Find $100, pick it up?

Yeah, I pick up pennies. I’ve always loved the lure of a little lucky copper facing up at me. Place that penny in my pocket and the bounce in my step is a little more springy, my stride a little more steppy. Guess I like to believe in lady luck, even if the denomination is tiny, or now obsolete in Canada.

unclaimed money

That said, finding a fiver, a toonie, or even a loonie on the ground is waaaay better. I don’t tend to get a case of the ‘The Morality Sweats’ when finding this lost loot — it’s small change after all, and anyone who spies a buck or two on an abandoned sidewalk is likely to feel morally happy with the find.

Free money, yay! What’s not to love about that?

But things can get a little morally murky when the found cash sums up to something meaningful. That’s the conundrum Carl faced when he rang me on my iPhone the other day. Our conversation went something like this…

Carl: I have a huge problem.
Me: Are we about to have phone $ex? Where are you?

Carl: In the Future Shop parking lot.
Me: Oh, gadget $ex. Easy, don’t go into Future Shop and you won’t bring anything battery powered home.

Carl: Nooo!
Me: Yesss!

Carl: Nooo! I found a hundred dollar bill in the parking lot. It’s one of those new plastic bills. It’s shiny.
Me: Oh, those are slippery suckers. They don’t fold well, and they tend to bounce when dropped. Hate the plastic twenty dollar bills passionately.

Carl: What should I do?
Me: Easy, don’t go into Future Shop.

Carl: No seriously, Squawks. There’s no one in the parking lot.
Me: That’s ’cause they’ve all pocketed the other lost bills and they’re hitting Future Shop, hard.

Carl: I’m sweating. I feel bad for the person who lost this money. Maybe they’re a senior?
Me: OK, I’ll ask the Internet. The Internet will know what to do with one hundred plastic bucks.

click

So WolframAlpha, a super nerdy yet cool “computational knowledge engine”, says it takes 10,000 pennies to make one hundred dollars. Since 10,000 pennies weighs 23kg, or about 10.5 pounds, it’s way easier to pocket the plastic “C Note” than it is to bring home a bag of deprecated pennies. Pennies are boring. Plastic bills are fun to fold and beautiful to bounce.

But since Carl was sweating it out in the Future Shop parking lot, I quickly came up with a few ways to deal with found money based on my limited experience of finding money. Hint: Buying cool gadgets isn’t one of them.

50 Ways to Save $1,000 a Year

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50 Ways to Save $1,000 a Year

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Money found with identification.

This is a big case of duh, right? I once found a fat wallet while riding an OC Transpo bus around Carleton University in Ottawa. The owner’s driver’s license quickly identified the guy, and a quick lookup in the local phone book — yes, we still used phone books back then — found me the guy. He was very happy with my honesty, and I nearly landed a date with a very much older man. But rather than secure myself a sugar daddy, I instead scored twenty bucks for my trouble. If you have identification, yes return the cash. Seriously. I’ll leave the sugar daddy decision up to you. 😉

Money found in a place, no identification.

There are a lot of places on planet Earth. Businesses comprise a few places, and so do private homes. If you find cash in a private home, it’s safe to assume the homeowner owns the cash. But a business? This happened once to me in Erin Mills Town Centre — a mall in Mississauga. I found a fifty dollar bill in front of The Gap, and felt elated, yet terrible with the knowledge that someone had lost this money. So I went into The Gap, gave the manager my home number and said if someone comes in looking for “a certain denomination” then they should call me. I also left my number with the mall’s customer service desk. I felt uneasy leaving the money with these people, simply because I trusted my honesty more than some stranger. No one ever called, so I kept the unclaimed money. Go me.

Money found, zero identification, no one in sight.

Smaller denominations are a no brainer finders keepers situation for me since it’s common to find a few bucks on a sidewalk. If I found a big stash of cash, on the other hand, I’d call the police. Now defining “smaller denominations” from “a big stash of cash” is the tricky bit — so here’s where I’d like to hear from you guys.

Help! If you found $100 would you keep it? What if you found more, say $500 or $1,000? Creative answers and honesty get bonus points from me, always. 🙂

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Ruth Cooke April 22nd, 2013

    I’m with those who would try to return it. I would have done what you did about the $50–leave my name and number at the service desk of Future Shop.

    To the people who said $100 is just about a day’s work at minimum wage–yes, it is. If you happen to have a full day’s work at minimum wage. If you’re on disability or welfare or a pension, that $100 might represent one tenth or more of your income for the entire month. And even a day’s work is a lot of money to throw away for most people, especially at minimum wage. I know that if I lost a hundred dollar bill, I’d feel quite ill at the thought as my base expenses currently outstrip my income, and losing it would mean I’d be unable to pay a bill or two that month.

  2. Aceling April 22nd, 2013

    I found $100 years ago at a bank machine. I contacted the bank and they gave me the name and phone number of a lady who had deposited an empty envelope. I was very hard up for cash and this would have permitted me to buy much needed groceries. Nonetheless, she came to pick it up and gave me a lovely red rose in a vase (could have used the cash!).
    As for the Police, if you turn money in, they will give U a receipt and upon the prescribed time, you can contact them to see if it has bee retrieved by the owner. If not, it’s yours. Same goes for bikes, jewellery, etc. Honesty is still the best policy. And you’ll sleep better. Remember, it was never yours in the first place.

  3. Kristen April 22nd, 2013

    The money is not yours. If you can’t return it, turn it into the police. If you can’t do that, then donate it anonymously to charity. I repeat, it is not yours.

  4. Tori April 22nd, 2013

    I once found a 50 in a parking lot outside a drugstore. There were a few people in the parking lot but no one close and no one looking like they had just dropped a 50 sheet. Like Carl, I was rattled. I felt as though it was “bloodmoney”. I toiled with keeping it, or giving it to a charity or turning it in. I ended up keeping it in my wallet until about 6 months later when a frantic woman came into another drug store I happened to be in (I guess I go to a lot of drugstores) crying, saying that she needed money to take the bus to her parents house because “the guy she met on the internet turned out to be abusive”. I waited until I was outside to talk to her so as to not cause a scene when I gave her the money. She cried, hugged and thanked me and I kind of shrugged it off, wished her well and went on my way. She could have been lying, it could have all been a big scam but the money was never mine in the first place and even if she was lying, she clearly needed the money more than I did.

  5. Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide April 22nd, 2013

    Easy. I’d go into the nearest store and say I found something of value, here’s my info, if someone calls or comes in about it in the next three days, have them call me and describe what they lost, and I’ll give it to them.

    🙂

  6. RW-in-DC April 22nd, 2013

    Once upon a time, I was the person who inadvertently left $20 in the ATM. The nice gentleman directly after me came up to me and said “I think you…”: I cut him off as I was trained in urban areas to be suspicious of strangers, especially strange me. He kept the $20 — it was a lesson to me when I realized the cost of my distrust.

  7. Lisa April 23rd, 2013

    I hope I would do exactly what you did in the mall… go into FS, tell the manager you found something (maybe specify money, maybe not), if someone comes in looking for it to call you. I lost $20 once and it made me feel sick, can’t imagine $100. Although I think about all the times I’ve wasted $20 on junk and not had a second thought. Funny.

  8. Lynera April 24th, 2013

    Probably about 20 years ago, my siblings and I were playing with the neighbourhood kids in the park on Easter Sunday when I found a brand new $50 bill under a bush. I rode my bike straight home and made my mom call the police because I was worried that someone had lost so much money and would be looking for it (10 year old logic – I had never seen a $50 before). A nice officer came out to our house a few days later and the first thing he did was crumple it up! Apparently there was a rash of counterfeit bills in our area, primarily $50s – who knew? Anyway, turns out it was real and he took it with him and told me that if no one claimed it, he would bring it back to me. Several months later, having completely forgotten all about it, a police car showed up at our house and the same officer brought 10 year old me back the $50 and thanked me for doing the right thing.

  9. GT May 6th, 2013

    My seven-year old found a toonie on the floor at the dentist. Being an honest kid, he gave it to the dental assistant, who promptly smiled, put the toonie in his pocket, and said, “Thanks, that’ll by me coffee!”

    We have since asked our dentist if we could avoid that assistant. (He was annoying in other ways too…”

  10. Mike T May 6th, 2013

    hmmm that’s a noggin’ scratcher. I think because it’s found money, money you didn’t have in the first place, you might as well do some good with it.

    I’d probably donate it or pass it on to someone that needs it. I don’t have a lot of money but a lot of people have far less. They should have it.

  11. Ralph B May 15th, 2013

    When I was a kid (a long time ago) I found a wallet on the sidewalk. There was no-one else around. Took a look inside to see if I could find an address, got it from the driving license.

    There must have been over $500 in there, plus several credit cards. The address was about a mile away so I took it there myself. Knocked on the door, got a “whaddyawant?” from the owner. I held out the wallet, she snatched it out of my hand and slammed the door. No thank you.

    What’s the lesson here? No idea, maybe karma came back and bit her in the butt, maybe it blessed me. But I still remember it like it was yesterday.

  12. Cassie July 3rd, 2013

    In high school I found $20 on the sidewalk in the fall- i turned it into the front office and forgot about it. Much to my surprise on the last day of school I was called into the office and the principal gave me the $20 saying no one had claimed it all year so it was mine now.

    Also when my family went to the fair once my dad found a roll of hundreds on the ground. It totaled around 2000 dollars but was rolled so tightly it didn’t look like much. He did the right thing and turned it into the exhibition office. They took his name phone number etc. A few days later a gentleman stopped in and gave him a reward (not sure how much it was) and thanked him for turning it in.

    Recently I found $50 tucked under the windshield of my car. I didn’t drop it myself but someone must have assumed the owner of the car parked in that spot had. I held on to it for a couple months thinking if someone came into my office and asked if someone had found the denominations found and general area it was lost and matched…I’d return the money. No one did so eventually it got used for an evening out.

  13. alex July 15th, 2013

    It seems that all those who said they did not receive any compensation when returning the lost item to the owner, were disapointed. Showing that even if they are doing the “right” thing, the are expecting a reward. Kinds of defeat the whole purpose, no?

  14. Nathalie January 17th, 2014

    I would donate the money that I found to a worthy cause or charity (SPCA, homeless shelter). Technically you are not benefiting from the money but someone else will.

  15. Karen March 1st, 2015

    I was shopping in the mall in Nelson,B.C. and stopped at the KFC to get my teenager something to eat. We were waiting to go to his annual diabetic appointment with the pediatric specialist(this was a day trip from our smaller community.So we had already spent the money for gas and meals,purchased some clothes for him at Walmart and got up to leave and left behind his bag of jeans on the seat. we went back within 2 minutes and they were gone. Everybody in the KFC didnt see them. I am 100% sure one of them saw who took them ,customer or staff none would
    admit it. What goes around comes around. My only hope is that they didnt fit the thief.and so they were of no benefit to him/her. We have returned cash ,credit cards,etc while being managers of an apt complex though out the years as well as many other lost belongings. A tenant came to me and gave me a $50 dollar bill some one lost in front of the mailboxes,I posted a sign about lost money and no one ever claimed it so I returned it to him after 3 mons. As for Ralph B good for you believe in yourself,that person my have been grumpy but that could have been rent or other important money.

  16. Aceling March 1st, 2015

    Times are tough out there, and I truly honour YOUR honesty! I hope that person gets to read what you wrote; you might even put it in a local paper. That can sometimes attract some attention, and maybe get your jeans back.

    I would just like to add that whoever took your jeans may also have needed them more than you needed them, and I hope you can let go of the expectation of someone owning up to this. It will only affect you and not the other person. You are a much better human being. Anger will only fester into something more unpleasant than what you are presently experiencing. You could have phoned the police or reported the incident to the local authorities or the KFC head office. Life is not perfect, and you face many challenges with your son’s medical issues. Be strong and always remember you are a better person than most. True integrity is hard to find these days. Blessings to you!

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