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Do you think people are fundamentally good? ... and honest?

by Bill Osler / March 23, 2008 8:20 AM PDT

I'm not convinced. Here's a recent example:

ATM gives shoppers double-money windfall - Yahoo! News
The ATM, outside a supermarket in Hull, began spewing out double the money on Tuesday afternoon and continued doing so for several hours, drawing a crowd of hundreds eager to cash in on the mistake.

Those requesting the maximum daily withdrawal of 300 pounds were being given 600 pounds and a receipt for 300.

"People were calling their mates up and telling them to get down there," the Hull Daily Mail quoted a passer-by as saying.

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I heard of a similar case in the US
by drpruner / March 23, 2008 9:25 AM PDT

some years ago, and I believe the bank was able to get back to each person later. IOW the machine went crazy, but the software recorded the overages.

And ... the bible says, "No." Sorry.

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Love this article in the same website
by Diana Forum moderator / March 23, 2008 10:18 AM PDT
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(NT) That guy was not quite bright.
by Bill Osler / March 23, 2008 11:03 AM PDT
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I've heard of cases where money was spilled and
by Kiddpeat / March 23, 2008 1:08 PM PDT

blown by the wind. It becomes a bit of a frenzy with people grabbing bills. I've never heard it reported that all the money was turned in.

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Years ago we had an armored vehicle spill its load

on the freeway when someone didn't lock the back door properly or some such thing. There was a scramble by motorists but, surprisingly, it was reported that most people helping with the harvest just turned it right in on the spot. I don't know what would be the case if this happened today. I suspect fewer would do the same. It is my view, however, that people have an innate desire to be decent. I don't think our species would have survived without this being true.

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I think it can depend on who "loses" the $

I believe that most people will return a lost billfold with the money intact,

Or if they see somebody drop some money the wlll tell them

Or if a store clerk gives them too much change they will point out the error.

I think we are fundamentally nicer when it comes to dealing with money gone astray from individuals.

But it can be different when it's a bank (like in the article) , insurance company, or a large corporation. Maybe it's because, rightly or wrongly, they are seen as nickel and dimming us to death or treating us and their employees unfairly.

Speakeasy Moderator

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there was a case a couple of weeks ago
by jonah jones / March 24, 2008 1:52 PM PDT

a woman working in a thrift/charity shop found $30K in a jacket pocket,
she handed it back to the owner of the jacket


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Angeline's observation may apply here ...
by Bill Osler / March 24, 2008 10:21 PM PDT

If a specific identifiable person loses something people are more likely to 'do the right thing' than if a corporation loses something.

I'm still not sure what fraction of people would have returned $30k if the owner weren't standing there.

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Yes to their family, friends and business contacts
by critic410 / March 25, 2008 12:36 AM PDT

Here is an experience from my life.

Years ago I lived in a small town. The ATM machines were in their infancy. I was moving and decided to withdraw the small amount of money ($325) in the account.

I made the first withdrawal for $300. That was the limit allowed per day. I was curious what would happen if I tried it again. The machine gave me another $300. This was $275 more than was in my account. I did not try it again. I received receipts for both transactions indicating a total withdrawal of $600.

I did keep the money. I never heard from the bank. I assumed it was a software problem because ATM's were new to the area.

That was only time I robbed a bank. The bank was complicit for whatever reason. The statute of limitations are long past. You will not see me on 'America's Most Wanted' or 'COPS'.

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Re: Yes to their family, friends and business contacts
by Bill Osler / March 25, 2008 1:24 AM PDT

I take it you don't consider your bank a 'business contact'?

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I take it you don't consider your bank a 'business contact'?
by critic410 / March 25, 2008 1:44 AM PDT

I take it you think I am a current customer of that bank.

My subject line is the present. The other is the past.

The bank was an unwilling accomplice or incompetent? If I had reported the event, the person in charge may have lost their job. Then they might have lost their house and their children might be taken by the state. I did not want that on my conscience. I did not tell or encourage anyone else to try it. Next time I will only tell my priest.

I take it you have always been good and honest.

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The difference between you....

.... is that if Dr. Bill had swindled a bank out of $300 he would show some remorse rather than attempt to transfer the blame onto the bank. He would not try to try to justify and excuse his action by saying he saved the banks employee's job, home and family.

Speakeasy Moderator

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The difference between you....
by critic410 / March 25, 2008 3:15 AM PDT

I think you do not know what Dr. Bill would do unless you know of previous events to justify your statement. I did not know he was a Dr. Are you one of his patients?

I think that he could also have used my experience as an example of your earlier post. He did not. I take it he decided to chastise in a round-about way. Is he also a minister or judge?

I also think you do not know the consequences the employee might have received. I gave an extreme example because I thought nobody would not see it as hyperbole.

I appears all that have replied to my post are always good and honest. I do see that my honesty for telling that example has no value.

I am pleased to be in such good and honest company.

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I never realized, Angeline...
by J. Vega / March 25, 2008 3:42 AM PDT

Angeline, I never realized that in the early ATM days the banks had to write their own software when they decided to put one in. What a pain, I would have thought that the ATM company would have provided software.

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Since I know you like to parse all posts
by JP Bill / March 25, 2008 3:56 AM PDT
the banks had to write their own software

Did someone (besides you) say that?
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Logical thought...
by J. Vega / March 25, 2008 4:11 AM PDT

Wouldn't that be a logical thought? The statement was made that "I assumed it was a software problem because ATM's were new to the area." Also, "in their infancy" as I remember, wasn't the card you used with the ATM your credit card? I would think that would give the bank a track to deal with an overuse.

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by JP Bill / March 25, 2008 4:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Logical thought...

It's "logical thought" to think "something you didn't realize" (that banks had to write their own software)

No one said it.

wasn't the card you used with the ATM your credit card?


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by J. Vega / March 25, 2008 4:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Response

Remember, "in their infancy" they wee stand-alone in the bank that bought and installed them. Networking them, when you could use bank "A"'s ATM to interact with your bank "B"'s account came later.

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I appreciate the vote of confidence ...
by Bill Osler / March 25, 2008 6:27 AM PDT

I've never had an ATM give me more than I requested. One time an ATM gave me less than I expected, but the bank did eventually cough up the missing $20. Thus I cannot say what I have done in similar circumstances. I do hope that I would return the money if it ever happened.

I occasionally do receive more in small change than I expected. If I realize it while I am still there in the store I make sure the overage is fixed. I do admit to not going back into the store to track the clerk down if I don't realize the error until after I leave. It seems unreasonable to spend a lot of time returning a few cents. Anything more than a few cents would be an entirely different matter.

Personally, although I value integrity, I believe Diogenes was quite likely correct in some of his views about the nature of humans.

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I do hope that I would return the money if it ever happened
by critic411 / March 25, 2008 8:50 AM PDT

I am surprised that you would not know. It's not a point that one really equivocates on/with

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Oh, I probably would return the money ....
by Bill Osler / March 25, 2008 10:53 AM PDT

I'm always hesitant to state definitively that I would or would not do such-and-such a thing if I have never actually been in that position. I have no doubt that returning the money would be the right thing to do, and I believe I would do so if a non-trivial sum were involved, just as I have done in the past.

Still, I'm sure I would be tempted to do something other than the right thing. There is an old hymn that goes "Yield not to temptation ...". The reason the admonition is needed is because the temptation is real.

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Offsetting the temptation is the knowledge that
by Kiddpeat / March 25, 2008 11:17 AM PDT

you are scarring your own conscience. In the past, I've sometimes kept the money. Then, I've had to face the need to return it.

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To be sure ...
by Bill Osler / March 25, 2008 11:39 AM PDT

Still, it is obvious from other posts in this thread that not everybody looks at it that way.

All of which goes along with my original point that we are NOT naturally honest and moral. We each have our own motives for our choices, and the motives are not always pure.

Interestingly enough that observation has ramifications in various aspects of life:

David Mamet:
... I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama
The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

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I have always accepted the idea that people are
by Kiddpeat / March 25, 2008 1:28 PM PDT
In reply to: To be sure ...

not inclined to be good. It was my understanding that the founding fathers held the same view. That's why they set up a system of checks and balances.

I have recently been exposed to the idea that people do what they want to do. It doesn't matter whether what they want is good or bad. I think that is a correct view of human nature.

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interesting comments
by jonah jones / March 25, 2008 1:37 PM PDT

"It seems unreasonable to spend a lot of time returning a few cents.

there is a saying over here "din prutah, k'din meah" (literal translation-'judge the cent as you would the dollar')

"Anything more than a few cents would be an entirely different matter"

so returning $$$$$$$ would make you feel good with yourself, but 'stealing' nickels and dimes is........

i'm reminded of that old "what would you do if you found a wallet with $1000 in it and the owners name and address" dilema...

keep the money throw away the wallet?
keep the money and send the wallet to its owner?
or send it intact to its owner?

luckily for me, i have never been unlucky enough to have my honesty tested Wink


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Perhaps it is a rationalization ...
by Bill Osler / March 25, 2008 8:35 PM PDT
In reply to: interesting comments

Regarding the question of returning 'a few cents'
Perhaps it is a rationalization, but it just seems unreasonable to spend the effort over a trivial sum.
FWIW: if I discover I've been shorted a few cents after I walk away I don't go back to correct that either.
Neither scenario occurs very often. I usually remember to check my change while I'm still standing in front of the clerk.

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Another saying,
by drpruner / March 25, 2008 8:58 PM PDT
In reply to: interesting comments
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true [riches]? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12, KJV)

And, in a more pointed parable,
And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. (Luke 19:17, ibid.)
(And the ten cities here stand for the world, so much may be at stake.)

I recall an Alfred Hitchcock Presents about a man who found a suitcase full of cash in Vegas. It was identifiable, but no one saw him find it, so he agonized all night. He decided to return it, but the "businessman" who owned it had someone hold the man's family hostage at his home- because a bunch of the cash was missing!
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in the context of the opening post
by jonah jones / March 25, 2008 1:23 PM PDT

i wouldn't consider the AMT in my local bank (or any other bank) as a "business contact", if it started spewing $$$$$$$$ at me, my first reaction would be to say "wow! thanks!!!"


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Look around the next time you're at your ATM
by Steven Haninger / March 25, 2008 9:14 PM PDT

You'll see there are small domed objects that house hidden cameras. They will serve to both catch you and protect you. Once I had a machine run amok and not push out a wad of cash far enough for me to get a good grip. I was able to get a couple of the bills out but it pulled the money back in after a time. An attempt to try again did not work because the machine said I'd already used up my daily limit. I thought I was a dead duck at that point as the bank was closed at the time. I had to call them later to discuss what had happened but they could not credit my account until security had done their check and a daily audit completed. I noted the exact time of the withdrawal attempt. They were able to verify my story through security and the audit and so my account was credited. I suspect if the opposite happened and the machine spewed money at me that waving a "thank you" to the cameras would have been a mistake. Wink

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