Finders keepers: A moral quandry

Who knew a trip to the arcade with the kids would present a moral quandry?  I certainly didn’t.

So, a little background.  Tonight, we took the kids to one of those Chuck-E-Cheese type places for dinner and some fun.

We plopped a few tokens into some machines, played a few rounds of skee ball, and whacked a couple of moles.  Chip looked on adoringly as a group of teenagers played Guitar Hero.  Some of the machines spit out tickets, which the kids traded in gleefully for handfuls of Tootsie rolls and cheap plastic toys that cost 5 cents to manufacture.

All in all, a rousing evening of good, clean fun.  And, normally, that would have been all she wrote.  But, tonight, there was a twist.

As we headed for the door, I spied it.

In the middle of all of the chaos and blinking lights, it lay orphaned on the floor next to one of the machines.

It was a perfectly crisp, $5 bill.

I surveyed the room.  There were no kids around it.  Strike that.  There were actually kids running around everywhere.  But they all seemed to be oblivious to the money they were stepping on and around.  And none appeared to be wandering aimlessly around, looking for their lost allowance.

Enter moral quandry.

Here are some of the ways this might have played out.  All hypothetical, of course.

  1. Parent turns the money into the lost-and-found.  (aka, the pocketbook of one of the teenage employees)
  2. Parent ignores it, and leaves the money where they saw it.
  3. Parent stops one of the screaming children running chaotically around the arcade.  Parent inquires whether this was their $5 bill.  Parent hands the money over with the word “sucker” written all over their face.
  4. Parent casually leads their 2 year-old child into the vicinity of the fallen money.  The same 2 year-old who is predisposed to notice and pick up every piece of garbage, food scrap, or gum wrapper they saw on the floor.  Parent exclaims loudly, “What did you find there?” when presented with the $5 bill.  Waves the money around dramatically to see if anyone notices or claims it.  After the obligatory waving subsides, parent figures the money is fair game.  Parent pockets it, and gets the hell out of dodge.

Again, all purely hypothetical situations.

So I ask you, faithful readers, what you would have done.  Do you think finders are always keepers?  How would you have solved a similar moral quandry?

14 thoughts on “Finders keepers: A moral quandry”

  1. Oooh, that’s tricky girlfriend, very tricky indeed! There’s nothing smooth or sly about me so I would have done one of the things that ended with the word sucker tattooed on my forehead. Yep, that’s me. Still want to be friends? 🙂

    1. Honestly? I love that about you. If I weren’t so cynical about people in general, I would probably give them the benefit of the doubt more often. I think I need more people like you in my life.

      Friends? You betcha.

  2. Ooh, I hate this one! I’ve always tried to teach my kids that if it’s something that you could turn in somewhere and someone might be able to claim it, then you should do that. Find a $5 bill at the park with nobody around? Fair game. But on the playground at school it might be someone’s lunch money.

    But your situation is even harder! Everyone in there probably had a $5 bill at one point, and who’s going to turn it down if offered? I guess I probably would’ve kept it or just kept on walking.

  3. You know, with my luck, I would have NEVER noticed it and even worse, it would’ve fallen out of MY wallet.

  4. Rookie. Option 4 is okay, but I got a better one.

    5. As loudly and obviously as possible, pick up the $5 bill while yelling, “I found some of it, but where is the rest?” Then start accusing all the kids in the vicintiy of your lucky find of stealing the $20 bill that was “definitely” with the 5 spot you lost earlier. Then sit back as guilty parents start throwing money at you.

    Like I said – Rookie.

    You’re welcome.

    1. So, as I read some of the other comments, I found myself feeling badly that my readers clearly had more moral fiber than I did.

      This comment changes all of that.

      Thank you. Best comment ever.

  5. I wish I was as clever as Big Daddy, and having already tried option 3 a few times early on in my teaching career (never just ask out loud who something belongs to, it could waste a whole hour), I would probably just pick it up and play a few more games!

  6. LMAO @ Big Daddy!!

    this is a great post. I would have done #1 without thinking otherwise but since you pointed out that the teenage employee may pocket it….it makes me think again. Ok…I’m going for #4…and I don’t care what you think about me either! HA!

  7. Five dollars in a zoo (so to speak) I would keep if I couldn’t spot the person searching for it.

    But once at a home improvement store, a young salesclerk rang up a $350 set of patio chairs for $35. Because of other purchases, the total was still a couple hundred dollars, and he totally didn’t realize that it was wrong.

    I looked at my husband, who looked stunned. Looked at the chairs. Thought about how I’m trying to teach my kids that STEALING IS WRONG…

    …and told the kid behind the cash register that he’d made a mistake.


    Sometimes I HATE this doing the right thing thing.

    1. I would have done the same thing as you, Lori.

      And as weird as it sounds, I think there are different “levels” for me. I wouldn’t have thought twice about picking up a quarter off the floor. A $20? I probably would have turned it in to one of the employees.

      Moral compasses are tricky things, indeed. 🙂

  8. I got my eye on you Big Daddy next time I am in the arcade!!!! Too funny. I would have picked up the money and moved on. Something about looking too much like a sucker with all the other scenarios!

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