Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

What-If Wednesday: How Far Out Of Your Way Would You Go To Do A Good Deed?

lost_wallet_tallish.jpgWe’re rolling out another new feature here at Everyday Ethics… “What-If Wednesdays.” You know the game; you’ve probably played it with your friends a time or two, asking questions like, “What if you had to choose — Brad Pitt or George Clooney?” (Clooney, baby!) Or for the less romantically minded, “What if you could only follow one sports team for the rest of your life — Yankees or Mets?” (No Red Sox write-ins!) Etc, etc.

In the real world, our what-if scenarios aren’t usually so salacious (or fun) but they do seem to confront us with alarming regularity. So, we thought we’d give you folks a chance to weigh in on what you’d do if you were in situations like the ones we’ll describe in Wednesdays to come.
To start us off, I’ll tell you what my husband did the other day… and confess, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do quite as much IF I were in his place.

Ethical Dilemma/What-if scenario #1: Hubby’s commuting home from work, barely stuffing himself into a crowded train. A guy, desperate to make it before the doors close, lunges forward, arm extended… and accidentally inserts his wallet, which he happens to be holding in his hand, between the train doors while he’s trying to wedge them open. The doors close, literally yanking the wallet into the car, and leaving the guy on the other side, an expression of mingled panic and comical chagrin warring for dominance on his face. The wallet lands with a plop just inside the car, at my husband’s (and a dozen other people’s) feet.

Do the folks on the train lunge for the wallet? Actually, no. They all studiously avoid looking at it as the train pulls away from the desperate man on the platform. While no one’s rushing to steal it, it’s clear no one wants to take responsibility for getting it back to its rightful owner either.
All except my husband.
When it becomes clear no one else is prepared to step up, my spouse shows his excellent upbringing by taking responsibility (and the wallet) in hand. Husby-do-right gets off at the next stop (nowhere near his destination) and waits for the guy, thinking maybe he’ll show up there as it’s the most logical place to try and find him. After three trains go by with no sign of the wallet-dropper, Hubby heads over to the station agent and asks what to do, but they’re clueless (and utterly disinterested) about his predicament, not even knowing or bothering to look up for him where the MTA’s Lost and Found is. There wasn’t any useful contact information in the wallet whatsoever, and the fella apparently had an extremely common name, meaning Hubby couldn’t look the guy up himself to let him know he’d found his property. So, he heads all the way out of the subway and finds the nearest police station, where he turns over the wallet (money intact, naturally) to the cops. 
His only regret? Not that he’s now an hour later getting home or that he’s gone miles out of his way. No, he only feels bad that he wasn’t able to hand the wallet over to the guy directly and spare the dude the trouble of canceling all his cards.
What if it had been you that found the wallet? Would you do as much as my ethically outstanding hubby? Take this poll and then comment below to let us know!

Subscribe to receive updates from Everyday Ethics or follow us on Twitter! 
Comments read comments(14)
post a comment

posted July 29, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Excellent hubby, indeed! I bet you’d do as much, too, or you probably wouldn’t have such an excellent hubby to begin with. I’d like to think I would definitely do the same as your hubby, only I don’t think I’d be quite as smart. I would be frantic and I would probably go scrambling back to the other train stop with the hope of finding the guy there. Or, have put the wallet (all intact) into a post office box, which I’ve been told does actually more often than not get the wallet back to its rightful owner, but who knows. Police Station = good call and nicest!

report abuse


posted July 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Oh, hi.
I’d turn the wallet in, either to the police or to the driver of the transit vehicle as appropriate. (In the second case, I’d expect him to turn it in to the lost and found desk of the transit company.) Anything else, anything other, is simply not done.

report abuse

Your Name

posted July 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

If feasible, I would get the wallet back to the owner, but not wanting to pry to deeply into his private billfold, giving it to the authorities is a good alternative.
Quick anecdotal story, my 11 year old son lost his with his just given allowance at a park, and after an hours search, a parent came up to ask if he had lost something and then produced his wallet, everything intact.
I think most people would do that.

report abuse


posted July 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Yes, another feel good story. There is an admiration for Mr. Fields and his selfless act. However, most situations are three dimensional and not always linear (black & white, or one way is right) in thinking and saying that I will for the sake of argument play the devil’s advocate here.
My first observation in the story at hand is concerning the individual who lost their wallet. Not being from NY myself, nor ever visiting a major metropolitan city with a transit system in likeness to that of NY’s, I still have to wonder what kind of idiot runs around with a wallet in his hand. What happened to personal responsibility? Is the individual not liable for his own loss and responsible for the outcome of his lack of common sense?
Second, concerning the wallet now on the floor… What about all the people standing there and their potential obligations already? Should they be held accountable for the idiocy of another person and potentially become irresponsible to any obligations they may need to keep while taking the time to reconnect the wallet to the owner? In the grand scheme of it all, through the lens of social evolution mankind still functions under the survival of the fittest mentality regardless of the situation. Typically people do not care about the needs or concerns of anyone else, unless that other person is someone who will help provide safety, security, and continued survival support.
Lastly, in today’s crazy lawsuit happy world, how is someone who is contemplating committing an act of kindness to know that in the end they will not find a bogus lawsuit filed against them, depending on the circumstances of course.
Sitting back and looking at the situation, I think most people would like say in theory that they would go out of their way to help this senseless individual who lost their wallet. However, interjected into the situation itself truth may prove otherwise. I would want to think I would do the same as Mr. Fields, but unless I am in that situation for real (context) I do not know how I would respond because there are too many possible variables involved.

report abuse

Blue Sun

posted July 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Two stories, one that happened to me and one I heard on the radio.
1) I had bought a roll of tennis raquet grip tape and given the cashier a ten dollar bill. When I got home, I noticed that she had given me change for a twenty. I got in my car, drove the half-dozen miles back to the store, explained the error and gave her the extra ten back. She was surprised and pleased as any shortages in her register drawer were taken out of her salary.
2) My wife and I spent a year in Minneapolis on a consulting assignment. While there, we heard about what was called “Minnesota Nice,” though it was sometimes used facetiously.
One night, we were listening to a call-in radio show and a woman called to relate her tale. She and her husband were going out to the theater several nights earlier and went out to dinner first. When they got to the theater, she looked in her pocketbook to get the tickets and discovered that her wallet – with tickets – was missing. They were able to buy two other tickets at the door and went in to see the play. During the intermission, they noticed that another couple was sitting in their regular subscription seats. The woman went over and asked them where they had gotten the tickets. They replied that a young man was hawking two tickets outside the theater and they bought them. The woman had visions of the guy also selling off their credit cards and pocketing the cash.
The next morning, they got a call from the police, who told them somebody had turned in the wallet. She went down to the station and was given her wallet. When she went through it, everything was intact except the tickets. In addition, she found an extra twenty dollar bill and a note. It seems that the young man who had found the wallet looked in it. He wrote that he realized he could never get the wallet back to her before curtain time, so, “I sold the tickets for you so you wouldn’t have to take a loss on them.”
Minnesota Nice!

report abuse


posted July 31, 2009 at 10:45 am

OH BLUE SUN!!! That last story made me cry.
Jason… There could have been a million reasons why the man had his wallet out. One of the most obvious in NYC is that he had taken it out to take out his Metrocard to get through the turnstile and was running for the train thus he did not have time to put the wallet back in his pocket. And, any one of us living here would understand that. We have all run for trains with bags and limbs flailing. Also, it’s obvious you’ve never been to NYC. Mostly people here don’t worry about frivolous lawsuits before they take action. New Yorkers tend to come together in times of crisis, and help one another through tough situations. Sure, they can be pushy and irritating, but overall we have a really nice city. I think, too, that the assumptions you so often make about humanity are out of books–“typically people do not care about the needs or concerns of anyone else, unless that other person is someone who will help provide safety, security, and continued survival support–and not real interactions. Or, if they are based on experience, then I’m sorry to say you’ve met a lot of yucky people. Or, maybe still, you’re a teenager or student, in which case nothing I say will change your current perspective, only life will do that.

report abuse


posted July 31, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Sorry emmabliss, you must have obviously read so quickly through what I wrote that you failed to read the beginning in which I emphatically stated, “most situations are three dimensional and not always linear (black & white, or one way is right) in thinking and saying that I will for the sake of argument play the devil’s advocate here.” Are you unable to tell when someone is just looking at a topic from a different perspective (“for the sake of argument”)or when they are being literal? Even in the end, I stated that “I would want to think I would do the same as Mr. Fields,” reflecting my TRUE feelings regarding the moral of the story. So please, before you accuse me of being an adolescent or anything of the such, read carefully what someone is saying. Ethics and morals are not always black and white, and some times there needs to be an alternative perspective to a situation to truly appreciate it for what it is. If you actually believe the accusations you have made about me from a hypothetical argument, then you have clearly made a mistake.

report abuse


posted July 31, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Oh I read it. And you are welcome to play devil’s advocate (as usual), just as I am welcome to argue with said advocate. I would say, too, that more than a couple of your statements were clearly not that of the devil’s advocate, but of your own personal views: “senseless individual” being one of them.

report abuse


posted December 20, 2010 at 3:55 am

Various people in every country receive the personal loans from various creditors, because that is easy and fast.

report abuse

custom writing service rev

posted December 20, 2010 at 11:24 am

Even good paper writers, consequently, cannot manage with different academic tasks. Thence, how could first year students do that? They have got no other choice than to come to paper services.

report abuse

write term paper

posted December 20, 2010 at 11:25 am

I opine that writing research papers company can be treated as the greatest innovations of humanity, just because such kinds of things assist guys very much.

report abuse

buy essays online

posted December 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

The article critique writing composed by professionals, should bring different people good grades. Therefore it is valuable to buy custom essay online to reach your aim, I opine.

report abuse

research paper writing

posted December 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Don’t become so scared just because term papers writing! Millions college students are under the same circumstances. Nonetheless, they do not surrender and buy custom college essay papers.

report abuse


posted January 8, 2011 at 7:07 am

The fact just about this good topic seems to be fantastic! Thence students not should accomplish the thesis writing and dissertation reference by their efforts, they could take your aid.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!
Thank you for visiting Everyday Ethics. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Idol Chatter Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading! ...

posted 3:53:05pm Sep. 07, 2012 | read full post »

Coding Ethics...
Internet activist and New York Times bestselling author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser is concerned that information gatekeepers of the past (i.e. editors/reporters) have been replaced by algorithms that ...

posted 2:49:15pm Jan. 22, 2012 | read full post »

Can Ethical Companies Do Business With Unethical Leaders?
Coca-cola has been accused of "propping up a notorious Swaziland dictator" whose human rights abuses and bilking of the national wealth has long been criticized by human rights activists. According to Guardian UK reporter David Smith**, ...

posted 3:49:39pm Jan. 02, 2012 | read full post »

New Years Resolutions: Are We Lying to Ourselves?
I know it's become popular, but I've become suspect of using traditional goal-setting strategies and business process techniques to change personal habits and pursue a meaningful life. While I can admit that there's something invigorating--even ...

posted 10:51:42pm Jan. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Is Craigslist Who We Really Are?
Raise your hand if you're familiar with  Chances are, there's one that serves your community.  And it's extremely handy for job listings, housing, dating, selling your old crap or buying new old crap.Really, it's ...

posted 9:15:55am Dec. 18, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.