’s clearly important to someone else and you don’t return it.”

Another question the article raises: If you found a wallet, with let’s say $40 in it, would you attempt to return the wallet? Would you take the money first?

Please, SDMB, restore my faith in humanity!

I’d return it, with the money inside, if I could easily identify the owner. If, for example, I found the wallet in a shop, I might leave it with the shopkeeper, since the owner might return there asking for it.

There’s a big difference in asking for a reward and demanding ransom. I personally would never accept a reward but might allow for my expenses to be reimbursed. I lost my cell phone recently and when I called it the nice man said sure I could have it back just drive to where he is and get it. I did and got it. I had lost it at the post office. Why he could not just turn it in instead of walking off with it I don’t know, the drive took 45 minutes to get to him and 45 to return to my office. I was grateful to get it back but sheesh.

That being said, If I find something and it is in an area like a post office or grocery store I turn it in and figure it will find its way back to the owner. However, if I find a big bag of cash with no id, I might think its mine.
Nah, I’d still look for an owner but might put it in a bank drawing interest until I find them.

I’d attempt to return the wallet in the condition in which I found it, i.e. containing the $40. The guy who found the cell phone on the Metro and wanted $450 to give it back is a royal asshole, IMHO.

I’d try to return it directly to the owner and I would not expect a reward. I mean, what the fuck! I may take a token of thanks if they offered it, and I would certainly offer something if the tables were turned, but expect it? Hardly.

I do not think anyone is entitled to a reward. If I found a million dollars, then I would probably take a reward if offered one. And to be honest, I’d probably bitch if I found a million and was NOT offered a reward. But that’s only because it’s a million dollars and it seems like it’s enough to “spare” some. But I’m not entitled to it for doing what decent people should do.

I found a necklace some years back. It was sitting on the steps when I left work, so I brought it in and gave it to the desk and said I found it outside so someone might have dropped it and would be back. Later that week I got a call from a lady who said that was her $20,000 25th anniversary necklace and she couldn’t believe someone had turned it in and she wanted to give me a reward. Which I refused because just why? What’s she gonna give me, a hundred bucks? For being honest? I said no, I didn’t need anything. She wrote me a lovely letter instead, and sent one to my employer, and sent me Christmas cards for several years. That was plenty enough for me.

I don’t think I’m unusual here either. Lots of people would do the same. Can’t imagine demanding a reward for a phone. I personally would return that wallet with the money. Why take it, it’s $40 … not nearly worth giving me the guilts for the rest of my life.

I return it. I don’t expect a reward.

It’s happened twice in my life, as a matter of fact.

I mailed a guy’s wallet back to him. He sent me a nice card saying things like “I’m glad there’s still people out there that would do this.” They might have put in a couple bucks for postage, too, but whatever.

Well, in botht this case and the wallet case, I am aware that there are many people who would pocket the phone or the cash and the owner would never see it again. I don’t trust the folks behind the counter any more than I trust other random strangers, so I would probably keep it and return it.

Now, if it was a 45 minute drive, I might have offered to meet you somewhere. In the case of the phone or wallet, and I knew I was a 45 minute drive from where I found it, I might try to identify it while still in the area.

This was the reasoning given to me when I forgot my purse in the cart at Toys R Us and a woman took it home with her and called me (instead of handing it in to Lost & Found at the store). She was worried about them stealing it. I had to drive an hour to her house to get it back, while the store was only about 10 minutes from my house. It vaguely frustrated me, but at least I got it back. I sent her a nice bouquet of flowers as a thank you.

I would certainly never expect a reward for returning a found item and I probably wouldn’t give one if someone outright asked for it (even though I likely would if they didn’t ask).

I found a wallet on a train a couple of years back, and again decided to keep hold of it and post it back myself rather than trust the train staff. It only had about £15 (c.$30) in it but all the guys credit cards, etc.

Anyway, I contacted the bank who contacted him who contacted me! Upshot was that I returned it in the post and he sent back a lovely card with much the same message as **Trunk **said earlier - along with £20 to buy myself a drink. Never expected it - especially as it hadn’t contained that much and he’d had to cancel all his cards anyway, but it was nice to feel appreciated.

Demanding it or saying I’d not return it - seems a bit lose-lose to me!

If I found a wallet or something else worth returning (as opposed to, say, a receipt that had blown away) the first thing I’d think is “man, whoever lost this must be going nuts about it! I had better find them!” and not “sweet! reward!”

I find it odd but not surprising that anyone would think differently in the situation.

I’ve found stuff and returned it before and it never occured to me to ask for any sort of reward. On one occasion, I found a wallet outside a bank. There wasn’t any sort of obvious address, but there were a few bank cards inside. I handed it over to the staff in the bank and figured they could work it out. Another time I was outside a different bank and I saw this guy in a very expesive looking suit step out of his Mercedes and headed off into the bank. I also saw him drop a big roll of money. How much? I have have no idea, but it wasn’t chump change. I picked it up, caught up with him and handed it back. He looked a little confused.

I used to work 3rd shift at Kinko’s. A lady was using the self-serve copiers at about 4:30 AM, and left kind of a mess when she left the store. I went out to clean it up and found her wallet there. I opened it to see if I could find a name, then maybe look in the phone book and call her. I couldn’t find any ID, but I did find several hundred bucks. I figured she’d be back for it, so I threw it in the safe in the back of the store.

About 20 minutes later, she came back and started frantically looking around the copiers for her wallet. I told her it was in the safe, and I went to get it. She immediately opened it, offered me $100 for my honesty, and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Instead of taking the $100, I said “Ya know, I’m kind of hungry and don’t get off for 3 hours, and I’m all alone here. How about you just run over to Wal-Mart, grab me some Cheetoes and a Dr. Pepper and we’ll call it even?” She did. I thought it was a great compromise. Although as a poor 18 year old working 3rd shift at Kinkos, I really could have used that $100.

Interesting. I read the same article you did and I noticed that the author mentioned that part of it might have to do with culture as well. Would any of our Latin American dopers agree that this is the case?

Of course I would do my best to find the owner or if found in a store give it to the help desk. I’ve lost things and gotten them back this way, and have returned expensive items when found. I would never expect a reward…it’s just good karma.

Thanks for all the responses. I’m glad people here are as shocked about the $450 cell phone ransom as I am!

Once, while in college, I lost my wallet while on summer break in Virginia Beach (in a park, I think). Whoever found it mailed it back to me - anonymously - about two years later! There wasn’t any money in it, but honestly I couldn’t remember if it had any money when I lost it anyway. It did have my Social Security Card, though, so I was glad to have that back (yes, I know, don’t carry your SS card around with you…)

Expecting a reward for giving someone something that belongs to them strikes me as being totally obnoxious.

I found a cell-phone once - in order to find the owner I went through the phone book stored in it until I found the number that said “home.” I called it and said “Hi! I have your phone! Where can I bring it to you?” I delivered it to the owner and she was very happy to get it back. I can’t imagine having said “Super - now give me $20!”


I would never assume I “deserved” a reward no matter what the amount.

Several years back I found a wallet in a snowbank while brushing off my car. I took it to work with me and called the guy up (using his business cards). When he met me where he lost it that evening, he gave me a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. I never expected any sort of reward but made little effort to refuse the champagne because it’s harder to turn down an actual gift as opposed to cash.

On the other hand, about 8 years ago while on my way to a bar for a night of carousing with my friends I found $450 bound in a rubber band laying in the gutter outside the el stop. There was no identification whatsoever and no one was around.

I paid for all the drinks that night.

No, I don’t feel entitled.

I’ve found wallets before, and I do my best to return them. I don’t take any cash if there is any and refuse a reward.

Cash though, unless I’ve seen specifically who dropped it I usually pocket it. It’s never been more than 5 bucks though (last time I recall, I was doing my morning rounds in the store and found a five laying on the ground. It had to have been there since the previous night as no one had been that way since closing and the store had yet to open. I bought myself lunch).

Actually, the last one was just last week. I spotted a shopping bag at my bus stop and when I peeked in I saw a (very expensive) children’s outfit and receipts. I knew who that belonged to though, a lady I work with had showed it to me just hours before, so I brought it in on Monday. She was very happy to get it back.

I have returned four or five wallets in my life. Always intact, and always a reward has been offered. (I wasn’t in it for the money, but when you are 13 in the 1960s $20 bucks was a big deal)
Anyway the last time was probably the funniest. I found a wallet outside a local Trader Joe’s.
I drove to the address listed on the driver’s license. Nobody home. I tried to find a phone number for the name. No listing.
I drove to the Police station
Me: Hi I found this wallet and would like to turn it in
Policeman: :eek:
::: Policeman open wallet, sees money:::
:eek: :eek:
Boy you are honest!
Me: I tried to deliver it to the address listed on the driver’s license, but nobody was home.
Policeman: :eek: :eek: :eek: Wow I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone doing this.
Me: Because it usually isn’t this hard to give one back, I haven’t needed you guys.
Policeman: you’ve done this before?
Me: yeah 3 or 4 times in my life.
Policeman: Boy are you a nice guy
Me: :smiley: