How Honest Are You in the Credit Crunch?

I got talking with a friend recently about honesty in the credit crunch – whether people are willing to help each other out and return cash that they’ve found etc. or if they’re more likely to be pilfering items from their work stationery cupboard. And after a couple of glasses of wine – surprise, surprise – he became slightly more open with me than usual and made a shocking confession.

A few months ago he was out in London one night and stumbled across an ATM machine in the City. To his surprise, he noticed about £50 in cash sticking out of it. Nobody was around, so he stood about waiting for whoever was missing the money to come back and claim it, but nobody did. After waiting about fifteen minutes in the cold, he decided to pocket the cash and go home.

It was night time so the bank was closed and he wasn’t able to take the money to the cashiers, assuming they would be willing or able to reunite the cash with its owner anyway. And he also pointed out that even if he’d chosen to walk away, leaving the cash in the ATM, somebody else would have come along and done exactly the same as him.

I have two questions for you – my first is, what would you do in this situation? For me it’s hard to decide. I’m no saint, but for me while the money would be tempting, I think taking it would weigh on my conscience a bit. After all, you’re not really taking some money-grasping bank’s cash but an individual’s, although ultimately it’s their fault for leaving it there in the first place. But I suppose it depends how badly you needed the money at the time. If you’d lost your job recently you might feel that stumbling across the money was the stroke of good fortune you’d been waiting for. And as my friend said, plenty of other people would have taken the money too. Even if you abdicate responsibility by walking away, you’re just leaving it there for someone else to take.

My second question is this – do you think that people’s attitudes to honesty have changed because of the credit crunch? Are people less inclined to help their neighbour and more inclined to help themselves? If you recall, a government letter was leaked late last year which expressed concern that crime levels would rise. It’s obvious stuff really, but of course it caused the government bigwigs a bit of embarrassment, despite the fact that their predictions have probably come true. Certainly, petty theft such as shoplifting from supermarkets and more serious crimes such as burglary and fraud are supposedly on the rise. I even read an article recently about how stealing from allotments has increased during the recession! How infuriating must that be if you’re a gardener.

What would you have done faced with my friend’s dilemma? Do you think people are more self-centred during a recession or have you experienced acts of kindness which would dispute this? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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37 Responses to How Honest Are You in the Credit Crunch?

  1. maryminn says:

    people are more dishonest I have recently had a lot of money stolen and no one cared. I was actually told I was too honest. Will things get worse yes of course they will.

  2. Tattyhousehastings says:

    That is a real shame..for me, the rise in sharing with neighbours, the amazing freecycle, making and doing, and community are all wonderful things that rely on the goodness of each other. And that for, me is why I like being frugal, sharing and caring rather than being all 1980\’s and out for ourselves. Possibly helps being outside London too.But as for honesty when you have bought something you maybe shouldn\’t have when broke….\’it\’s been in the cupboard for ages\’ is used a little too often!

  3. Christine says:

    You do have to be careful not to believe all that you read in the media you know. Strange things are reported when there is a supposed lack of news. People seem not to want to hear the same thing regularly and the change of headlines required will probably turn to the crime that has been happening anyway. People may not understand such things as corporate fraud or dishonesty in higher financial circles but they do understand shop lifting, drunken behaviour, burglary, cloning your debit card and drugs because these are things that they see and which happen to them and their friends. It\’s hard to know whether there is more of it or more reporting of it.

  4. piper says:

    Very sorry to hear that, Maryminn. That\’s awful.

  5. Kelly says:

    Although i wouldn\’t go out of my way to steal from anybody however if someone is daft enough to forget to take their £50 from a cashpoint how much do they need the money in the 1st place. I certainly wouldn\’t forget £50 as its alot of money to me and i can stretch it a long way. I\’d take the money and i wouldn\’t be sorry. Finders keepers, losers weepers.

  6. christine says:

    i would have returned it to the police where they could check bank cameras and report it to the bank all the crimes have not gone away its people have to check and double check everything these days including banks and scum bags that ruin lives genuine people get no help at all.

  7. Monsungeist says:

    This freaks me out a bit actually. On the cash side of the story, I would wait, then take the cash, but use it to buy something for someone else. I\’m freaked out however cos I\’ve just spent all day sorting out a flowerbed in my front garden and planted 3 trees. Wondering if they\’re still going to be there in the morning now… doh!

  8. Paul says:

    Being honest i would have pocketed the cash as well if there was no obvious owner. I would have seen if there was anybody nearby who it could belong to or if i\’d have seen someone leaving it i would have returned it them but otherwise like kelly says below "if someone is daft enough to forget to take their £50 from a cashpoint how much do they need the money in the 1st place" and i agree with that – i\’m sorry. I did exactly the same thing on a big night out a couple of years ago after few too many, I took back my card but left 250 pounds in the machine. Luckily 3 passing students noticed and called me back and gave it back to me so i gave them 40 quid for telling me as a reward(it would have all been lost probably otherwise).I dont think the credit crunch will affect peoples morals or judgement, you would either return it because you knew it was the right thing to do or you would just hip it and not give it a second thought. I guess there is that middle ground where you know you should return it but you\’ve just received your quarterly electric bill and things are a bit tight…………. and no-one would ever know. A very tough call really, but if i left the money in the machine i wouldn\’t expect to get it back, chalk it up to experience, but if it was returned then i would reward the person who handed it in with a reasonable amount i could afford.

  9. Gill says:

    A few months ago I found forty quid sticking out of an ATM machine. I was amazed how my instinct took over. After a careful look around I sauntered casually over to the ATM machine and calmly took the money. I then rang my partner to \’check in\’ on whether I should\’ve taken a moral stance or not. She said not.

  10. ANGIE says:

    If you leave the money in the ATM does it not go back in after a certain time????

  11. colin says:

    On three separate occasions this year, I have approached the cashpoint which has had the message "do you require another transaction". The cardholders had left their transactions unfinished and their cards still in the machine. How easy it would have been each time to press YES…£200 withdrawal please. Did I do it…not on your nellie! I was never even tempted. Just the way I have been brought up I guess!

  12. Ruby says:

    I went to use the ATM in a Morrison\’s store after a young woman walked away. Before I could put my card into the machine a lot of money came out of it. There must have been £200, at least. I ran after the the other woman with it. She took it, said Oh! and walked away without so much as a thank you. I\’m a pensioner and although not tempted some one in worse straits, than myself, might well have been. She obviously didn\’t realise how lucky she had been.

  13. Almundo says:

    no name. I think the problem is not that your b-i-l wasn\’t prepared to kick you out, but the fact that as you were renting from a family member, they would argue your tenancy agreement wasn\’t a proper commercial agreement. As an adviser who has represented loads of claimants at appeals, this is a common problem. You can still appeal, on special grounds, up to 13 months after a decision, although the problem is showing the tenancy agreement was a commercial one. If your b i l had previously rented the property prior to you moving in, this is strong evidence, as is having a proper tenancy agreement. The rules are to prevent someone buying a house, renting it to a family member and then effectively paying their mortgage with state benefits. If you don\’t have a proper agreement with your b i l, i would get one, many CABS will help. Also in future if this happens again, never listen to what your told at the housing benefit office, always seek independent advice. People who administer rules, like clean cut black and white answears, which is fair enough, as it hard to understand the complexities of the benefit system, but honestly, next time seek independent advice from a Welfare Right Officer, as a lot of the time the housing benefits department\’s interpretations of the legislation are wrong. You may also want to see if your entitled to a late appeal and seek advice at the moment, as it may reduce your debts.Also if your with British Gas, why not check out the British Gas Energy Trust who awards grants for people with financial hardship (if not check if your suppliers does). Do a web search. Also crisis loans can be applied for over the phone and it doesn\’t matter if your working or not or on benefits. So you could apply now, to help you. It can definetly be done over the phone, just tell them you have no money to travel. And worse case scenario your local social work department have to provide money or food in emergencies.Remember the welfare state isn\’t for spongers , its a safety net, and i would rather as a tax payer people like yourself applied than didn\’t, to get you over the hard times. Better that than recapitalising the banks

  14. Anne says:

    I recently chose a dress and underslip in M & S. I put the underslip under the dress to make sure of the length. On arriving home I discovered that I had not been charged for the underslip. I phoned the store and explained, they asked me to come back in. I explained I would be unable to do so as I was going away. Three weeks later I took the label in and paid for the slip. The supervisor came and thanked me for my honesty. I am a senior citizen and that was how I was brought up.

  15. Cristina says:

    When my sister-in-law approached the ATM machine the other day she could not use her card. She thought it was strange, specially because after some moments she was receiving like 300 pounds she did not ask for. She got the money and went home. During the day she reflected about it and decided to got back to the bank to give back the money. The moment she got there she saw an old lady crying and swearing to God she had the money of her pension deposited to ther account. She was extremely grateful to my sister-in-law otherwise she would not get any money for that month. At the end of the day, it seems that the money ALWAYS comes from someone else\’s pocket…. This fact took place in Rio de Janeiro/Brasil. CMNunes

  16. Louise says:

    When money is left in an ATM and the owner does not take it, it gets swollowed back into the cash machine and recredits the the account of the numpty that left it there in the first place the next day. Do not take the cash, it will be swollowed back into the cash machine!! So yes if you take the money you are in fact taking someone elses money, you are in affect stealing.

  17. anson says:

    keep the money i would

  18. nicola says:

    The other day.. I was waiting for a bus when some man came up to me and said he was really ill and needed the money for a cab.. I gave him £40.00 so he could get back quick for his medication… I just trusted him and he said he\’d take my name and address and send back the money…I am 18.. and I don\’t earn that much.. I don\’t live with my parents so after rent and that I don\’t actually have much money left over..Guess what..?!? I never heard from him again.. and everyones been telling me how stupid I am for believing him..I\’d still do it again though.. because what if its genuine?!? I guess I just trust too easily.Its not so much about the money…. its more the betrayal.. money I can earn back.. but I genuinely thoughtI was helping someone but I guess you just have to be careful!!

  19. nicola says:

    oh… and I didn\’t mention…he also never paid the cab fare.. which I gave him the money for.He called the cab off my phone so when he disappeared after getting out the cab WITHOUT paying.. they\’re chasing ME for the money even though I didnt actually use them because my numbers the one they were given..

  20. Unknown says:

    The same thing happened to me, except that I found £200 in the machine. The bank was open, so I handed the amount to the cashier. They stll cannot tell me if anybody claimed it!Ceri

  21. Amy says:

    I was living in Tufnell Park back in 2003. I was patiently waiting for a new bank card to arrive in the post. It never came. I then got the statements. Someone had spent 2000 pounds of my money on trainers, nightclubs and clothes. The plot thickens. The bank said that the letter had been delivered. I asked the three aussie students downstairs if they\’d received any of my mail. They looked at me whey-faced and said no. About an hour later they came up with an \’old letter from the bank\’ – not the one with the card needless to say. It was then that I knew they had taken my card. It was before chip and pin so they had forged my signature. Instead of checking in the building to see who it belonged to they went on a spending spree. I went straight to the police who refused to help me even when I burst into tears in front of them. All I wanted was justice. I had to wait two months to get my money from insurance during which time I lived in penury. My then-boyfriend stopped me from going downstairs and giving them hell, afraid that I would get into trouble.In a nutshell, I don\’t think dishonesty will get worse as it was already bad. I can only hope those people enjoy a period of intense unmitigated suffering.

  22. Amy says:

    Just to add to that, if anybody is reading this for whom stealing is a habit, maybe you should consider the dire straits into which you force other people when they lose their belongings.

  23. piper says:

    Thanks for all your comments. Good grief! Some of these stories are shocking, although I am impressed by the honesty of many of you too. I had my post stolen in one place I lived and somebody pinched my identity and ordered stuff from catalogues and tried to take out credit cards. And I too have in the past naively been diddled by street sob stories – where people come up to you and beg you for money for a taxi etc. or claim their husband beats them and they need money to get away. I gave money in the past but now I\’d probably walk away. The sad thing is that because of these scammers someone genuine won\’t get any help.

  24. Janet says:


  25. ghazni says:

    To be honest, I would take the money as long as noone claims for it and spent it in charity.

  26. victoria says:

    mmmm toughie NOT! myself and my husband have a combined income of £85,000 never the less when i found a tenner in a shop recently i kept it! we don\’t need the money at all but my rational thinking was that there was no-one else in the shop except staff and if i handed it in to a member if staff they probably would have pocketed it themself and belive me the town i was shopping in is well know in our area for theiving scum including the staff! i consider myself to be probably one of the most helpful and thoughtful person someone could meet for example i hold open doors for mums/dads with buggies, eldery folk etc – inform a parent if there kid is wandering off – pick something up and give it back to the person who dropped it – the list goes on and on and guess what i rarely get thanked for my helpfullness so whe some idiot is too careless to look after there money then why should i go to any effort to give it back? fair enough if someone is walking in front of me for example and goes to put money in there pocket but it falls to the floor and they don\’t realise then of course i would shout \’excuse me\’ and then give it back but if some idiot has gone to a cashpoint to withdraw money then walked off without it then thats there own fault and they kind-of deserve to loose the money! next time they won\’t be so careless! oh and yes if i was one of those idiots who left money in a cashpoint or dropped it without realising (which i have done in the past) then thats my lookout and i deserve to loose the cash for being so stupid!!!

  27. Charlie says:

    charlie here.yes i did find money last week in gregs maryhill branch and handed it to staff so hopefully the person came back .my thinking was it could have been his last .but i did say to staff that if came back. to put it to charity. which we all agreed on .so thankyou to the gregs at maryhill glasgow

  28. AK says:

    I think that people are developing a mindset of desperation because of the crunch. I also think this has pretty much to do with the recent rise in crime (stealing) and capitalism. In capitalist society, we constantly have products and services wafted in front of our faces, and of course we want them. But some of us can\’t afford them. So some of us result to crime and other illegal methods (fraud, etc) in order to get these things we want.The thing is, though, is that on one hand the government doesn\’t like the rise in crime the crunch has caused, but on the other hand it loves and relies on the fat profits and tax it gets from large companies who sell products and services to every day people. The government can\’t have it all their way.I say, ban or at least lessen the amount of adverts on TV and elsewhere and we should have less of a problem.

  29. AK says:

    Oh yes! And no, I wouldn\’t take the money, even though I\’m currently on low income. I don\’t think it\’s right, as it\’s not my money to take. I would just leave it there, probably for someone else to take.

  30. Maria says:

    If you do try and return the money to the bank, they do not know what to do with it. They "allow" a certain amount of missing cash or extra cash in their end of day figures!! If you do return it, the bank staff will probably take it for themselves, because they do not have any other way of accounting for it!!

  31. Gary says:

    Thats a hard question regarding atm machines and money, if I found money in the street I dont think I would hand it in, but if it was in a atm I am unsure as to what i would do. This money could be traced to the owner quite easily and to be honest a lot of atm,s now have cameras installed.I believe during hard times the majority of the public are more helpfull, but as always there are some who are only interested in themselves.

  32. rehana says:

    oh yes i would keep the money.

  33. Debbie says:

    I think in this situation I would have taken the cash from the machine, but handed it into the nearest Police station, as i wouldn\’t want anyone else to just take it but that way it has been handed in and then the police can deal with it.I would always help someone no matter who they were if they were in trouble no matter what the financial climate, as long as i am able to anyway.As a victim of a recent burglary i know the after affects of being robbed and heartbroken people don\’t realise the affect this thing has on your peace of mind let alone your pocket.. they forget that although you may be insured it costs you in excess\’ etc first and you can never ever replace sentimental value..

  34. olwen says:

    This situation has happened to me from both angles. Last Christmas I parked my car kerbside to get £30 out of the cash machine once the machine had returned my card I jumped in the car as the Traffic Warden was prowling. Went to the shop immediately and found I had no cash so remembered I must have left it in the machine immediately went back no more than 2 minutes had elapsed – suffice to say the cash had gone "Merry Christmas – you not so honest person" .Jump forward to February this year. I was waiting for my husband outside the local Lloyds TSB branch when I heard the Cash point bleeping when I looked there was £10 sticking out. At this my husband came out of the branch brandishing the £10 note in the air I told my husband what had happened and was about to go into the branch when a person came up to me snatched the note out of my hand and retorting THATS MINE whilst giving me a black look. Not even a thank you kiss my A… instead treated me like a common criminal

  35. Gab says:

    If you read Dan Ariely\’s book, Predictably Irrational, he made an experiment leaving a plate of dollar bills in a dorm\’s communal fridge. They remained there for 72 hours. Someone else may or may not have taken the money.

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