Burbank: Do finders-keepers rules apply to adults?

18 August 2023

Today’s guest commentary is from KIRO Newsradio Producer David Burbank, filling in for Dave Ross and talking about a dilemma everyone has probably faced at least once.

What do you do if you find cash on the ground? It’s a question I’ve been pondering since I was a little kid.

When you’re young, finding money on the ground is just about as close to winning the lottery as you can get. But as an adult, I feel it brings up some ethical questions.

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And I’m not talking about finding a wallet. That one’s easy. It has credit cards in, a driver’s license, so obviously, you return that to the owner. It’s usually pretty easy to track them down.

I’m talking about finding cash on the ground when nobody is around. And when the previous owner of that cash is a complete unknown, what’s the protocol? What’s your responsibility as the finder of that cash?

I’m pondering this today because I have a friend who I’m just going to keep anonymous for the moment. And that friend shared with me an experience they had this week. This friend lives in an apartment complex with a big underground parking structure. And last week, as they were walking to their car, they saw the unmistakable sheen of cold hard cash on the ground.

According to them, the spot on the ground where they found the money was in the middle of the garage, not near any cars, and not another soul was in the garage at the time.

They bent down to pick up the cash expecting it to be like a $1 bill or maybe even a $5 bill if they were lucky. Instead, they picked it up to discover the face of Benjamin Franklin looking back at them.

That’s right, a crisp $100 bill. They couldn’t believe their luck. $100 just fell into their lap. Or did it?

Because this is where my dilemma begins, $ 100 is a lot of money, and whoever dropped it would definitely miss that dough. But who dropped it? How are you supposed to find out the owner of this missing $100?

Well, there is an answer or at least a lead to that answer. For the safety of everyone parked in that garage, the building owners set up several surveillance cameras. Is it possible that one of those cameras picked up the moment when the money fell out of someone’s pocket?

Yes, of course, it’s possible. But my friend still had some hesitations. Their apartment is owned by a notoriously soulless Property Management Group. And what if my friend took the money to them in the hope of returning it to the rightful owner just to have the Property Management Worker pocket the cash for themselves?

So my friend came to this decision, they are keeping the cash, and honestly, I can’t blame them or disagree with them. I’ve never found more than $1 on the ground. But I think I would do the same thing they did. Does that make me a bad person? Let us know on the text line at 889-735-4760.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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