What percentage of people would take $200 if there were no likely repercussions?

Another in my series fo threads to assess how cynical Dopers are about their fellow humans. Here’s the sitch:

An eccentric billionaire decides to perform an experiement. He and his staff gather 1000 wallets and stuff them with cash in varying denominations, so that each holds $200 or so. They also place genuine-looking pictures of children, wives, husbands, & so forth in the wallets, along with ID that would easily allow anyone who wished to track down the wallet’s “owner.” They place these wallets in various random spots in a single city–McDonald’s bathrooms, church parking lots, library carrels, bus stops, and so forth. There are no credit or debit cards in the wallets–just cash & photos of the imaginary owners’ and their imaginary families.

Assuming that all the wallets get found & opened, what percentage of the finders will try to return to the money? Also, would YOU try to return the money, if you were one of the unwitting finders? Finally, why do you answer as you do?

I guessed that about half would return it. No idea if that’s right.

I’d return it. In fact, I’ve been in basically this same situtation and did return it - I found a wallet with tons of cash (later I found out the wallet belonged to a waitress, so it was all her tips for the night). It also had a driver’s license, so I was able to track her down pretty easily.

I wouldn’t track someone down for $200 but I’d toss the wallet in a mailbox and let them deal with getting it back. As far as who would take the money I’d figure that at least 20% could use the money bad enough to take it and 10% more could use the spending cash but would probably return the wallet.

If the location of the experiment was Japan, I would say that a small % of finders would keep it.

Similar type incident actually occured in Japan in 2007. Cash was left in men’s toilets across Japan, not in wallets, just loose with notes, indicating the finder was supposed to spend it as they pleased. Most of the money was turned into authorities.

I have lost my wallet three different times and always had it returned. Once was in a poor neighborhood outside of a gas station and the clerk had it safe and sound the next day with nothing touched. Another was after I had just moved and none of my contact information in my wallet was correct. The couple that found it still found me through their own research. The other was just someone that saw me drop it and returned it right away. I think most people would return it even if it means going a little bit out of their way. I have returned wallets and purses as well.

I thought they did a study like this a few years ago, actually, and something like 85% of people returned the wallet. I still think a lot of people would.

I would try to find the owner/return it.

Unless I pass GO.:smiley:

I think about half to two thirds of people would need/want the money enough to keep it (at least some of it). Not sure how many would send the empty wallet back, though.

Me, I’d definitely send the wallet back. Unless it was a nearby address that I knew how to get to, I would do it by mail. I’d probably take a few busks for services rendered, I’ll admit, but not the whole two hundred.

I lost my wallet once. Never did find the damn thing.

I have no idea what other people would do.

My heart would be too torn by pictures of children and thoughts of what their parents need the money for to take it. In different circumstances I would keep found money. I do think it’s wrong to steal from individuals, but if there was no ID to track down the owner of something valuable I wouldn’t have a second of guilt.

Reader’s Digest (at least here in Canada) usually does something like this once a year or so. They’ll drop ten wallets throughout a city with about fifty bucks inside each one. Then they’ll compare which cities return the most intact wallets out of the ten they “drop.” in that city. Sometimes they’ll sort the cities by size (bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal in one group, smaller ones like Moncton, New Brunswick and Red Deer, Alberta in another one, etc.)

IIRC, it’s rare that they don’t get at least half the wallets back intact. Sometimes, they’ll even get all ten.

EDIT: I’d try to return the money if there were contact information. But if I were to find two hundred bucks just lying loose somewhere, it’s mine.

I’d hand it in to the police, even if found loose. Note that here in the U.K., if it’s not claimed within a certain time (I forget how long), it becomes yours. But only if you’ve handed it in to the police.

I guessed 30-40% of people would keep the money, so I took the 34-50% option. I would return the cash, no question, and I find it interesting that a strong majority of people who have responded so far would return the money, but don’t think other people would.

If you google a bit, you’ll find recent studies that show return rates. I won’t repeat the findings to influence the poll.

Well, of course. If it’s 200 bucks just lying there, you have no reasonable way to find the owner, unless you have mutant pychometric powers or something.

I would try to return it and/or turn it into the police. I’ve lost my wallet a couple of times; one time it was returned with the cash, so I’d like to keep my karmic balance on the positive side.

Once in my life I lost a wallet while at work - and at the time I worked collections for a retail rental store (Aarons/Rent-A-Center type). I was at a customers home who was way past-due on a bill regarding most objects in their house furniture-wise. They were almost wrote off as a skip, and we had a week left to contact them and get a payment. We stopped on a Friday and no one was there - but when I stepped out of the truck my wallet must have fallen out. It sat in the driveway all night and through a pretty decent sized downpour, until they got home the next morning, and their dog actually found it. I had already cancelled my cards and stuff, but the cash was a loss in my mind. The wife actually brought it in and laid it on the counter, assuming that since our door-tag was still on the door that one of us had dropped it. They paid their bill, also. Unfortunately, that was the last time we ever heard from them, but they did return the wallet. Since then I would like to think that I would return the wallet/money in a given situation…

Brendon Small

Where’s the option to take the money, and return the wallet? I don’t want some poor guy to have to deal with the DMV because of me – that’d be morally reprehensible.

If I just found the wallet, I’d return it with contents intact.
If, on the other hand, I saw the wallet being placed, I’d check the ID against the person planting the wallet. If they didn’t match, I’d call the police.

I think about 20-30% would keep it. I seem to recall that such a study was actually done at some point (but with less than $200.

I have found a wallet with a bunch of cash in it. I’m not sure how much, because I didn’t take it out to count it. I returned it to its owner.

Right. In a 1995 non-scientific experiment, RD placed 10 wallets with family photos and $50 cash in each of 12 places around the U.S., including big cities, suburbs, and small cities and towns. Seattle finished in first place with 9 of 10 returned. Atlanta and the Houston suburbs were tied for last place with 5 of 10 returned. In all, just over two-thirds of wallets were returned with the money.

I’ve found a wallet with cash in it before, and I admit I considered taking it and just mailing it to the owner sans cash.

Instead, I took it to the address myself and gave it to her with the cash intact. She thanked me profusely, but not monetarily, and I did feel a little disappointed about that. Of course I shouldn’t have, but I did.