Picture it: In front of you on the sidewalk is a wad of cash -- wrapped only in a single rubber band.
What would you do? OK. Pick it up. But after that, do you keep the money or try to find out who it belongs to?
Most people, I think, would return money if there is identification. But a bundle with no ID? Is it your lucky day? That actually happened to me some years ago.
Here's what happened
I was leaving a shop on James Island about 1 p.m. when I saw the roll of bills.
I picked it up, walked inconspicuously to my car, unlocked it, got in and relocked it. Then I looked around to make sure it wasn't a hoax.
I removed the rubber band, and began counting $20 bills -- $20, $40, $60. … In all I counted 50 bills. With a pounding heart, I began thinking, "What should I do? Should I tell someone? Or should I just stuff the $1,000 in my bag?"
At the time I was on a strict budget, living paycheck to paycheck. Sort of like now with this latest recession. Anyway, that week the only TV I owned had died. My car needed repairs. You get the picture. That money would come in handy.
Maybe the money belonged to an old lady, and this was all she had. Or maybe it belonged to someone who already had a lot, so TV shopping here I come.
After a series of volleying thoughts, I went back to the shop and asked if anyone had lost money; I didn't give any details, of course.
(That new TV and car repairs were sounding better all the time.)
I told the shop owner to call me if someone came forward.
Then I called the police. They said I could bring the money in, or hold on to it, and if no one claimed it after a few days, it was mine.
I chose the latter.
You did what?
The next day the call came from the shop owner. A customer had lost the money. When the customer called me and described having $1,000 in $20 bills, that idea of a new TV quickly grew fuzzy.
There was no doubt the money was his, down to the single rubber band.
The island resident, a small-business owner, picked up his money, thanked me and gave me a $60 finder's fee.
When it was all over, I knew I had done the right thing.
I shared the story with a few co-workers and family members; many agreed with me, at least to my face, but not without a healthy dose of teasing.
"You did what? And there was no ID? Are you crazy?"
One of my brothers joked, "The next time you find money with no ID, make sure you call me first. I will tell you what to do with it."
I still don't regret returning the money.