What would you do if you found a wallet containing $50 (or the equivalent), a cell phone number, a business card and a family photo? That’s precisely what Reader’s Digest aimed to find out by dropping 12 such lures on sidewalks and in parks in 16 major cities in Europe, North and South America and Asia. Of the 192 wallets “lost,” 47% were returned.
Helsinki, Finland, wins the honesty test by giving back 11 of the 12 wallets, earning the designation “The Saints” from Reader’s Digest. “Finns are naturally honest; it’s typical for us, ” said Lasse Luomakoski, a 27-year-old business student who was one of the people who handed over the leather and the loot.
The “Shame on You” for least honest pointed fingers at Bucharest, Romania; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Zurich, Switzerland, whose locals returned four wallets; as well as to Prague, The Czech Republic, where three wallets were returned; and to Madrid, Spain, with two wallets. The city in which you should tightly clutch your cash is Lisbon, Portugal, where only one wallet boomeranged back to the owner.
What predicts whether the wallet was pocketed or turned in? Young and old, men and women, as well as those in wealthy and poor areas handed back the dropped goods. The deciding factor: upbringing and sometimes experience.
“People who returned the wallets, ” says Raimo Moysa, editor-in-chief, Reader’s Digest International Magazines, “told us over and over ‘This is the only right thing to do. I’ve been taught to do this.’ Occasionally, someone said that he or she had lost a wallet and it was returned, so that person decided to do the same.”
Places Reader’s Digest dubs as displaying “Good Values” are Mumbai, India, nine wallets returned; Budapest, Hungary; and New York, each handed back eight wallets.
“In Mumbai, people are poor and the equivalent of $50 is a lot of money. But more than half the wallets were returned, ” says Moysa.
The “Fairly Honest” places are Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Moscow, Russia, seven wallets returned; as well as Berlin, Germany, and Ljubljana, Slovenia, with five wallets returned.
“The experiment was fun,” says Moysa. “It’s certainly not scientific, but yet some part of the findings ring true.” To read more, see Reader’s Digest.