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Find some cash on the ground: How much is too much to pocket?


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Few things can create so many smiles with such certainty, even if it’s the smallest of smirks, then when one finds a small coin on the ground. It’s one of the rare positive moments we can actually assign a true literal value. Money doesn’t buy you happiness but finding it helpless and unaccompanied on the street floor will make you feel it, if only slightly and for the briefest of moments.

Upon spotting a penny your brain cries: “oh look a penny.” Silver coins are obviously more illustrious though everyone's reaction to pocketing them is slightly different. A pound and well you’re balling, drinks on you, some may even choose to tell others of their experience, if a conversation begins to fall flat they may add: “I found a pound coin today” or something similar to that ilk.

Notes though are where it gets difficult. We’ve all had that conversation: “If you found X amount of money all alone what would you do?” Some limit themselves to a fiver, others will seek out those in the area trying to return the stray dollars to its original pocket. They may promise to give it to charity whilst the blunter among us simply recall: “Finders keepers.”  

It was interesting re-immersing myself in this debate when my editor sent me a Sun story entitled ‘Skip workers stumbled upon binliner filled with £20 notes worth £7k.’ As with most tabloids, the majority of the article has already been summarised by the piece’s title, I will expand, however, that the workers handed the cash to the police who thus far, are unable to trace its original owner.

This addition is important, I presumed ‘alerting the authorities,’ was the standard protocol. Of course, we all dream of stumbling across a heap of banknotes, aren’t we all in need of a small fortune? It’s a debate that has inconspicuously been ingrained in popular culture, the last episode of BBC Two’s Inside Number Nine, for instance, laid a scene where one character found £93,000 which debatably was not under her ownership. But, for me, I would always like to imagine I would ‘do the right thing’ and hand it over. Though this is all hypothetical.

I scrolled down to the comments, as I shamefully do for all the articles I read, and attempted to gauge the public opinion. “Honesty is always the best policy.” one commenter said agreeing with my sentiment, “It seems these guy's are going to reap the benefit of their honesty,” a swift reply, however, stated a juxtaposing opinion: “lol honesty is not the best policy..  they would of been guaranteed the right to keep it if they had just took it home, they may well not get it to keep it through honesty..  Nice guys do not finish first in this world.”

I still remain adamant speaking out is the best direction to take but the clause: “They may well not get to keep it.” stuck with me. In the article one of the workers said: “Anything they can give us is a bonus as we did not expect to find anything in the first place.” As righteous as that may sound I couldn’t avoid thinking maybe in such a situation we must allow a finders fee. As the employees otherwise may not see any of the money, would it not be so unreasonable if they took a cut before handing it over if £7,000 suddenly became £5,000?

I would be less skeptical if I knew say, the money was going to charity or at the very least put towards a worthy course, a friend's rent, an operation or even university tuition fees.

I thought this over but then I put myself in their situation, imagining the idea of trying to undercut the authorities and pocketing a percentage. In my eyes, simply stashing the dough would lead to more problems than it solves. What if you’re handling stolen good or depriving someone of their life savings? Furthermore its cash, more suited to little and often rather than the one big purchase. No, under my ownership the notes would lie under my bed gathering dust, I’d be too worried to spend it.

Fair play to those skip workers though, they did the right thing.

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