Samaritan or Cynic?
As I walked up to the bank of ATMs, one of them was already beeping at me. There was another gentleman using the one to its left and I grabbed a deposit envelope and approached it. There in its money maw was a stack of new crisp $20 bills. A receipt for someone else’s transaction fluttered softly from the receipt slot.
“Someone’s gonna be in a world of pain,” the other man, dressed in a business suit and holding his own cash withdrawal, said to me as I looked at the wad of cash. It looked like around $300. He pointed out that, “At least they remembered to take their card.”
Several thoughts occurred to me in quick succession.
- I could take the cash. If someone was dumb enough to leave it here in a beeping ATM, they deserve to learn a lesson.
- I could take the cash into the bank and let them sort it out. If I did something dumb like this, I’d still hope there was someone decent out in the world.
- I could split the cash with this guy so he’d keep his mouth shut.
- There’s a camera pointed at me right now.
He asked, “They don’t print the account number on the receipt.” I looked at it, and said, “There’s a partial card number here.” It felt like an awful lot of money. They were all new twenties, like Monty Hall might give me when I turned down what’s behind curtain number three.
I took the money and the receipt from the machine, walked into the branch and handed it to a loan representative, who looked aghast and thanked me for my honesty.
But my first inclination was to take the cash. Think of the Wonka chocolate bars it would buy!
What would you have done?
August 3, 2005