Welcome to another edition of “Uncle Bing Says So”, the weblog where your friendly Uncle Bing explains whatever is on his mind that day.
I’ve been watching the reality show “The Amazing Race” for twenty or so seasons now and an event happened on a recent season that really annoyed me.
It seems that all of the teams went to an internet cafe to book travel arrangements for an upcoming flight to another country. The first team there used the computer and booked their flight. While doing that, they set down all of their possessions on a nearby table. When they were finished, they picked up their stuff and walked to the other side of the room to chat with some of the other teams.
Unfortunately, they left all of their cash sitting on the table, neatly folded in a nondescript money clip. The second team to sit down at the computer noticed the money.
One of the girls on that second team picked it up, showed it to her teammate, and whispered that it probably belonged to the first team. Then she quickly pocketed it and walked away from the table. The first team soon noticed that they had lost their money and began searching for it. The girls on the second team said nothing.
Fortunately, the first team managed to beg some money from a passerby in the street and they were able to continue on their journey without delay.
But, there has been a lively debate on the internet forums for the show as to whether the girls’ action counts as theft. There are a handful of folks that think, “finders keepers, losers weepers.” They think that as soon something is left unguarded, it is fair game for anyone to take it and then claim that it is theirs.
I have the opposite opinion and believe that property belongs to the current owner until that person willingly gives it up or knowingly abandons it. I used the example of a person parking their car on the street and I asked whether it was okay to take the car since it was not being guarded.
“No,” they said, “You can’t take a car because it has the owner’s name on the title. Money, however, doesn’t have the person’s name on it and it would be impossible to prove who owns it. Therefore, if you find money, you can keep it.”
I admit that it would be difficult to prove ownership of found money, and that a cop or court is likely going to make no decision and let the person currently holding the money keep it. Possession is nine tenths of the law, as they say.
But, I point out, just because it is difficult to legally determine who the real owner is does not change the fact that it is a crime to keep the money when you know who it belongs to.
Nope, that’s not good enough for them and they dismiss all subsequent examples that I present of situations that might or might not be theft.
Finally, I post the following paragraph from Wikipedia; “Property is generally deemed to have been mislaid or misplaced if it is found in a place where the true owner likely did intend to set it, but then simply forgot to pick it up again. For example, a wallet found in a shop lying on a counter near a cash register will likely be deemed misplaced rather than lost. Under common law principles, the finder of a misplaced object has a duty to turn it over to the owner of the premises, on the theory that the true owner is likely to return to that location to search for his misplaced item.”
That seems to end the discussion as the only response I get is, “Yeah, well, that’s just Wikipedia. Anyone can edit that.”
So, what do my faithful readers think of the situation? If you find money that you suspected was forgotten by the person in front of you, would you keep it or try to return it to the true owner? Do think that it is theft to keep the money?
Uncle Bing is the station manager for internet radio station theQuizomatic.com, an eclectic collection of 70s and 80s pop music plus periodic audio quizzes. You can find the station via WhooBazoo.com or through iTunes. You can send email to Uncle Bing at firstname.lastname@example.org