What Would You Do?

What Would You Do? Money Left Behind in the Self Checkout Lane

honesty, faith in humanity, money left behind

The subject matter I post here at CleverDude falls on the lighter side of personal finance, but today we’re going to tip the scale even a little further and have a little fun based upon an experience I had at Walmart over the weekend.

I’m a habitual self checkout lane junkie. When I only have a few items I make it a personal challenge to scan my items, pay for my purchase and pass the person that used the station before me on the way out the door. When I have a cart full of groceries I scan and pack my groceries with such efficiency that I frequently have people tell me I should work there.

On Saturday afternoon I rolled up to a self checkout station and began the process of scanning and bagging my items.  After I had filled a few bags,  I happened to glance downward and notice some money had been left behind in the change slot. $22 to be exact. It had been several minutes since the previous users had left, so they were nowhere to be found (not that I remembered what they looked like anyway).

Several options materialized in my brain as I continued to scan my items.

  1. I could simply hand the money to the employee that was overseeing the self checkout stations and tell him what had happened.
  2. I could immediately pick up the money and put it in my pocket.
  3. I could wait until I paid for my groceries, and then take the money left there combined with my own change.

Obviously, the correct and moral option is #1. But the forces of evil were strong in Walmart that day as I was giving serious thought to taking the money.  They say the test of a man’s true character is what they do when nobody is looking. Fortunately for me on that day I didn’t have to test my character too much. I remembered that there are cameras everywhere within Walmart. If the rightful owners of the money came back they could watch the security cameras and see who took the money. I’m in Walmart almost everyday, and I’m almost positive I would be caught.

I stopped scanning my items and gave the money to the Walmart employee.

I would like to think that I would have eventually taken the same action regardless of whether I remembered the cameras recording the action within the store at every angle imaginable. But who knows, even people with strong character make mistakes.

If I ask what you would have done, everyone would invariably say they would have given the money to the employee. But I’m going to ask you a different question.

Is there any set of circumstances that WOULD lead you to have taken the money? Don’t be shy now, this is only a blog post for fun, nobody’s going to judge. 🙂

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Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • LOL This actually happened to me recently. I hardly ever use the self-checkout line, but I was in a hurry and only had two things to purchase…

    All the self-checkout line was being used except one of them and it kept saying “please remove the change” and nobody was using that one… I never used those things before, so I had no idea what was going on…

    I noticed there was a $20 bill on there… If someone had stopped me, I would have given it… or if I saw someone using it and leaving in that moment, I would have chased them down..

    But it seemed like it was sitting there for awhile. I knew if I had given it to an employee, they would just keep it too..

    I felt very guilty, but at the same time, I was very thankful… I was actually buying food for someone else and not for myself… so paying it forward!!!

    I knew there were cameras and I felt so bad… but still..

    Yet… I still feel kind of guilty than lucky… so here I am googling and searching what other people would have done and if that was some sort of “20/20 What Would You Do” test…

    • The person who forgot the money can get it back if they remember and you turn it in ! They will look at the cameras and if the walmart employee took the money and kept they will be in trouble. If you walk out then they just let it go they aren’t responsible. They will review the tape to see if it was turned in !

  • @Justin – I have to admit, it’s awesome that you found your way to my blog by searching for what people would do with found money (at a self checkout lane no less!). The 20/20 what would you do? thing is something I thought about a lot as I was in the situation. At least you paid it forward, good on you! BTW, love that show!

  • This happened yesterday at the superstore self checkout. And no one was around. I put the money in my pocket. And a few minutes later the worker harassed me about taking it cause the owner all of a sudden came back to the store. I did give the money back but the employee was extremely rude about it. Finding money is not stealing. She would have pocketed it to if she was the one that found it. But at least I was kind enough to give it back.

    • I wouldn’t get too bent out of shape about the employee’s rudeness…..like you said, you did the right thing when the person came back. If they hadn’t come back, *someone* would have pocketed it.

    • You are wrong it wasn’t yours it is stealing because if they come back they will get it back when they look at the cameras tapes.

    • It is 100% stealing. If you found $20 on the sidewalk, that is one thing. This just happened to me. I ran right back into the store to find that someone STOLE my cash back.

  • This just happened to me today. I took the receipt as well which has debit info. I will call Walmart later and tell them if someone comes in saying they lost money and can call me with the correct amount lost and last 4 of debit card, I’ll return the money. No way am I just giving it to Walmart. May also call bank and inquire what I can do with it if all info I have is the last 4 of debit card. But I went through the same thought process.

    • That’s interesting that you have the receipt too…I would have never thought to use the partial account info. IJt would be interesting to know if you were ever able to connect with the owner. I’m not sure I’d go through that much trouble – good for you!

    • I checked with a police post to see if this is theft and it is if you get caught you can be charged ! So it is theft if you can be charged so if you do anything but turn it in it is theft !

  • This actually happened to me..i found a 20 dollar hanging out of the self checkout register..i pocketed it not considering it to be stealing cz i found it there with no one around it but my employee fired me 4 days later cz they considered it theft..

    • I assume you meant “employer, rox,” and you actually worked at the store where you found the $20? That’s an unfortunate outcome, I guess we can all learn a lesson from your experience.

  • This happened to me today at kroger. I don’t know if the guy before me accidentally forgot his change or the machine malfunctioned and gave me and extra $20. For a split second I thought about keeping it, I could really use it. I finished bagging my stuff and handed it back to the associate running the main register. I think if I would’ve kept it. I would’ve felt awful.

  • I forgot my $40.00 cash back just the other morning at Kroger in Peru Indiana. When I got home I realized what I had done. I rushed back to the store and asked the lady that was in charge of self check out if she seen my money and she said no so I asked to speak to the manager and I asked her if she would check the camera to see what happened to my money and she said when she got time she would. So I went home and called the store and asked the manager if she had had time and she said no. I reminded her that this is theft from me and she hung up on me. Now I am thinking about getting local law enforcement involved. To me this is the same as bugulary from krogers.

    • The same thing happened to me at Kroger in Indianapolis, IN on Crawfordsville rd so I contacted kroger online after I discovered that the store manager did not want to assist me.

  • Reading all the conversations…. Retail call this Loss and Prevention. Most people would think that its’ the right thing to do…is give the money back because that person is going to come back for it. That’s not always the case. What you didn’t know is… that if no one comes back to claim the money, the store keeps the money. They don’t roll back tapes, cameras or even try to find out who the money belongs to. They pocket it for themselves and if an employee finds the money whether it is on break or not and turns it in or a bystander for that matter, they aren’t going to give to you. So what’s wrong with this picture. The store use it as a shrinkage in the clauses of there loss and prevention procedures. The people lose on every count if no one ever claims it. That’s why every state have unclaimed money bank. Get on the website in your state to see if you have unclaimed money. It will have a ID number and the place where the money was retrieved and maybe you can get it back that way. Otherwise the store gets the money point blank.

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