So, the news in Dublin today is that a lady left a pair of curtains into a charity shop, and sewn into them was a wad of cash. Honest workers at the shop are desperately trying to re-unite the lady who donated the curtains with her money.
Hearing this news, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do if I bought a pair of curtains in a charity shop that then turned out to have a large amount of money sewn into them. I would like to tell you that I am so scrupulously honest I’d return the money to the shop in question. But the truth is, I’m not so sure.
I think it would depend on how much money the ‘find’ contained. If it was just €50 I might keep it. Or I might not. I might be more likely to return it – €50 isn’t a life-changing amount and it would make me feel good about myself if I went back to the shop with it. On the other hand, €50 is enough to make a difference to my weekly budget and would buy a few things my girls need. So I might hang on to it.
Then again, a larger amount – say €1,000 and above – is a significant sum to me and would make a huge difference right now. And I could easily convince myself that I was predestined to stumble upon the money; that finding the cash in the curtains was the same thing – more or less – as buying a winning lottery ticket. I would agonise over what the right thing to do was.
That said, I am the type of person who, if given too much change in a shop will hand back the extra. I’ve also been known to point out omissions on restaurant bills and tell suppliers when their goods turn up after they have refunded me for items that we thought were lost in the post.
The difference is that in those instances, I don’t feel morally entitled to keep the money. It doesn’t feel legally right, either. But the money-in-the-curtains thing? Well, if the money legally came into my possession, would it morally be mine? Would it be okay to keep it?
What would you do?