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Who Should Get This Found Money?

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Two days before Christmas, I sat in the local coffee shop waiting to meet someone who was late. Way late. Bored, I switched between cleaning crap mail out of my iPhone 6 inbox and watching patrons. Looking up from a text message, I spotted something green under a chair about 5 meters away. I walked over and picked up unexpected cash, and an amount someone surely would miss. What to do with it?

Found money is a blessing if you need it, but a curse to the loser. This particular WiFi-equipped barista bar, LeStat’s on Park, is popular with college students. I imagined some impoverished, scholarshiper losing the last of his or her Christmas cash, and I wanted to return it. But how? To whom? You can help answer the latter question, either here or on one of the social networks where I will link. This post is plea for advice. 

Rewind: Few minutes before discovering the money, three women in their early 20s, if that old, mulled over the same spot waiting for coffee. They had left LeStat’s and sat outside. I approached them: “I know this is a strange question, but how much money do each of you have?” I presumed one of them might have dropped the cash after paying for a sugary coffee drink. Let them look and see, without my revealing valuable information that might let someone other than the legitimate loser claim ownership. Two of the women don’t carry cash, and the other had hers. I explained reason for asking.

I considered turning in the money to LeStat’s. But whom can you really trust these days? The amount, which this post later will reveal, was less than $100 but plenty enough to fill up the shop’s tip jar or slip into a thieving barista’s pocket. As a journalist accustomed to being lied to, I’m not trusting enough to hand over responsibility for found money to someone else. Hours later I made a decision and posted to Craigslist: “Found: Money (University Heights)…You tell me how much, the denominations, and where you lost it. I will assume in good faith you are the owner. The sum isn’t huge but surely matters to someone at Christmas”.

The rest of this post reveals the responses, with names changed but content otherwise uncorrected. The last interaction, and the longest, is where your advice is needed.

Sandra, December 24, 8:48 a.m.: omg was it 235 that was half of my rent money???
My response, 13 minutes later: Sorry it was much much less.
Paul, December 24, 12:47 p.m.: 245$ down town San Diego it was by a small business
My response, 21 minutes later: Sorry, Paul, what I found was much less and in University Heights. Wish I could have helped.
Rachel, December 27, 2:30 a.m.: 143.00 ,,,,,, I thought I lost it in allied gardens near vons buf then I also hang in u,heights alot,,,, if this is mine it is all 20’s,7 total and 2-3 one dollar bills
My response, December 27, 6:44 a.m.: Hi, Rachel, I found much less and somewhere else. Good Luck, Joe.

Now we come to the interaction for which I ask your advice.

Dick, December 27, 4:21 a.m.: $100 (five 20’s) in LeStats.
My response, December 27, 6:42 a.m.: Do you remember about what time and what day, Dick, and likely whereabouts inside or outside the shop? The denominations are right and location but not the amount found. Joe
Dick, 7 minutes later: Dude. The last 4 days are a blur man. I was so fucked up. I hate the holidays. My buddy said the last time he saw me with money was at lestats like 3 days ago. Im missing my wallet, my keys, and my backpack. I only ever take out $20s I never carry anything bigger. You didn’t happen to find a mesa college backpack did you as well?

Uh-oh. He sent a third message while I responded to the second but assumed my response was to the latest. Read carefully.

Dick, December 27, 7:03 a.m.: Awww fuck it. Keep it! Merry fucking christmas. This year can suck my dick! Thanks for looking out and all. Alot of people wouldn’t have done that.
My response to the 6:49 a.m. message at 7:22 a.m.: The money probably isn’t yours then, Dick. Wrong amount, and there was nothing else with the cash. No backpack. Did you ask LeStat’s if someone turned in a backpack? Three days ago, meaning 23rd or Christmas Eve? Time of day?
Dick, eight minutes later, clearly thinking the reply is to a later email: Man. Nevermind. Good luck when that karma catches up with you. You had to convince yourself that its not my fucking money. I just offered it to you. Its yours now. Take it. I know its my money. How else would I have known it was lestats? Go ahead and rationalize it so you dont feel guilty anymore. I would have rather had my wallet and my backpack back rather than the money anyways. That shit is going to task me forever to get situated. ID, credit cards, flash drives, repair software, work clothes. Shoes. Merry christmas again. Next time dont be an ass and offer to give back the money when you never had any intention of doing so in the first place.

I shared this exchange with my wife, who at this point suggested giving the guy the money because he claimed to lose so much more. My response: “But what if someone steps forward who clearly lost the money?” They provide the right information.

Dick, December 27, 7:33 a.m. (this dude types faster than me): Time of day!?!?! I was shjt faced drunk for 48hrs and then on coke and drunk for the last 48hrs. Things are blending together. I know I was there…I know I had money when we were there…and thats all about I remember. I think it might have been in the morning. But it might have been afternoon. I really have gaps in the last 4 days. Brown out

My replies run behind. My next one is to the email above and the other before it.

My response, 12 minutes later: Dick, chill pill time, dude. I sent the reply before seeing that you had sent another telling me to keep the money, which likely isn’t yours. Good karma is getting the money to whoever lost it. If I thought it was your money, I’d give it to you. The amount I found was less than $100. I am sure lots of people lose money at the coffee shop. If the amount, denominations, and location were right, I already would have offered it to you. I hope you find your backpack and wallet, which, as you say, matter a helluva lot more. What kind of asshole wouldn’t turn that stuff in? Maybe someone did somewhere else you went that day. 23rd? Christmas Eve? Or you just can’t remember?
Dick, December 27, 7:55 a.m.: how many different ways do you want me to explain it?? 4 days ago, before i started drinking. i took $200 out of the atm. All in $20’s. I then continued to get fucked up with my buddies that are in for the holidays. I barely even remember being at LeStats, let alone paying for anything. The last thing i remember is that there was $100 left IN MY WALLET. Blackout. Then coke on christmas and yesterday crash. Today I’m having the most retarded conversation with the man who found my wallet most likely. How else would you know Im Dick? It wasnt a guess. I knew where, i knew the denomonations, and i knew what was in my fucking wallet. Rationalize your way out of that one asshole. I said keep it because I knew you werent going to give back my money, because who the fuck does that these days.
My response, December 27, 8:17 a.m.: I know your name because the “from” on the email says “Dick Tracy”. The money wasn’t found in a wallet. I want to be clear so you keep looking for it and your backpack. I don’t have either, and I understand your venting frustration at me. But I got to say, responses like yours make people like me trying to do the right thing just say “fuck it”.

I decide that the money is better given to San Diego homeless. Then comes one final email.

Dick, December 27, 8:33 a.m.: Thats a test of ones true character. You fail. I already knew that when you questioned me after I told you what happened. Hope $60 of my money makes you feel better about your life.

He correctly identifies the amount found! So should Dick get the money? If I was guessing based on the amount of information given to him, $60 would be it. Maybe Dick reasoned it and really wants the cash. I’d like your opinion about how to read the exchange. Is he playing the guilt trip, hoping to get some easy money? Is he someone who lost valuables and sought to identify the finder? Is he angry about losing his stuff and venting against me? All? None? You tell me, and, please advise what to do: Give the lost loot to Dick or to San Diego homeless?

No one else will step forward, because in revealing so much information in this post, I removed the Craigslist Lost and Found item.

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