Skip to main content

Finders keepers?

A 2p piece on the pavement (photo has been blurred
in case someone recognises it and says 'it's mine')
There are various bits of path I quite often cover on my daily dog walks, and I've noticed a 2p piece on the pavement now for several days. This got me thinking. Clearly a lot of people (me included) couldn't be bothered to pick up 2p. So what is the minimum we'd go for? And what if it were a lot of money? What would be the maximum you would pocket, rather than hand in?

After a very unscientific Twitter/Facebook poll, it was interesting to see quite a few people would pick up any coin (some because picking up a penny is lucky), though others wouldn't bend over for less than a quarter (25¢), or 50p. Personally I think my minimum is 5p financially, but I might leave it because they're just too small and fiddly, making my actual minimum 10p. Others pointed out the condition of the coin mattered - they would only pick a coin up below a certain value if it was 'clean' (I'm not quite sure how anything on the pavement is going to be clean, but I know what they mean).

The large sum aspect generated a more varied response, though quite a few would set a break point around £50-£100/$100. One obvious factor here is where the note(s) were found. If it is on an anonymous bit of pavement, most would quite reasonably be less likely to hand it in than if it's somewhere with an obvious location to do so, like in a shop or outside a bank.

Personally, the lowest I've tried to hand in was £5, which I found in a basket in Tesco - but they didn't want me to hand it in, because it was too much trouble for them to fill in the forms for that amount. I've also handed in £100 which, rather amazingly, I found just sitting in the dispenser of a cash machine at a shopping mall. Someone had made the transaction, taken their card, then walked away leaving a wedge of cash.  As it happens, honesty had its reward here, as it wasn't claimed, so the mall gave it to me, meaning I could keep it without feeling guilty.

Some clearly do feel guilty, though, and mentioned giving the found money to charity instead. I can sort of see the logic of this, though if it's not practical to return it to its owner, I don't see any great onus on the finder to give the money away. I certainly never asked one of my daughters to do this when she used to regular harvest lost notes at Center Parcs. At the end of the rapids outside the swimming pool is a big plunge pool. She used to swim down to the bottom where several times she found notes on the extractor grating. I think it's fair that she kept the money a) because she went to the effort to retrieve it and b) because anyone foolish enough to go round a water rapids with banknotes in their swimwear pocket deserves to lose it.

I'm sure, if it hasn't been done already, there's a nice psychology PhD in the whole business of how we do or don't pick up lost money, what we do with it, and how it makes us feel. I suspect we are much more likely to keep cash than something more concrete - a piece of clothing, say, or a wallet - even if there is still no way to identify the owner. It's almost as if cash is so abstract and transactional that it doesn't really belong to the individual, they just borrow it, so once it is in the public domain it is up for grabs.

Whatever - it makes you think, which can't be bad.


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope