Saturday, September 19, 2009

Honesty and Cynicsm

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Our family made a trip to Walmart last week and when we (finally) got to the checkout with two overflowing baskets, several of the kids headed to the self checkout to pay for the things they were buying with their own money.

When MaddieLynn came back, she reported that she had found a $20 bill, which she suspected was left by the man who had been in line in front of her. He had already left by the time she discovered it, so she was wondering what to do.

We sent her to the service desk to ask how they handle found money. She was sent from there to a station where a manager would speak to her about it.

The news that she had found an unspecified amount of money must have traveled quickly because by the time we met up with her, there were four Walmart employees advising her on what to do.

Our main concern was getting the money to its proper owner, which we deducted was the man who had left the register ahead of MaddieLynn.

The employees, including the manager, seemed intent on taking possession of the money, which we were not willing to hand over until we found out the policy for handling found money.

We heard three different stories about the policy for handling these situations.

  1. The money is put in the "Walmart associates fund".
  2. The money is put in a "children's charity fund".
  3. The money is put in a drawer and kept there until the owner inquires about it.
During these explanations, two of the employees had their hands out and advised us to hand the money over to them.

We hadn't divulged the amount found and I guess they may have concluded that it was a large amount.

Call me cynical, but I suspected that none of them had any intention of seeing to it that the rightful owner of the money ever saw it again.

I suggested that we leave our name and number, and even produced a little card with that information on it, and said that if anyone could identify the amount found, we would be glad to return it to them.

The manager did not like that idea and handed the card back to me. She asked if I really wanted twenty people calling, telling me they lost a $2.40 cents and added in something about "doing the right thing" and walked away.

The Smockity Bunch huddled up to discuss what to do next and we all agreed that we didn't want to keep something that belonged to someone else. I wasn't very keen on handing it over to people who I didn't think would return it. I mean if the original owner never inquired about it and someone was going to get to keep it, it might as well be MaddieLynn. Right?

Since we knew there was no way of contacting the man who lost it, and it was entirely possible that he would come back, or at least call and ask for it, we decided that we would hand it over to the employees of Walmart and they would then have the responsibility to "do the right thing".

We walked out to the parking lot in silence. I think we were all thinking the same thing. That man is never going to see his money again and somebody just got an easy twenty bucks.

What would you have done?


Tara-Lynn said...

Couldn't the employees just look at the check-out computer and see who the guy was? Because, don't they keep a list of receipts and stuff like that?

JenT said...

The same thing happened to us. Our 8 year old son is a money magnet. He is ALWAYS finding lost change under shelves and checkouts in stores. One day he found a twenty dollar bill on the floor at the grocery store. We suspected it belonged to the lady who had just left. We gave it to the customer service person. We felt better about turning it in, but as you said, they probably just got an easy 20 bucks.

Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free said...

Eesh. That is a hard one.

I liked your idea of leaving your contact information with them in case the owner came back. But, since they wouldn't go for it, I think that you did do the right thing by leaving it to them to get back to the owner--but there is always that suspicion that they won't. The weight is off you if he does come back looking for it. Fingers crossed that they handled it correctly!

Weird Unsocialized Mom said...

I wish the person who found Megan's autograph book at Disney would have been as honest as your family. If they had, we would have had the book back within an hour and she could have continued collecting autographs, rather than crying in the middle the of the Magic Kingdom over her lost book.

I think you did the right thing. Even if the Wal-mart folks don't do the right thing, your conscience is clear because you did all you could to get the money back to its owner.

Elizabeth said...

wow! I think I would have let her keep it, with the promise that she would do something good with half or with all of it if she wanted. my kids would love buying $20 worth of groceries and taking it to the food bank.

Tereza Crump aka MyTreasuredCreations said...

the person who lost the money certainly will be back at Walmart looking for it. Leaving the money there transfers the responsibility from you to the Walmart staff. You did the right thing. I would also have prayed and asked God to bring the person back and that his money would make its way back to his hands. Then trusted God to take care of it. Not the Walmart people, but God. He is the One ultimately in control, right? :) tereza

Rachel said...

Yikes. Well, I think a letter to Walmart is in order. I mean, if they can't even get their policy straight, then how do I know that if I lose my wallet there (as I am prone to do), the "right" person will do the "right" thing with it?

And what if this had been a larger amount of money?

It seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to stick a post-it note on it with "found 9/18/09 at register 14 at 3:30 PM" or something like that and then HAVE A PLACE for it for a week. If they have nothing like that in place, or none of their employees know it, that is a problem.

And if you didn't want to do a letter, I'd at least copy this blog post (maybe deleting names) and send it to them.

Heather said...

I think you did the right thing but I certainly would have had the same inner conflict as you did.

Michelle said...

My dh worked at a grocery store where he found a gold watch, which he turned over to the manager. The next week he saw the manager wearing said watch. So we are cynical. We would probably turn it in but feel bad because there was no easy way out of that situation.

Every store needs to have a posted lost and found policy.

Jerri said...

It happened to me as well but it was $100.00 and I called and asked and tried to give it back and they told me it would be given to a charity. I decided the charity would be me. What is wrong with keeping something you found if you have no way of finding the owner?
Maddie Lynn did nothing wrong by finding it, she couldn't give it back. I think she should have kept it no strings attached and then been told what a responsible young woman she was for trying to return it!

abba12 said...

I know full well the money wouldn't have made it's way back to the man, I found a $50 note once, same thing.

I probably would have had maddie lynn take the money, and use it to buy food for a food bank or can drive, or something similar along those lines, and perhaps allowed her a small treat from it like a chocolate bar.

Jamie said...

Here's an idea.
Maybe you could cash the $20 into $1 dollar bills and your children can think of interesting places to "leave" a dollar so someone will unexpectedly find it. (Like the back pocket of a new pair of pants.) It totally makes a person's day (or at least moment) when they find money.

As far as the Wal-Mart incident, it depends on the vibe. You got an untrustworthy vibe, so I wouldn't give it to them. But if I got a trustworthy one, then I would.

*Mirage* said...

In agreement with Jamie above me and some of the others I think that since you got the vibe that the WalMart people didn't have a real policy and would be going home with $20 in easy free money that night at that poor man's expense, giving them your card and taking the money home would have been the best thing to do. Then if nobody claimed it, I think it should have gone in the offering plate or to a charity of some sort. When I was a kid I found money alot and my parents told me to keep it but I always put it in the offering plate. I didn't feel right keeping it and knew God would know best what to do with it. But I don't think you were WRONG in giving the WalMart people the money- in a good world you should be able to trust people to do the right thing. It sucks that they seemed like they had dollar signs in their eyes rather than compassion in their hearts.
A month ago I dropped $35 in a little smalltown store. There was only one other customer in there and three employees. I know right where I dropped it. I know one of the employees or the customer stole it and didn't try to return it. I hope the GUILT eats them alive. That money was for my 3 year old's birthday present from her dying grandmother. I really hope the guilt eats them alive for not trying to return it. I cry when I think about it. I spent half an hour in there with the cashier pacing the store crying and searching, while the two teenaged boy employees avoided us and scolded the cashier to get back to the register even though there was no customers in the store but me. I'll give you 1 guess who I think stole my money...

Jennifer said...

That is definitely a sticky situation. I think you did the right thing, but I think another acceptable alternative would have been to keep the money and give it to your church or a family in need. One of the downsides to using cash is that if lost cash is found, it is very difficult to return to its previous owner. I am disappointed to hear about the reaction of the Walmart employees, but I think this is a great teaching experience for you! More important than making sure that $20 is returned to its rightful owner is the opportunity to make an impact on your children's hearts of the importance of honesty in every situation.

Marie said...

I would have left my contact info and returned the money to the first person who called and said the right time, date and amount. If that didn't happen I'd have kept it, no conscience problems whatsoever.

Seth's Mommy said...

First of all, I've had more problems with WalMart than I can count. Second, I've found money before and know for a fact that the employeed kept it because it was a large sum.

I think a donation to church, a charity or something like that would be my choice.

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