Wallet? You’ll Love It!

One day I was sitting on the bus, absorbed in a podcast as usual. I barely even noticed that the bus had stopped to let some people off. Then it started rolling again. Then from behind me a guy started yelling, “Hey! Wait! Stop!” I thought maybe he’d fallen asleep and almost missed his stop, or had just been so absorbed in something he was listening to he forgot where he wanted to get off. Then he ran to the front of the bus holding a small purse. The driver let him out and the guy yelled, “Hey ma’am!” He ran to a woman walking up the sidewalk and handed her the purse, then ran back to the bus and got back on.
“She does that all the time,” said the driver. “Most of the time I just keep it up here and give it to her when she gets back on.”
I laughed at how bus drivers get to know certain people, and also wondered how many purses that woman lost and if she’d memorized all her credit card numbers, and wondered if I’d chase someone down the street to return a purse, then went back to listening to my podcast.
I was reminded of that incident when I heard about a scientific study to find out whether people around the world would return a lost wallet if they found one. And the good news is they will. Some researchers were surprised by that, and even more surprising to them was that the larger the amount of money in the wallet–some wallets had no money, some had about $13 in local currency, and others had about $100–the more likely people were to return it with the money in it.
Is that really surprising, though? The fake wallets were made to look like they belonged to tourists, and a lot of us who’ve traveled can relate to the experience of losing something so vital as a wallet and money in a strange place. And a lot of locals want tourists to leave with a good impression of a place. What does it say about us though that anyone finds the results surprising? People have a tendency to live up to expectations. For instance most people expect me to be completely oblivious.

6 Comments

  1. theorangutanlibrarian

    I’ll admit, I did find it surprising that people will do the right thing- but happy to hear it! It’s good for assumptions to be wrong sometimes 😉

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thinking about the wallet study it occurred to me we rarely hear about people doing the right thing perhaps in part because it’s more commonplace than we realize. There’s some comfort to be taken in the possibility that goodness is commonplace.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I expect you to be completely non-oblivious, Chris, as well as charming and informative. Thanks for leaving behind another very valuable post for us.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Sometimes I’m lost in my own little world, but I appreciate being thought of as charming and informative. It prompts me to want to always do the right thing.

      Reply
  3. Kristine Laco

    I have returned many wallets, keys, dogs, and children to their proper guardianship so it doesn’t surprise me how many are returned. I don’t have a tendency to lose things, but I expect that karma will help if the time should arise.
    Kristine Laco recently posted…6 US States Use Their Successful Puppy Mill Models to Develop Exciting New Baby RetreatsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Karma may be the main driving force in people returning all those wallets. I think most of us practice the golden rule not because we necessarily think it’s the right thing to do but because we do unto others hoping they’ll return the favor.

      Reply

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